Time For A Little Reclamation

Protesting

Protesting (Photo credit: vpickering)

In my life there has been an ever-increasing catalog of once innocuous words that have become emotionally charged. They have been turned into weapons of mass destruction, targeted at those with little power to turn them into weapons against those who have none. These are good words with good intentions. Words that should be examples of the best mankind has to offer to one another, and yet in their zeal to grasp the privilege they have, the middle class lets the upper class poison their minds with them. I may be waxing Quixotic as I have been known to do, but I think it is time reclaim some of them.
Let’s start with “protester.” Once upon a time, protesting was considered an honorable action. Sure those in power discouraged it, because they did not like having their power challenged. Still, attitudes could be split pretty evenly regarding support of protesters, both in the general public and in the media. Today, if they want you to think positively of a movement they call it a demonstration. Think of the “demonstrations” during the Arab Spring. Think of the “demonstrations” of the Tea Party. If they want you to think poorly, they use protester, and it works. You hear “protester” and you see dirty hippies and burning trash cans, not that those are in themselves negative things, but you have been conditioned to think so. When the Occupy movement came along, they were “protesters.” The same will be said of the “Idle No More” movement. Both pose a serious challenge not just to those in power, but to the narrative that they count on. Well I say good. Be a protester, stand up, and fight and to those of you watching, know those protesters are fighting for you, regardless of the color of your skin, creed, sex or economic status.
From there let’s move to “entitlement.” You know, understandably, this can be emotionally charged. It suggests you think you are entitled to something you have not earned. That is certainly the case sometimes, for instance, getting a six figure job in your mid twenties simply because you had the available network family connections affords and an elite education that money does. There are some things, however, that everyone is entitled to. Not starving to death, for example. Not being assumed to be a criminal because of your racial or economic status. The right to vote. That last one is brought into sharp relief by the idiotic ramblings of one of our Supreme Court Justices. Yes, Justice Scalia, voting is an entitlement. We are all entitled to have our voices heard in this most basic way in our democratic republic, without undue barriers placed in front of us by the privileged elite.
Finally there is the word “welfare.” I can think of no word as unfairly maligned in our culture as this one. Forty years of ideological warfare has been waged against it, and those who rely on it. The word “welfare” should conjure images of our collective well-being. The programs that have been covered in the shroud the word now carries are intended to protect everyone from unfortunate circumstances. One should not have to point out that the need for these programs far outweigh the burden presented by the very few who actually do abuse them. That point should be irrelevant because TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and the others all provide for ALL of our welfare. They create not just a safety net for the poor, but allow for the continuation of our economy that we have placed so much importance on as well as protect us from the social instability created by widespread, severe poverty. In other words, they provide for the welfare of our entire culture. A noble endeavor if there ever was one.
So many of my fellow Social Justice Warriors (“social justice” another term that has become a dirty word of late) make the mistake of thinking we have to come up with new words or phrases to make these ideas more palatable. Well I respectfully disagree. I see this akin to giving ground on a battle field. I say we have to change the way people think about these programs and do so, not by putting a pretty package on them, but by showing them that what is inside is worth their while. If we keep trying to shift thought through shallow tricks, the other side, the side of the elite who want to keep everyone down, will sneak in and continue to get us to stab ourselves in the back. These are our tools, and we have a right to them. So let’s say it proud: “we are social justice warriors, protesting the theft of our entitlements that benefit the welfare of all people.” Doesn’t that sound nice?

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