We woke up to a discussion of the history of May Day. Dr. Guevara explained that it began as a result of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” which instigated a labor, worker’s rights, and union movement. Though the origin is in the U.S., the U.S. is one of the places that doesn’t consider it a national holiday. How strange! However, in El Salvador, it is a day of unity and solidarity. I felt a wide range of emotions throughout the rally. I was completely in awe and inspired by the numbers of people in the streets, and the intersectionality of issues. I’ve been organizing rallies, demonstrations, and protests for nearly a decade and could only dream of having such high participation. My professor said that some do not have the same sense of urgency and personal consequence.

Most recently, some people I know organized regarding the decriminalization of marijuana in Grand Rapids. The city voted in favor of general legalization, but the county prosecutor sued the city attorney. Long story short, it’s about territory, boundaries, and jurisdiction… The city did implement the legislation on this very day, May first. I’m a proponent because I do not believe in non-violent crime incarceration, particularly when it’s an economic detriment to our city, county, state, country…

I do believe these laws will change on a federal level within my lifetime. But, the reason I bring this up is different. When we had the protest, just after the county sued the city, there were over 2,000 RSVPs on Facebook. When we got there, you know what happened? Less than 200 people showed up. Personally, I’m used to this and have grown accustomed to low rates of civic engagement. However, for many involved in this rally, including the organizers, this was their first time practicing freedom of assembly in a public forum. This is good, even if only 200 attended the rally.

I attended the rally with a woman that led the politics beat with me at the Rapidian. As we observed and reflected on the numbers in attendance, she said something incredibly profound that I cannot seem to forget: “to have a moment, first the people must move.” It is here that I admire the passion of El Salvadorans. People in the U.S. talk a great game, but at the end of the day, they have nearly no actions to back up their beliefs. Forgive me if I sound cynical or negative, but I have learned that in the fight for justice, you often stand alone.

Even the environmentalists’ chants recognize this – “get up now people, organize, no gas, no coal, no compromise.” Like, how do you get people to MOVE when there’s “action television!?” I try to remember the word “hope” but it is hard. I am still trying to discover ways to bring people to the show. The arts seem to help to a degree, but it is still not the numbers we need. I do believe in many ways we have bred a generation of people to be weak.The baby boomers had more wealth than they knew what to do with, and many people of my generation have never had to work for a damn thing.

At least in the 1960’s people showed up in millions to show dissent. Today, progressive youth join Facebook groups. Now, of course there are exceptions, but it is a minority. Even in my public administration courses (Master’s students, mind you) people don’t vote in local elections! My envy for solidarity is best conveyed with this story:

In 2009, I went to D.C. for Powershift, a national conference for youth concerned in energy, environmentalism, sustainable policy and issues. We had a mass civil disobedience which included us locking arms and surrounding/barricading/blockading the coal-fired power plant in D.C. I had a “solidarity brother,” and was the only female to join this demonstration out of the 20 plus people at the conference from my university. After about an hour, cops in riot gear began showing up, helping to disperse us. I refused. My “solidarity brother” left me – he was scared. I linked arms with others, but I knew I stood alone that day. It all ended fine, we shut down the plant for the day, and now the Capitol building and white house run on natural gas. Which I guess is something. But that man, you know, the one to hold the role of strength, loyalty, power, etc… Well, I was unimpressed and thought he was weak.

In El Salvador, the feeling I get… not just from May Day, but my overall consensus is that a solidarity brother wouldn’t leave someone standing there alone. But I mean, Issac Asimov said that “instead of worrying about the future, let us labor to create it.” So we keep trying, and indeed there are soldiers. I just wish more people had conviction and not fear – to practice freedom of speech and freedom to publicly assemble. Apathy is a disease, and that, well I do not yet know a cure.

And of course, people care about different things. And some simply don’t have empathy. After the Boston bombings, I asked my mom about that… the idea of apathy, empathy and why, and how.. id and ego, greed.. she said “love doesn’t always come easy.” Which is why we continue to practice kindness. And at least during the Occupy Wallstreet thing more people came to the table, and more diverse ones too. I am impatient, and need to improve and increase that quality in my practices. In El Salvador, they are strong because (among many reasons) they have struggled.

In U.S.A., well the struggles exist; however they are different. I’m not sure if it is right to compare the struggles of one people to another… And indeed we are all united in the struggle for freedom. But I do feel in the ability to organize, or perhaps desire to, our countries have drastic differences. Again, a song: “hard times make you strong.” Music often says it best. I still like Emma Goldman’s idea that “the revolution starts on the dance floor.” It is there that people are moving.

Perhaps that is why we later ended up dancing in the mountains and countryside. This day was so far my favorite day in El Salvador because is gave me hope. And it gave a sense that somewhere on planet earth there is more harmony than discord.

This evening we had a free night, and most of the group went to have drinks. It was a great bonding time and enjoyable end to the day. Also. This is a reminder for myself, not really others, but needs to be here: not all men are seeking power or want to control. Everyone is different.

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