Protesting With Asthma
In the United States, we live in a country where we reserve the constitutional right to freely protest; an incredibly powerful and integral pillar of an evolving, progressive, society. While every citizen of the United States is guaranteed this constitutional right, that doesn’t mean that every person can exercise the right, in the traditional sense. For asthmatics, like myself, there are a plethora of asthma triggers to be exposed to in a protest; especially during a global pandemic.
In this article, I’d like to share some ways I have maintained activism and participated in protests in ways that are asthma-friendly. It’s crucial that we, as a society, actively vocalize and pursue a higher standard of conduct for all people within our society. Just because someone is asthmatic and unable to attend a protest physically, does not mean they can’t have a voice and be heard. I am asthmatic, I have opinions, and I am an activist who protests. Here is how I do it.
Protesting with asthma in person
This is not an option for everyone. Protests should stay peaceful, to maintain constitutional coherence; however, we all know that passion can lead to lapses in this peaceful tension. There is always a risk of chemical exposure, smoke, dust, or suffocating situations; no place for any asthmatic I know. Not to mention, in a time of global pandemic and unusually high pollen counts, the trigger list is long.
That said, being part of a protest, in person, is empowering for both the self and the cause. The number of people matter and it feels great to be with a mass of people who are there to support the same cause. I protest in person, but I protect myself when I do, with this checklist:
- Wearing a mask or respirator, if you have one. If you don’t have protection for your lungs, don’t go. (My personal rule.)
- Stay to the outside, away from the denser crowd. It makes the crowd look larger and adheres to social distancing guidelines.
- Be certain that you have at least one rescue inhaler with you, that you tested before you go.
- Go with the support of friends and family who are there to support the cause and your asthma.
If you can and do go, be proud to represent not just one cause, but also that vulnerable people can have a voice of action, too.
This is a way that I protest every day. It is my favorite way to have an impact and my most frequent. Every dollar I spend, I see as a vote. So, as a consumer, I do my best to never buy frivolous things that I’ve done no research on. I use my money to support companies and causes that I resonate with. By doing so, I feel confident in my purchases, I save money, I support what I believe in, and I don’t give money to companies whose values I disagree with.
Another way I use money to protest is through charity auctions. As an artist, when I feel compelled, I will auction a piece of work off with the intention and expression that all the money will go to a specific cause. This both supports the cause and spreads awareness to others, also inspiring others to be philanthropic.
As a writer and community moderator, I clearly like to do my best to educate. I partially fit the stereotype of a nerdy asthmatic; most of my free-time is spent researching, reading, and educating myself. I have the immense gratitude and pleasure to share what I learn with this community but I share with other communities as well. Anytime someone expresses a fallacy about asthma, I happily teach them a contrary perspective, backed with data and logic. This goes for everything I am passionate about.
If I am here with Asthma.net, or with my friends and family, or with a group of strangers, my activism and advocacy doesn’t run on a schedule. I will always stand up for what I believe in and advocate to anyone, anytime. This is just another way we can protest, by being proud and vocal about our opinions. However, it’s best to have done your research well; there are lots of opinions to be shared, but not all of them hold the same quality of logic.
On that note, be ready for a difficult discussion. This is, in my opinion, the most challenging part of protesting. To have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you, partially or fully. It's especially difficult when it’s a friend or family member. These difficult discussions are necessary, though, to ensure the advancement of our perspectives and communities.
These conversations can get heated easily, because we are often discussing the most core values and affirmations of ourselves while having them challenged. I have some personal rules for all of my conversations, not just debates, that you might find helpful:
- Listen, hear, and understand your adversary. Understanding alternate perspectives does not invalidate your own, but empowers you and deepens your ability to empathize. Use your words intentionally.
- Say exactly what you mean. Be specific and be honest.
- Never use profanity. Period. For every profane word spoken, there are dozens of words that would have conveyed the point better.
- If you don’t understand, ask a question with the intent of understanding. It’s through mutual understanding that these challenging conversations become constructive.
Just vote. There are countless reasons to and not a single reason not to. As members of a voting society, we have the civil responsibility to vote and ensure others can vote. The building blocks of civilization are written laws, and we have the privilege to take part in building our future.
Engaging in the movement
I hope that sharing my personal practices for peacefully protesting with asthma has been educational. More importantly, I hope it will inspire some to become more active and advocate for what they believe. You don’t need to put yourself in harm's way to do so either; get creative and do your best.
In my opinion, what you believe is far less important than why you believe it. We have the privilege and right to be outspoken, so I say speak up and be ready for others to do the same. Remember, if you have asthma or are vulnerable in other ways, you have a voice and it’s one that matters. Be safe, be active, and be authentic. Thank you for reading.
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