A Dose of Needed Optimism

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On the heels of my last post, which was on the dark and pessimistic side, I’d like to head in the opposite direction. And, by the way, I’d like to thank everyone who commented on that post. All of them were thoughtful and encouraging. Frankly, I need that!

Four years ago, my long-time good friend Greg called and asked me if I was interested in starting a blog. We were both angry and sick over the Parkland, Florida mass shooting and wanted to do something about it. Instead of complaining about how things were going in this country, it was time to put our anger into words and try to make a difference.

Since that day, it hasn’t quite worked out how Greg had intended. He could not contribute to the blog as he had planned. Life was dealing him lemon after lemon, and it wasn’t working out.

However, he’s since retired from a long career at FedEx, and he’s found another way to make his voice heard. Except this time, he’s doing it not with words but with action.

Many of you probably do not know this, but Greg is an amateur photographer. And a damn good one at that. Recently, he’s attended a few protests and documented what was going on with his camera. I’m going to share some of those photos with you, and also let Greg, in his words, describe what he experienced and why he felt the need to get involved. And perhaps even more importantly, why he’s optimistic about the future.

We can all use some optimism these days, right?

All of the photos in this post, including the featured one, are courtesy of Greg. You can access all of his photos here: Greg’s Photos

Jeff: “Greg, when you told me about your plan to go to the March for Our Lives Protest in Cleveland, I was very impressed. I’ve personally never attended something like that. I’ve always resisted for various reasons. I hope to change that, and I have you to thank! That said, what was it that motivated you to go?”

Greg: “I was feeling like you and so many others. Dejected and worried about what’s been happening. But, I had to do something. And I’m so glad I did. You feel commitment once you go. It’s like a transformation. I felt different when I left in that you feel you’ve reached the next level of commitment. In other words, it’s like you have skin in the game now. Some people think you just go there and make a lot of noise etc. But that’s not at all what it’s all about. I don’t think any of those people felt that way. I advise people to break out of their comfort zone and go to one of these rallies. And then see how you feel, not only afterward but also while there. It’s just a great feeling, Jeff. And by participating in an event like this, you may be even more apt to call your Congress person and be a pain in the ass to them.”

March For Our Lives Event, Cleveland
March for Our Lives Rally Cleveland, Ohio

Jeff: “You also went to the Pro-choice rally in Cleveland a few weeks back. I’ve always said that when it comes to the abortion issue, men have to make their voices heard. They have a stake in it as well, right? How did it make you feel to be there? Because you’re a male, I’m sure you were easily in the minority there.”

Greg: “It felt great! I didn’t feel any different than the women. I mean, physically speaking, I’m not going to go through the same things they might go through. But just some of the concepts we’re talking about here. I mean, what if your daughter or, God forbid, your wife was to be raped by someone? They’re talking about no exceptions for this kind of thing. They say you have to carry the baby to term. I mean, if you have any conscience at all, you cannot go along with this if you’re a man. And there were more men there than I expected. It’s not like there were just a bunch of women in the streets. It’s not like that. Some men had signs, just like the women. Their message was real. And look, nobody likes what goes on in an abortion clinic. But nobody goes there because it’s some kind of good time. They go there because it’s what needs to be done for their particular situation.”

Roe v Wade Event Cleveland May 14-24
Roe v. Wade Protest Cleveland, Ohio

Jeff: “What stood out the most to you at those rallies specifically?”

Greg: “Passion. You could see it on the faces. I took pictures of the protestors’ reactions to the various speakers there. That was my main goal of the photographs – to show the passion on their faces. And that’s what you get when you go to a protest like this.”

March For Our Lives Event, Cleveland
March for our Lives Protest Cleveland, Ohio

Jeff: “How did the protestors react to you? Was it mostly positive?”

Greg: “Oh, absolutely positive. The funny thing is, when people notice a camera on you, they sometimes treat it like you’re at a summer barbecue or something like that. Most of the time, they’d ham for the camera and stuff like that. I had to separate those kinds of pictures from the ones I ultimately kept because they were, quite frankly, terrible shots. I mean, this was a Roe v Wade rally, and some of those shots did not translate into the seriousness of the issue. That’s when I decided to get my long lens out and put my back to the speaker. And the effect was that I really was able to detect how they were feeling about everything. They weren’t mugging for the camera. I got a real sense of their emotion by doing that.”

Cleveland Roe v. Wade Overturned Protest, Cleveland, Ohio
Roe v. Wade Protest Cleveland, Ohio

Jeff: “You got a real sense of that, Greg. You can see from the various photos how they reacted to what was being said. The emotion, whether it was a sad or concerned look or one of optimism. You were really able to capture how people were feeling.”

