What is a demonstration? Is it a showing, a calling of attention to something? Or is it a proof of the reality of something, bringing enough evidence together to be persuasive, as some of us would assert the validity of the metaphorical statement, “Christ is the light of the world?” Like most words we may use the word “demonstration” either way.
Some of us grew up in a world of demonstrations which grabbed our attention, and persisted in presenting uncomfortable truths, and made life more difficult for both demonstrators and others immediately involved, with positive results I would hurry to add. There were sit-ins, marches, and boycotts– many of which demonstrated effectively the presence of racist discrimination and injustice in our world. The demonstrators often had to pay a price in fines and imprisonments, ridicule and bodily injury,
loss of security and even life, in order to demonstrate the deprivations of dignity and opportunity to others. The people demonstrated “against” had to deal with a challenge to their authority, routines and attitudes.
We owe much to one who expressed so powerfully the rule of love as a means to effective demonstration, including self-giving, sacrifice and refusal of violence– M L King Jr. He made his source in the love of Christ a central affirmation of his work, but he made no secret that he owed much to the influence of the Mahatma as well.
I think of Sheltered Reality with its focus on homelessness, youth and their capacity to express themselves, their songs and their drums as a form of demonstration. The sound of dozens of drums can be deafening, literally, when people do not protect of their ears. It can be uncomfortable and challenging, and those involved pay a price in time and energy for their effort. The obvious “target” is the people who ignore and dismiss the problem. Yet, as the years have gone by since the group was formed, the problems of homelessness have continued to mount, and someone must make noise about it. As in the earlier demonstrations, youth are often more willing and ready to show their true colors than their seniors.
Many of our demonstrations are more polite and subtle, less brash and potentially offensive, and as a result often less effective. We have some noisy and obvious tools at our disposal– bells, lights, and whistles to draw attention. When and how will we use them? We come from many centuries of tradition calling for human dignity and mutual service, the relief of suffering and life in solidarity with the oppressed. We live with the benefits and burdens of mass media letting us know of innumerable insults and attacks on such values. Where shall we apply ourselves and our resources? Does it matter which situation of need we address or where we work as long as we do? Shall we join the demonstrators?