We have been here before. Now is not new – it is not even original or unique. It just seems that way because it is happening to us. It is our turn. The methods (twitter, executives orders, alternative truths, etc.) may be today’s tactics but sadly, the strategy is the same. Divide the people and conquer the country. Set one group upon the other by promoting erroneous beliefs: if you have more, that means I have less; if I make you feel small, that makes me bigger; if you’re different from me then you are against me; compromise, collaboration, and compassion are weaknesses—might is right.
These beliefs have never been true and they never will be. However, all of the unrelenting reporting of half-baked breaking news from unreliable sources reverberates the rhetoric in an echo chamber of unproductive partisan communication. We are not talking to each other, we are talking to ourselves.
When we turn off the television’s not-news noise, ignore the fake headlines on our electronic device screens that are only crafted to make us click, and look to literature, we’d see the well-worn path around the same issues. The questions and concerns we have today have been explored and exposed, reasoned and wrestled with, asked and answered. Yet, here we go again.
In my search to help me understand what is going on in America today, I came across a 2012 blog post from OnlineUniversities.com entitled “The 10 Best Protest Books of All Time.” It is a wealth of literary protest gems worth revisiting because they show us who we were then, where we are once again and maybe, what we can do to get ourselves out of this recurring mess.
Henry David’s Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience advocates public resistance to unjust laws and acts of government and is so appropriate for these times it could have been written on January 20, 2017. Building on the work of Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman) and Simone De Beauvoir (The Second Sex) Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique positions women’s rights as human rights, still a battle cry for this generation. Ralph Ellison’s, Invisible Man, a classic from 1952, still speaks for and to us about civil rights and the intolerance of white privilege. Though it may be remembered as a book about the atrocities of food processing facilities, the journalist Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to addresses the treatment of immigrants. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring sounded the alarm for environmental justice and public health that continues to warn us about the callous treatment of our planet and, Culture Jam by Kalle Lasn is still a relevant read of America’s socioeconomic situation. W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk; Poems, Protest and a Dream: Selected Writing by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Harriet Beecher Stow’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and, Nellie Bly’s Ten Days in a Mad-House round out OnlineUniversities.com’s list.
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Once again we are in a struggle for America’s heart, mind, and soul. In the protest literature of the past, there’s wisdom, inspiration, courage, and perhaps a way to inch us further forward so we won’t end up in the same place—again. Never has it been more important to read, research, reflect, act and repeat.
In the comments box below, please share any protest literature that you’d add to this list. We’ve got four years of hard work to do on these issues.