Greg: “Thanks, Jeff. There was one person, however, who really stood out. And I didn’t need to show her reacting to the speaker. I just focused the lens on her. She had a mask on and was carrying a pink sign. I took a series of photos of her – it’s called cropping – and not once did she ever break gaze with me. She was literally sending me a message with her stance and her sign. And it’s how I wished everyone would have been. She wasn’t mugging for the camera. When the camera isn’t on folks, it’s what you see. And she absolutely embodied that spirit.”

Roe v Wade Event Cleveland May 14-84
Roe v. Wade Protest Cleveland, Ohio

Jeff: “You also told me you made a connection with someone with the Democratic Party. Can you explain what that was all about?”

Greg: “Yeah, that was at the Juneteenth Celebration I went to. She was a Democratic Party member and had a clipboard and everything. She asked me if I was registered to vote. I told her that I was – and was a lifelong Democrat. She took down my information and everything and then asked me if it was ok to put down that I was a photographer. Of course, I said absolutely and would love to be able to do something for the Democratic Party with my photography if they needed me for something like that. It’s doubtful they call me, but hell, you never know!”

Cleveland Roe v. Wade Overturned Protest, Cleveland, Ohio
Roe v. Wade Protest Cleveland, Ohio

Jeff: “Well, I couldn’t be more proud of you, sir. In closing, can you tell me what makes you optimistic about the future? What about your experience made you feel that our future may not be as bleak as it seems to be heading?”

Greg: “Outcry, Jeff. It’s all we have left. If we don’t have that, we don’t have anything. I mean, outcry stopped the Vietnam War. Outcry gave black folks civil rights – although we’re obviously still working on that. The thing is, it changes things. We need to be in the streets. It may come to that even more. You’re not going to be changing things by sitting at home watching old Gilligan Island reruns. You need to be doing something. You feel so committed when you go to one of these things. I mean, some of these people probably might go just out of curiosity. But the reality is that most people are there because they have strong feelings. They really feel a sense of urgency. The emotion and commitment are real – especially at the Roe v Wade protest. It was right after it was overturned. It was raucous. They were mad. The looks on people’s faces were of shock and disbelief. Outright anger. Those signs that said ‘We won’t go back,’ I can assure you they were absolutely committed.”

March For Our Lives Event, Cleveland
March for our Lives Protest Cleveland, Ohio

The bottom line is this: There are many ways we, as Americans, can get involved in the political process. You don’t have to start a blog, but that’s one way. But you can also participate in protests, as Greg has begun. And he’s documenting his experience through his photography.

Indeed, you could start calling your Congress people, writing letters to them, or even becoming a precinct captain in your community.

Whatever it is you might decide to do, I’m reminded of the quote by former President Barack Obama: “Democracy is not a spectator sport!”

And, of course, there’s the easiest thing all of us can and must do: Vote. This November, not voting cannot be an option. Too much is at stake. The survival of democracy itself hangs in the balance.

24 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Jeff and Greg … they started On the Fence Voters several years ago. Life has a way of changing the best laid plans, so we haven’t heard much from Greg in the last couple of years (I owe you an email, Greg … I haven’t forgotten … I’m just perpetually behind!), but Jeff has worked hard to get the message across. Today, we get to not only hear Greg’s voice once again, but see some great, inspirational photos! And, he’s nudging us all to get out there and do our part, telling us that our voices DO make a difference! Thank you both, Jeff & Greg! Loved the photos and loved the chat between you two!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Jill! Much appreciated for the reblog, as always. Yes, It was nice collaborating with Greg on this post and he’s inspiring me to do more as well. We all do what we can, right? It’s so bad right now but a little optimism is in order. If we give up, and I admit I’ve been pretty close, the other side wins and we go further down the rabbit hole. I can’t even think how worse it might get. So, I’ll keep on plugging away. Struggles and all!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That, indeed, is the big question Neil. I sure hope so. Americans are fickle people. And with inflation and gas prices still outrageous, who knows where we will be in November? We need to keep the radical GOP as far away from the levers of power as possible. They may just cheat their way to power, regardless of how much we turnout.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE the photos and dialogue between you both. I have always been an active peaceful protester starting with a rally in DC against Viet Nam while in college. Camped out across from the White House. Always supported Planned Parenthood and Right to Choose. At 70, I will continue to participate whenever!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve heard those stories Sherri! Obviously I was too young to participate. But, I wanted to!! Good on you for continuing to make your voice heard. We must!!

