By JENNIFER HU
May 10, 2017
“There is nothing more eloquent to a member of Congress than the voice of their constituent.”
A march is a prayer to the world.
Sometimes it is heard, and answered. The public is swayed by virtue, by the sight of peaceful protestors attacked by dogs and water cannons. Politicians do not hear single voices, but the voices of thousands, and hundreds of thousands.
Sometimes it is incoherent.
Sometimes, nothing changes.
But — always, prayer changes you.
When I went off to college, Dad said, “Don’t become an activist,” presumably because like any good conservative, he had heard terrible things about liberal brainwashing campuses.
My parents remember the democracy protests in China in 1989 that ended in Tiananmen Square. They were college students then. Dad was not descriptive when I asked him what it was like, possibly because certain politically sensitive words are censored on WeChat. First he sent me a music video.
There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando They were shining there for you and me For liberty, Fernando Though I never thought that we could lose There’s no regret If I had to do the same again I would, my friend, Fernando
“I did what the PRC Constitution promised,” he said. “It turned out to be a lie. I quickly backed off and finally came to the US.”
But he seemed almost proud of me.
“You should follow your heart, and do what you wish to do under the law. It is important to communicate by any means. Protest is a form of communication… I was also 24 then!”
The fact that governments and companies pay people to go on social media on their behalf made me realize that it makes a difference. A tiny difference, but a difference nonetheless.
So I swallowed my pride and used the hashtags. #ScienceMarch #standupforscience #sciencenotsilence. I know that scientists need to speak up, or others will speak for us.
Why should the public trust science when “science” has flip-flopped on saturated fats, cholesterol, and low-fat milk? When people see eye-catching headlines like Harvard scientist says aging can be cured in 10 years and Researchers discover compound that will cure cancer, but never see those promises materialize, no wonder they think that the pharmaceutical industry has a secret cure they’re hiding from the world.
Scientists still have a lot to learn about the best way to speak up. But we are awake and active like never before, and we are, if nothing else, very good learners.
After the march, I joined the UCSF public policy group to talk to staffers for various Senators and Representatives from both political parties. There is nothing more eloquent to a member of Congress than the voice of their constituent.
People’s voices make a difference, especially when organized and informed. A tiny difference, but a difference nonetheless.
People’s voices make a difference, especially when organized and informed.
One staffer said, ruefully, “When the DeVos confirmation vote came up, we were completely swamped. The office phones couldn’t handle it. They gave each of us an hour of voicemails to listen to. Your voices matter — not individually, but the show of support is really important. So we think the march was effective in that regard.”
The people we spoke to (who, granted, were a self-selecting crowd willing to meet with scientists) seemed to have a positive opinion of the March for Science. They said they were initially worried that it would become too partisan, but that the organizers were committed to nonpartisan messaging and the participants didn’t use much divisive rhetoric.
Afterwards, I went myself to my Ohio Senators’ offices to deliver postcards. The office doors were all unlocked, some even wide-open. Staffers politely took my cards and offered me Dum-Dums (manufactured in Ohio). If you ever visit DC, find out who represents you and take a quick stroll — just a few blocks from the Air and Space Museum.
I pestered my mom into casting her first vote as an American citizen in 2016. She was never interested in politics like my dad was. “What’s the point?” she said, and I explained why this mentality meant that no politician would ever pay attention to Asian Americans, and that even a vote for a third party was better than no vote at all.
I was so proud when I got her texts. First she was surprised at how easy it was to register to vote online, then she let me know when she sent in her ballot.
When the March for Science came around, I asked her to come with me. And she did! Hovering five feet to one side, taking photos of us with posters, sending them to her Chinese friends over WeChat. Laughing with my little sister at the person wearing a giant T-rex suit. She said, “We’ve never been in a parade before!”
She didn’t join any chants or carry a sign. But showing up and marching in the rain was more than I could ever have imagined.
Today she told me, “I feel I did something meaningful this weekend. I would not have done it without you. You taught me to get more involved for good causes.”
Jennifer Hu is a writer at Quora. Check out her profile!