Why are we marching again?
Sunday, over 1,000 people marched in support of a UA student who was attacked the previous week. The student, who was attacked because he is gay, and the marchers united to demonstrate their anti-hate sentiments and promote tolerance of all sexual orientations. Everyone knows this by now; what they may not know is how ineffective such marches have become.
Dace Park, one of the organizers of the event, expressed that one of the reasons for staging the march was that the attack was, "a symptom of hate, a symptom that our society has started to accept as normal." What Dace doesn't seem to understand is that these marches are becoming accepted as normal too, and are thus losing their effectiveness. Every time something like this happens and gets any kind of publicity we expect a march or small demonstration of some kind. But what good is it really doing? If we expect it, it isn't promoting awareness. Even if it was, awareness isn't enough. We need action.
Marches just aren't working the way they used to work. In the 60s, America witnessed an entire generation that believed things were not the way they were supposed to be even if they didn't necessarily know why. They were angry, they were all in it together, and they believed that they could change the way the machine worked. They marched and put themselves in front of the powers that be in order to force change not just to make people aware that it was needed.
People are too comfortable now. The machine is still broken, but people don't really care anymore. They have their MTV and their Internet and they are content.
We live in an era when all we have to do is sponsor a kid in a starving country or give some spare change to a homeless person to feel like we are doing our part in this society, to relieve an underlying guilt that we feel for having a good and comfortable life. We are the same people who can go on a little stroll on Sunday afternoon and feel like we have done our part to support the freedoms that we are all entitled to.
The people have evolved and the forms of protest and the expressions of disgust need to evolve as well. The march is growing weaker by the hour and needs to be seriously remodeled or replaced with something better. If it isn't putting any pressure to force change, only to make us aware that change is necessary, then it is just making the wall between the victims and the attackers thicker.
People who hate gay people are not going to go out, see a march, and think to themselves, "Gee, maybe I've been wrong all this time." They are going to resent it and feel like their noses are being rubbed in it. They are going to feel the way the rest of us would if we saw a KKK march.
People who are riding the fence about homosexuality are just as likely to start disliking them because they back up traffic as they are to side with them because they're touched by the turnout.
Bottom line: the American people do not like to feel like they are being forced into thinking a certain way. We want to be told how to think, but we don't want to feel as though we are. We want to feel like we are making the decisions for ourselves and we can't unless we are affected in a more subtle way.
We need to start with education. Understanding comes through education, but it's hard to learn when the information is being shoved in our faces. Be subtle.
It's like "Will and Grace" as opposed to "Ellen." When "Ellen" came out it was completely in our faces. The show itself became consumed with it and the American public got scared off. Will and Grace has gay characters in it - while their homosexuality is often an issue, it is never a central issue and it is a widely accepted show. Focus is put on the story and the inclusion of homosexuality is subtle.
And television is a great place to start this education. Everyone watches television and whether we realize it or not we are all affected by it. We get our news there, our entertainment there and our model for the way we want our lives to be.
Ease people into it. It's the most effective way to end the hate. Marching isn't pushing the buttons that it used to push.
Zack Armstrong is a creative writing and American literature junior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.