I attended a protest rally recently.
I didn’t carry a placard, didn’t raise a clenched fist. I joined in with the chanting, but only in a very quiet voice. I felt a bit uncomfortable. That type of resistance just isn’t me. And then I felt guilty for not shouting louder. Did I not care enough?
But is that form of protest my only option? If I’m not a slogan-shouting, flag-waving freedom fighter, how do I best express my despair with the things that are awry in the world just now?
Last week I came across this lovely illustration by Mari Andrew and it reassured me.
There are all kinds of ways to resist and many of them are gentle and full of grace. They may not be direct or vocal but they are subversive, wrapped in joy and beauty.
One of my favourite writers seems to agree.
On receiving an award at the recent gathering of the Writers Guild, the brilliant Aaron Sorkin (creator of tv programme The West Wing) lamented the current state of play in American politics before asking the room:
“So what can we do? A lot, actually. Because the most powerful delivery system ever invented for an idea is a story.”
In other words, show your resistance in your art.
Be creative with your protest.
When the landscape around you is in rubble and ruins, plant colourful flowers that speak of hope and new life. When the news is full of violence and greed, share stories of peace and wild generosity. In the face of uncertainty, paint your truth. Stand toe to toe with despair and sing your splendid joyful song.
As I watched the people around me at the march, read their banners and listened to the chants and angry cries, from somewhere on the other side of the crowd came a very different sound.
Gentle female voices raised together in a chorus.
Eventually those ladies marched past me. I couldn’t read their banner to see who they were but they looked like seasoned campaigners, women who had attended many rallies over many years to make their voices heard in the most beautiful way. Raising a gentle ruckus.
They made me feel at home. They reminded me that I don’t have to shout to be heard.
The writer Sally Lloyd Jones said,
“I see all of it [art] as redemptive. Sin has unravelled the fabric of the world and art is one of the ways that we re-weave, however we do it.”
There are large gaping holes being torn all over this wonderful world of ours and it’s up to you and me to pick up our chosen tool or instrument and begin the slow, delicate but deliberate process of pulling the frayed edges back together. I take great heart and encouragement from those leading the creative way. People like Sarah Corbett and her Craftivist Collective, cross-stitching their mini protest banners for London Fashion Week, or Shane Claiborne and his friends, turning guns into garden spades and musical instruments, or Mari Andrew sharing her art on Instagram and reminding people like me that there are many ways to make your voice heard.
And so I salute my fellow marchers, the flag-waving, slogan-shouting masses. I need you. The world needs you. And I will stand with you.
I may simply choose to raise a more gentle ruckus.