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The First Amendment is a beautiful thing. It protects our most basic freedoms of speech, press, religion, and the right to protest peacefully. I fully support everything that it guarantees. However, I do not support any protests that involve violence, physical harm to others, or the destruction of property Lately, we have witnessed protest after protest from angry Democratic senators, the Women’s March, and numerous demonstrators across the country. With Democrats protesting nearly every day, it appears that they have chosen a new pastime. While I am a full supporter of every freedom that the First Amendment guarantees, I believe that there are more useful ways to spend your time and energy. Below are eight things you can do that are more productive than protesting:
1) Volunteer on a campaign
A great way to get involved directly in politics is by working on the campaign of a candidate that shares your values. By working directly to help someone get elected, you are making an active contribution to advance your policy goals. You can use any frustration you may have with your current representatives to help new leaders get elected.
2) Volunteer in the community
If you are truly interested in making your community a better place, there is no better way to do so than to volunteer. You can find a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, nursing home, or daycare close to home wherever you may live. It is easy to find a charitable organization that supports the causes you are most passionate about with a quick Google search. You can support them by donating your time, resources, or money. Not only will these contributions directly help make your community a better place, but they will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
3) Go for a run
Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You could argue that protesting is in fact a form of exercise. While I’m sure it takes a good amount of energy to chant and walk around holding up a sign, I would argue that there are more effective forms of cardio. If walking or running isn’t your thing, sign up for a Zumba or spin class. These types of cardio will provide all of the mental health benefits associated with exercise that will help you be a more productive and concerned citizen.
4) Read a book
While news articles are important, reading a full length book is a great way to educate yourself on any topic. Public policy is more complicated than it appears and articles on Facebook often lack the context necessary to understand an issue in its entirety. You can find nonfiction books and biographies to provide historical context on whatever issues you are interested in. In the age of the internet, we often forget about the irreplaceable resource that is the public library.
5) Practice listening with an open mind
Open and honest debate with people you disagree with is essential to engaging in politics. We can all find common ground and even the most irritating politicians are not the “enemy.” The desire to be right is part of human nature and it can be hard sometimes to admit when you were wrong about something. When you feel that your deeply held beliefs are being challenged, this can be even harder. Accept that it is possible that everyone can be a little bit right and deep down we all want the same things.
6) Develop your public speaking skills
Speaking well is essential if you want to be a good leader. Fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias. Many careers, including running for public office, require speeches or presentations. Chanting at a protest is very different than an eloquently crafted speech that can touch hearts and change minds.