Protest

It seems that every weekend there’s a march or a protest at this point. There’s a lot to be upset about, and plenty of people want to make themselves heard. Scheduling marches and protests is a very public and often effective way to voice concerns that are being ignored by those in power.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American poet of the late 1800s and early 1900s, understood the importance of protest as a vehicle for change. Although not a particularly critically acclaimed poet, Wilcox was a popular and much beloved poet during her time, and evidence of her accessible and direct style can be found in “Protest.”

Protest
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.

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