Public demonstrations of protest and the ability to engage in them are cornerstones of a free nation. The goal of protesting the government is that the government will hear your complaints and take your concerns into consideration. This presupposes that the government actually cares at all what you think.
If a protest is being held at the National Mall or on the steps of the Capitol building, then the clear object being protested, or at least besought for its attention, is the government itself. And this will be obvious even to passersby not involved in the protest, and to the lumpy masses watching coverage of the protest on TV.
The purpose of a good demonstration should be immediately determinable by all who witness it, or at least there ought to be a general sense of whom it is that the protesters are angry at. A protest in D.C.? Someone’s peeved with the government. That much is clear.
But this weekend’s Truckers to Shut Down America protest, or “#T2SDA,” as it’s abbreviated on Twitter—what the heck was its purpose? Before embarking on writing about it, I still had no idea what the truckers’ goals were. Those interested enough in yet another story about yet another protest probably knew what it was about, but people witnessing the protest would be in the dark.
Thousands of truckers planned (and I guess a good many followed through with those plans) to drive their 18-wheelers around and around the Beltway, the hellish highway encircling Washington, D.C., that already had enough traffic problems without adding thousands of extra whale-sized vehicles to its lanes.
Why’d they do it? Why did truckers want to “shut down America”? To protest some new toll?
Turns out they were protesting the government shutdown.
Wait, they were upset that the government shut down, so they’re…shutting down “America”? By driving around D.C.? Okay, so in their minds, D.C. (the government) is America. But wait, the government is already shut down. They’re protesting the government shutdown by “shut[ing] down” the government? The goal obviously isn’t to help dispel the stereotype that truckers are stupid, that’s for sure.
Truckers who wanted to make it known that they were participating in T2SDA put “#T2SDA” signs on their trucks so that people driving by would see those letters and understand that it was a protest and understand exactly what the protest was. Except most people see “T2SDA” and think it’s nothing more than some trucker-gang lingo, or perhaps “Time 2 Start Dieting Already.” Are they Michelle Obama-supporters, these “T2SDA” truckers?
What’s not happening in Washington is John Boehner and Harry Reid saying, “Hey, some big rigs are gonna be driving around and causing a relatively mild inconvenience over the weekend. We better cut a deal fast!”
There are effective ways of protesting—effective in that they can attract more civilian supporters (which won’t necessarily help your cause of getting the government to listen to you). Driving around and both figuratively and literally tooting your horn is not one of them.