Orange County DREAM Team and how being present is the important lesson

TRUST Act rally in front of Anaheim Police Department 16 September 2012 via Orange County DREAM Team’s Facebook page

As anyone who has been around this blog can attest, I am quite passionate about the things that matter to me. Most of those things only matter to a small number of other people on the planet (like the proper use of colons or my newest favorite album or book), but I am not bother by the small number of other people who share my passions.

And then I have this entire other set of passions that I don’t talk about with everyone as much.

But today, I participated in my first ever chanting-on-the-street-corner rally with a group that I have supported since I finally realized they existed (because I’m occasionally quite obtuse), so I decided this is a great time to share.

You might have heard about something called the DREAM Act and a group of nebulous entities who have been called lots of things, from aliens to illegals to undocumented (and numerous other derogatory names. I call them my friends. Or my students. Or the future.

And while I’ll probably post more about their plight, history, desires, and options in the future, this post isn’t about that. This post is about how I finally learned from my friends the reason for these kinds of rallies.

This is my first rally because I knew that the Orange County DREAM Team is welcoming me into their group, and that it was important to show up when they asked for me to be there. I’m busy, so there are many times that I can’t show up, so I donate goods for the events instead. But this rally in support of the TRUST Act (California Assembly Bill 1081) was different. This was a time that I needed to show up in person.

I hate being the center of attention. I hate standing out in a crowd. I hate being noticed. I am happiest when I can move through my life without significant interaction with most of the planet and little recognition. A rally on one of the streets that takes you to Disneyland with signs and chanting pretty much exemplifies the antithesis of what I would like to do.

But I showed up with a couple of friends (who are much more used to standing where people can see them with signs shouting for causes with signs summarizing the point of being there in the first place), and then tried my best to stand within the group without drawing too much individual attention. Being 1 of 2 white girls in a group of predominately male, Hispanic/Latino friends made that balance extraordinarily difficult.

Throughout the event, I found myself wondering what the purpose of the event was and if we were succeeding. We didn’t talk to anyone, our signs didn’t have much information; people were driving by and mostly ignoring us. Of the few who responded, the majority responded positively, which kind of surprised me.

But then one of the guys that I know through my work took the bullhorn and began to share. He shared about how important it was for us to be out there raising our voices because so many cannot or will not. And he began to get teary, and he thanked us for standing together with him and everyone who found themselves living in fear. And then he named some of us that he was glad stood up today and included me.

And then I realized why people stand on the streets with signs chanting simplistic messages. The point isn’t to change other’s minds. There’s very little space for that to happen. And while it highlights some idea/legislation/mentality/person/ethical stance/right that people care about and pique someone’s curiosity, it does little to inform those people.

What I learned today is that rallies like the one I went to  function as an affirmation of the group standing together that what they think and are concerned about has value and import for other people who are not them. And coming together demonstrates that they are not alone on a hilltop tilting at windmills; they belong to a group who supports their goals and aspirations and way of being.

And that’s what I did today. I stood, as an outsider invited in, as part of the group and affirmed that their fight isn’t an illusion or futile, but has merit and that I am willing to join in their attempts to bring down the surrounding giants.

So I may never feel comfortable holding signs and chanting, but I am completely comfortable standing with my friends in support of their ultimate goals.