Triumph of hope by Susan Grimsdell
Not long after the world realised that the unbelievable had happened and Donald Trump had become the President of the US, the level of objection was astounding.
It included people in state governments; many government employees, governors and mayors; workers in many federal departments; immigrant rights groups; religious groups; as well as one of the biggest demonstrations in history with the Women’s March on 21 January 2017. Women all over the world took to the streets. I was one of them and later, a friend asked me why I had bothered. ‘They don’t care,’ she said, ‘it won’t make any difference.’
Taking action – why bother
I thought about that and wondered if she was right. Then the phrase came into my mind – ‘The only way for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.’ All over the world and throughout history, we’ve seen authoritarianism thrive when people think there’s nothing they can do to challenge it, when people stand by in silence while terrible things happen. Sometimes it takes courage to take action and the easy way is always to tell yourself that it’s a waste of time and there’s no point sticking your neck out, as my friend said.
Taking action – the personal cost
I take action – I march, I write letters, I sign petitions, but I’m not brave. Whatever I do, I do with no fear at all of having repercussions come down on me. However, I have such admiration for people who do put themselves at enormous risk for the sake of truth and for the sake of what’s right. People like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. They courageously told the world the extent to which we were all being spied upon, and they have been and continue to be punished severely for it.
Another whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, released the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Edward Snowden, who was born 12 years after that event, said that without Ellsberg’s example, he wouldn’t have had the courage to take the action he did.
The women in England and elsewhere, including New Zealand, who stood up for women’s suffrage, are so brave they take my breath away. They were ridiculed, punished by their husbands, put in jail, force-fed, but they didn’t give in. I admire them with a passion. They spoke truth to power, even when it seemed power wasn’t listening and nor was the general public.
Taking action – inspiration, example, standing up for what’s right
When we march, or stand up for a principle, but nothing seems to change and it all fizzles away as if it never happened, we have to remember that our actions could well inspire someone else, years from now, to change the world, to become a great advocate for women’s rights, for human rights, for the truth of whatever’s occurring at the time in that far off, as yet unwritten future.
Protesting and taking action is a way of saying that we believe things can change and that we want to be part of it. Each one of those millions of women on the Big March for example, helped to show how much it matters that women’s rights are not trampled on. I’m inspired by being on that march and also, here in the 21st century, I’m inspired by those women more than 100 years ago who struggled to give us the right to vote. There’s no way I’m ever going to believe that standing up to be counted like that is a waste of time.