Here & there: Protests here, protests there

Anti-government protest. Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand. July 2013. Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

OPINION — Some say we live in dark times because of the current unrest (and the policies that evoke it). We are seeing protests and marches and I can’t help but remember a time my family got swept up in a protest march in Thailand.

Men, women and children march together for women’s and human rights during the “Women’s March on Washington” in St. George, Utah, Jan. 21, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

I think about that Thai protest. Especially when I see a surge of protests on our own soil: the women’s marches and refugee rallies across the nation; the clean air protests and Bears Ears National Monument uproar locally. There are more.

Our country has a rich heritage of protesting: the Boston Tea Party; women’s suffrage; the civil rights march on Washington; the Vietnam War; the Tea Party movement; and the sit-in at Standing Rock.

It was our last day in Bangkok, sticky and cloudless as we roamed the shopping district of Siam Square. When we arrived in Thailand three weeks earlier, my husband and I had been vigilant with our three boys; when we all weren’t chauffeured by tuk-tuk, the boys were always within touch of our hands, our 3-year-old even closer on piggyback.

Something about the automated replies from Bangkok hotels giving a special note to travelers that they do not allow sex trafficking of children will do that to a parent.

But somewhere between elephant riding in northern Thailand, waterfall jumping in Laos and temple exploring in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, we had relaxed.

Then we stumbled out of a trendy air-conditioned shop into a hot crowd pulsating on the street. They were marching, shouting from bullhorns and wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Our boys were a few steps ahead of us. They were drawn to the crowd, to the protest. Protests, after all, are as American as apple pie – or the Boston Tea Party.

Before my husband and I knew it, our three boys in their matching and recently acquired Starbucks tank tops were given masks and swept up by the crowd. And even sooner they’d been made mascots, protesters rotating in to take pictures with the small masked three, the Thai flag draped behind them.

We looked at each other, my husband and I, dilated and taut. We didn’t know the rules of a foreign protest – and we didn’t even know what issue was being protested exactly. Not a good mix. We had to get our boys out of there.

Lucky for us, Thai kindness and general reverence for my prowess as a mother of “three boy” (which apparently means I’m strong) superseded whatever political message was at foot and we were able to extricate the boys, still masked, with relative ease.

But then a new wave of fear set in as we walked back to our hotel, three sweaty pairs of hands firmly grasped in our own. What if this was an anti-government protest (which it turned out to be) and our boys ended up on the front page of the paper the next day? The day we’d be flying out of the country. The day we needed said government to exit stamp our passports.

I woke up at 3 a.m. to check the online papers. No sign of my boys as poster children or anything else. I checked again at 6 a.m. before the five of us rushed to the airport across the trafficked city and still nothing. We were in the clear.

I was grateful. We didn’t know the issue. We didn’t have a dog in the fight. And yet.

Back in 1914 the New York Times talked about “America’s Duty to Protest.” I think about what that duty is today. Did my family have a duty we abdicated back in Bangkok?

Bundy family, supporters and civilian militia at the overpass demanding the BLM to release the cattle, Clark County, Nev., April 12, 2014 | Photo courtesy of MaryBeth Greenwalt, St. George News

Valerie Kaur, civil rights activist, filmmaker and Sikh interfaith leader said she sees the darkness but the mother in her asks:

What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?

Think about that. Maybe the darkness isn’t such a bad place to be after all.

Think also about this: We are all in it together. The Bundys and the Standing Rock Sioux have essentially been protesting the same thing: federal policy over land. But one is supported by the Right and the other by the Left.

Protest isn’t just Thai or American. It’s not Left or Right. It’s human.

It’s our last effort to be heard on something when it feels like nobody is listening or when leaders aren’t listening. Sometimes it’s based in desperation and other times it’s based in anger. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It usually takes something powerful to trigger labor.

Read more: Scroll through the ribbon of stories below to see St. George News reports on a variety of protests regionally over the years.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • KarenS February 5, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Equating the Bundy’s actions in 2014 to that of the Standing Rock Sioux is false. The author would have us believe that both were just peaceful protests and that is just not true. The Indian tribes were and are peacefully protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their protests follow in the best traditions of American free speech. On the other hand, the Bundy group was armed and declared that they were not going to allow a lawful court order to be upheld, by force if necessary. There is no equivalence. The trial for the first group of the Bunkerville Standoff starts this week. It will be interesting to hear the evidence and the verdict. We will see what happens in a court of law.

  • commonsense February 5, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Sadly, some protests are sponsored by special interest parties who want to disrupt or discredit.
    Take the oil pipeline. Warren Buffet ships oil by truck and rail. The pipeline will cost him millions in profit. The Souix Indians don’t care about the pipeline but received money to protest. George Soros has sponsored many anti Trump protests. The media likes protests and fuels the fire.

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