‘Let It Ring’: Using Protest to Move From Debate to Conversation

There is a time when civility masks our judgments and preconceived notions about others. There is a time when politeness serves our smug condescension, believing that we really are better than others. There is a time when cordial manners become the slimmest of veneers against our harsh, unmitigated condemnations towards our neighbours.

There is a time when people see through our kindnesses and these times call for protest.

Protest — doing away with civility in the face of power while refusing to hurt others (my working definition) — is a holy and mystical act that uproots hatred from the bottom up. It demands bravery, a commitment to many truths, and the ability to grow with the shifts protest might trigger. We’ll dig deeper into the spirituality of protest in another post.

Rachel Notley offered her provincial address this week. While the economy is indeed dire, it was not the bleak outlook that troubled me. Rather my shame ate away at me after witnessing the reactions of many of my fellow Albertans. Death threats, name-calling, misogyny, sexism, and flat-out deplorable behaviour streamed abundantly. While I’m not shocked, I’m saddened. Cruelty is a sad power.

The third presidential debate happened tonight. I’ve not watched any of them, knowing that they are merely divisive and useless spectacles¬†working towards tearing apart an entire nation. However I will say that the polarized extremes within American politics (must I actually speak Trump’s name here?) has worked to expose the racism and sexism and violence already present in American society. Trump didn’t create his following. Trump’s followers created the world where Trump flourished before he was ever in the presidential running.

I would like to think that the use protest, uncivil as some might claim it is, can bring us to a place of conversation — expansive, generous, spacious conversation — rather than debate. No more two figures standing opposed to one another on a platform; no more diametrically opposed poles. Rather may we heed our prophets of protest, shouting from the downtrodden as they are, and learn to desire what the other person has to say.

Perhaps we can learn, too, how our neighbours have learned to listen, effect change, & grow. Perhaps we could learn a good deal.

I have no wise words beyond what others have already spoken, screeched, whispered, memed, tweeted, or messaged. So I leave you with Amy Ray’s brilliant song of protest. Combine protest with music and suddenly speaking truth to power becomes a raging torrent that passes all of our conscious senses.

Let it ring.

Let It Ring — Amy Ray

When you march stand up straight.
When you fill the world with hate
Step in time with your kind and
Let it ring

When you speak against me
Would you bring your family
Say it loud pass it down and
Let it ring

Let it ring to Jesus ’cause he sure’d be proud of you
You made fear an institution and it got the best of you
Let it ring in the name of the one that set you free
Let it ring

As I wander through this valley
In the shadow of my doubting
I will not be discounted
So let it ring

You can cite the need for wars
Call us infidels or whores
Either way we’ll be your neighbor
So let it ring

Let it ring
In the name of the man that set you free
Let it ring

And the strife will make me stronger
As my maker leads me onward
I’ll be marching in that number
So let it ring

I’m gonna let it ring to Jesus
‘Cause I know he loves me too
And I get down on my knees and I pray the same as you
Let it ring, let it ring
‘Cause one day we’ll all be free
Let it ring

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