A while back I read this article, and it's really stuck with me as a cool episode of American history, and of how the American system can work. Basically, it's about a guy (Jose Julio Sarria) who, back when this was actually a point that even needed to be made (1961), wanted to make the point that there were a lot of gay voters in San Francisco. And he made it by putting himself out there, running for city council as an openly gay man and giving people a chance to support him secretly through the ballot. He didn't come anywhere close to winning, but he helped put at least a rough, and surprisingly high, number on the strength of the gay vote in the city...which I'm sure changed the decision making process of other politicians from then on. And that's just pretty darn cool.
The article's been out for a while, but I was thinking about it again in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and specifically what is and isn't effective in producing change in this country. The costs that a large scale protest like this impose on people who are just trying to get to their jobs, or just trying to run a business, or just want some peace and quiet can be confusing to justify when the results are so ambiguous. But then again, there is a certain value to protesters who will put themselves out there like that. Without Occupy Wall Street, there would be no polls trying to measure support for Occupy Wall Street, and you can take it as a matter of faith that a lot of political strategists are looking at those polls right now and trying to decide what they mean for their candidates. Which will lead to something, or nothing...it's hard to tell. It's kind of a cop out, or else just entirely predictable, for me to end this on a note of "I don't know" but the truth is I really don't know what I think about the efficacy of public protest. The Occupy Wall Street movement has me thinking about it more seriously than I ever really have in the past though, which I guess is to it's credit.