Friday, May 13, 2016

Lessons From a Protest

A few weeks ago, our family attended our first animal rights protest. While nothing beats standing outside for hours in the scorching Florida sun, attending a protest usually isn’t my first choice of things to do with my children on a Saturday afternoon. However, my older daughter has had a passion for animals since she could pronounce the word “dog”, so supporting a cause that was important to her felt like the right thing to do.

As we marched up to the park gates with our signs, the protesters immediately fell in love with my daughters, greeting them warmly and telling them how important it was to have support from the next generation. As the minutes ticked by, I was expecting a shouting, angry mob to lay down in front of the park, denying access to the entrance. But this didn’t happen. It was surprisingly peaceful, friendly and educational. The real shock came about twenty minutes later, when the drivers of the cars entering the park began demonstrations of their own, mostly incorporating their middle fingers, yelling obscenities out of their windows, and, in one case, spitting at a protester. Luckily, none of it was directed at my girls, but everyone else was fair game.

And this is where my confusion lies. 

I found some irony in the fact that while my daughters were able to protest without any vulgar interruptions, I was the target of some pretty interesting hand gestures, despite my lack of a “PETA” t-shirt. And I guess my question is – why are the hostile people of the world more offended by adults than they are of children, even if the message we are trying to convey is the same?

Not that I want my eleven and eight year old daughters to be attacked, but as a mom, I want to know when I should expect people to stop looking at my children as cute, good natured and passionate, and start looking at them as losers or scumbag activists with too much time on their hands. At what age willthey be the ones getting spit on? I mean, if I knew the answer to this question, I could at least try to be a good parent and provide them with a raincoat and goggles to save them from an asshole’s saliva, right?

My reality is that until they are old enough to drive, chauffeuring my girls to protests may be the norm. And despite the judgmental stares, and the loogies in my eye courtesy of the angry bird flippers, I will proudly stand next to them. I will ignore the ideas that my girls aren’t old enough or smart enough to form their own opinions, and I will silently hope that there is a mishap in the park that involves these idiots falling into a tank with the captive animals.

But the mom in me knows that my girls will eventually fall victim to these people, and I would love to be able to decipher the jerkoff code so that I can protect my girls from their impending invasion. But at the same time, I don’t want to be the one to stick a pin in their balloons. Because even though the protest reminded me that intolerance exists in our world, my daughters walked away with a completely different perspective. 

Despite the amount of spitting and cursing coming from the park goers, my girls were successful in getting a total of five cars to turn away from the park that day. The naysayers may have tried to silence them, but ultimately, the experience provided my daughters with the knowledge that the power of their voices mattered. And because my girls simply ignored the negativity, the mama bear in me is confident that, as adults, they will be able to identify and dismiss the assholes that they are certain to encounter while on their journeys. But before they leave me, I may sneak raincoats and goggles into their bags…just in case.

*This piece was published on BLUNTmoms on May 13, 2016.