Here in Bellingham, we like to get things done. Sure, there's plenty of kids who sit around and complain about the swanktification of downtown and that damn Starbucks (me), but mostly we're a city of clear-eyed folks who know what they want and who go out and get it.
Unfortunately, we all want different things.
A prime example would be the weekly protests in front of the Federal Building. Every Friday, a group of radical movers-&-shakers (right & left, mind you) dust off their posterboard and set out to change the world--a noble calling, no doubt. What they accomplish, however, is to further confuse those sorry souls who can't look out the window and drive at the same time, which heaven knows, we don't need to encourage--if the protesters had been picketing, say, defensive driving, then cheers! Mission accomplished.
Because what's catching the eye of these distractable drivers are the fifty different slogans on fifty different signs. HONK FOR REGIME CHANGE, BUSH IS A WAR CRIMINAL, MY DADDY BOUGHT ME THE PRESIDENCY, blah blah blah and, my personal favorite in the "who comes up with this crap" category, BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED. Huh. That's deep.
For the most part, the protesters are pretty united against Bush--"war is bad" and all that--but you get the occasional odd-ball in there who thought this was a pro-choice rally or a (Your Issue Here) debate. And best of all, across the street are the 3 veterans in uniform with the banners that read, rather unimpressively, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.
What happens now? A few people honk in support, a few rednecks lean out the window of their trucks and hollar a creative expletive or two, but mostly people drive on by, still wondering what's on t.v. tonight or if that chick by the water cooler was flirting when she complimented your lavender tie. I, for one, pass by feeling as though I've suddenly entered the Land of the Bumperstickers--which is a rather bland place, I must say. I mean, if you're gonna clutter up my view with slogans, at least entertain me. That's all I'm askin'.
But, before I digress into a rant on bumperstickers (whoever comes up with the Christian ones should be fired. Fired.), let me return to those bold footsoldiers of Democracy, who go forth with petitions and protest signs, and say--Wow, do you think this might be more effective if the people you were preaching to were interested?
I honestly can't think of a time when I'm less interested in regime change than Friday evening, when I'm on my way home from work.
So, let's consider our options--we could waylay people in the street and fill their ears with propaganda, but the chances of changing anyone's mind are slim, since those who disagree will either enter into a fierce debate with you and storm away muttering something about "those dirty hippies", or they will chime, politely, "Oh, I've already signed that...". Which is what I do, anytime I see somebody with a clipboard. Bad habit, I know, but it works. Throws the UPS guy for a loop, too, and that's always amusing.
Let's see. Picketing, petitioning, handing out flyers, marching door-to-door--these are all very invasive practices, and (churches, pay attention) for every one person who perks up their ears, you piss off about twenty. Now, do the math. Does that work out to a profit?
Here is where I would offer a solution, but I don't actually have one. I'm just into, you know, pointing out the problem, not solving it. But, here--in closing I'll say that, if you want to change my mind about anything, please respect me and my fiercely protected "personal space." Don't come marching in my bubble to tell me about how Bush is ruining my country, or how the liberals are stripping me of my freedoms, because as long as I feel like a tally-mark earned for either side, I will not be satisfied.
I learn more from one conversation with a friend that I respect and appreciate than I do from a hundred overly-aggressive, however articulate, crusaders.
And I say that to both sides, right and left.