      Like

  3. Jeff, Greg, great post. As an over sixty year old independent and former Republican and Democrat voter, I echo your comments about doing what we can to make our voice known. I have participated in two Moral Monday protests here in NC ;led by Reverend William Barber with one of my children, I walked in a Women’s Movement march with my wife and daughter, and I went to hear the marvelous Greta Thunberg speak on acting on climate change. I saw and heard the truth in these spokespeople.

    So, please protest and march. Please call out public speakers who advocate violence against groups of people. To me this is the worst miscarriage of stewardship possible, especially if such people tout the Golden Rule. If they do, advocating violence is beyond hypocrisy – it is criminal.

    Please write, call and post emails with your Congress reps and Senators. Also let the party leaders know of your concerns. Yet, give like you want to get – make sure you are heard. We need them to be better than they are. We deserve the truth. regardless of party. Right now, while Dems are not perfect, the GOP is “decay” per Michael Gerson, one of my favorite conservative pundits. A party cannot glorify its liars and condemn its truth tellers and be taken seriously.

    Finally, know the rules and vote. The decaying party has purposefully changed the rules to make it harder for opposition to vote. That is cheating. Vote.

    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Keith! Your words, as usual are powerful. Your activism must be commended. My only wish is that your former party amplified folks such as yourself-and not the wing nuts like Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene and the like. Those people have permanently ruined the GOP. Well, maybe not permanently, but certainly a lasting/gaping wound that must be repaired. Because this wing of the party is downright dangerous. Some of them are willing to take up arms against their perceived enemies-namely the Democrats. I just have a feeling this is not going to end well.

      I realize that prosecuting the former president is wrought with unknowns. But I do not know how we let him get away with what he did, and have it not damage our democracy beyond repair. Do you agree, Keith?

      Like

  4. My thought is, look at Sri Lanka. The people there had had enough. They took to the streets, And the President and Prime Minister bith resigned the same day.
    I hate to say, but we in North America are amateurs at protesting. We protest mildly. It makes us feel good, but it does not always get us the results we want. Politicians do not take us seriously. I am not saying we should use violence, but we should be interrupting normal life in some way. When we were protesting in the 60s, we stopped traffic from flowing. We interfered with commerce. We outraged those people who were too meek to join us.
    It is good to stand around, carrying signs, and making speeches — it makes everyone feel good about themselves. But if we aren’t pissing somebody off, we are not advancing our causes. I ask, what good is a protest if you are not making others uncomfortable.
    Maybe I am old fashioned, or maybe I’ve lost touch with the pulse of the people, but when I see protestors standing in one place, in one area, the word sheeple comes to mind. Sheeple accomplish nothing. We need to be wolves. We need to disrupt life as we know it. That is when other people really notice us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certain past “protests” in the U.S. have not ended well. Sometimes standing around and carrying signs is the safest way to protest … at least in some states.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Safe” is unfortunately a loaded word, Nan. You know the old saying, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. I am not advocating going out and causing scenarios where the police break heads, but I am advocating pushing the boundaries. If the police do break heads, that is on them. There is no need for it. And, as we discovered in the 60s, it was easier for the cops to break heads when we were stationary than when we were moving. The thing is, who is in control of the police? The establishment, yes, but not all police are members of the establishment. All it takes is one cop refusing to beat citizens and others start refusing. Protestors are NOT THE ENEMY! And not all cops are bullies.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I sort of agree with you rawgod. I mean, we’ve seen the right-wingers clutching their pearls because folks were protesting outside a Morton’s Steakhouse, where Brett Kavanaugh was dining. Oh, the nerve! To me, it’s ok for people to protest in this manner. It’s precisely what you said-it’s making people like him uncomfortable. I do, however, draw the line at violence of any kind. Uncomfortable? You bet. Violence? No way.

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      1. No, I don’t agree with violence, but using the word non-violence is a sticky thing. What the police call violence could include blocking traffic, but to me it’s just necessary interference, until the driver gets out of his car and attacks the protestor. The thing is to not engage directly. Never remain stationary, The key is to always keep moving if you are actually marching. Ignore anyone screaming at you, just move on. Only talk to people who are talking in normal voices. If someone swings at you, drop to the ground and roll into the foetal position. If you swing back a peaceful protest can quickly turn into a riot. Been there, done that. (Not personally, but watched others. It only tskes one fool to swing back, and everything one is trying to do collapses.) It gives protesting a bad name.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Wise advice rawgod. These are definitely desperate times here in the U.S. And as they say..desperate times call for desperate measures.

        Like

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