The life of a city and its residents is one typified by close contact. The rubbing, pulling, pushing, and shoving that goes on one must become accustomed to, whether by birth or by months of constant exposure. Most people grow up with an idea of personal space that is nonexistent in a city the size of New York. This becomes ever more apparent aboard the trains, barreling their way through the stagnant air of the tunnels or lofted above the street, packed fresh and full with souls to or from...wherever.
The train is the great equalizer. Only the well-to-do can afford to traverse the city on a daily basis by means other than mass transportation, but that’s neither here nor there. What you get in those trains are microcosms of the city at large. The neighborhoods which pass by above or below the rider are represented in the faces and the attitudes of the daily rider. Taking the L through Brooklyn can become a showcase of sorts for the restless, ever self-aware Bohemian hipster. The uniform of Williamsburg is worn with disinterested pride, although it is hard not to recognize that most people truly do wear their hearts on their sleeves. Or in the case of the woman sitting across from me, on a pin on her lapel.
“Dissent Is Patriotic.” A simple statement for complicated times. Upon first noticing this small declaration of morals, months of building frustration towards the power elite in the current administration came bubbling forth. I recalled all the instances in the media where the followers of the Great Hydra, the many-headed beast of the Bush administration, had declared with a fervor equal to that of their gallant leader, “If you are not with us, then you are against us.” Or, that is, if you are against us, then you are not a patriot. To be a patriot, to them, entails nothing more than absolute acceptance of the policies of those in charge. I would like to know how, in a country founded on revolution and change, blind faith can be considered patriotic. Those who follow using this blind faith as their rationale rather than their beliefs are sheep, willing to be used by people who they think represent their best interests.
Almost instantly, a new feeling arose — a glaring contradiction staring me right in the face. “Dissent Is Patriotic.” The words burned themselves into me and I struggled to find what was wrong with them. What could be wrong with dissent in the face of the tragic direction this administration is taking our country? Nothing, I say. Yet that simple statement, when contemplated, is just that. “Dissent Is Patriotic” is the kind of absolute acceptance that those on the other side of this polarized nation are guilty of. Dissent is not something to be tossed around lightly, as if a person is supposed to protest just to keep the bourgeoisie and those in clover on their toes. Dissent is a serious act, an outward expression of moral outrage at the injustices of power. It is a means of change for the better, not a lifestyle fashion choice. Dissent, protest, pound your boots up and down the avenues, wave your flags and banners, burn your enemies in effigy, burn your flag, but don’t waste anyone’s time by dissenting for dissent’s sake. A person’s beliefs are what defines them. Not to follow those beliefs is to live a lie. Belief is what will continue to change this country and this world for the better. Without belief, dissent becomes meaningless, just another mob.