Last week, a young man came through Mason on a cross-country hike to raise awareness for the state of veteran services. He was a well-spoken, engaging fellow, and we snapped a photo of him over at our Veterans Memorial before he headed on his way.
I have to admit that, when I got the first call about this particular fellow, I had to fight the part of me that is jaded and skeptical to make myself take an interest. It's not that the Drum Hike story wasn't interesting, nor that his cause is not one that deserves greater attention. The problem is that everywhere we turn, it seems someone is making a statement or making their point by an unsual action.
Almost every couple of months, someone will come through Mason in an unusual car, on a special bicycle, walking with an unusual costume... I find I'm no longer surprised or as intrigued as I once was when this occurs. And that's sad, as so many of these folks are giving their hearts and souls to the causes, and we need to be paying attention.
But it's hard to do.
When Martin Luther King led the March on Washington, the sight of thousands upon thousands of people filling up the Mall was new and breathtaking. Since then, there have been repeated marches, and each one becomes less interesting, even though their reasons for marching are no less important to the human condition.
When people seek to draw attention to a particular cause or crusade, they look for a way to be unique. Unfortunately, it is difficult to do something that has not, in some form or fashion, already been done. Whether it's chaining yourself to a bulldozer to stop the demolition of a building, throwing red paint on a person wearing real fur, or marching to a monument, we've seen it all before.
For a while, it seemed people were using bumper stickers to make their statements. This one seems to ebb and flow through the years as people come up with catchy phrases or unique graphics to make a point. But, exactly what kind of statement does it make in 2011 if you still have a Gore or McCain bumper sticker on your car, other than that you're too lazy to find a way to peel it off. Additionally, bumper stickers are just as often methods for advertising as they are for making a statement, so most people have taken to ignoring them completely.
So, what to do, what to do?
People have gotten very creative in their attempt to attract attention. There are "Die-Ins" in front of the offices of tobacco companies. There is the AIDS Memorial Quilt. There are the ubiquitous multi-colored ribbons.
But, how does one now make their point, get people to pay attention, and still not seem like a copy cat of all those that came before them?
For the super rich, they do it with their donations. Bill and Melinda Gates have given billions to education, health and safety causes. That's all good and well; but, most of us can only write the $25 check and hope it makes a difference, knowing it certainly won't make much of a statement.
There is the ballot box, where we can make a statement by the representatives that we choose to elect to public office. However, we have time and again proven that we are a bit fickle in who we think is qualified to hold office, and our patience in allowing them to accomplish their goals is painfully short. The biggest statement usually being made is that the voters aren't really paying very close attention.
So, I suppose it comes back to the individual.
We have to make our own statements rather than waiting for others to do it for us. If we oppose something, we stop supporting those businesses and those candidates that we feel are responsible for promoting what we oppose. If we want to make the statement that something is worth throwing our weight behind it, we tell our friends and family of our beliefs, and we stick with it.
We won't be in the paper, we won't be interviewed by Oprah, and we won't be making cross-country journeys.
But, we will eventually make a difference. Isn't that what it's supposed to be about?
It’s all just my opinion.