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Column: When the protests fade, what will be accomplished?
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Patience is a virtue – one that is quickly dying out.  

Hold on, I just got a notification about a new message from the news editor. Oh, and there’s five new emails. Wait, my husband is texting me. 

No wonder we’ve lost patience. We don’t exercise our attention span much, bouncing instead from one thing to the next. And to think, people used to wait days to hear from their loved ones as they mailed letters with news about the latest harvest and the family. 

I’m certainly guilty of this spotty attention span. I mean, honestly, I’m curious just how many times I’ve stopped writing this column already in order to switch to one of those aforementioned notifications. Even watching TV, I’ll find myself reaching for my phone if the pace of the show slows a bit. 

There’s plenty of research out there about how the smartphone is rewiring our brains for the worse.  

It’s hard to accomplish much of significance when we’re constantly pulled away by dinging devices. Instead, we might accomplish a lot of less significant things. That, of course, leaves the significant work undone. 

Whatever’s loudest grabs our attention, but when the noise fades, what was accomplished? 

Protests have certainly grabbed our attention recently, for various reasons. They’ve put focus on issues of racism and criminality. 

When that noise fades, what will be accomplished? Whatever it is likely will require patience and persistence. 

The Times in June provided some Facebook Live video of a couple of key events. One was protests over Old Joe, the Confederate statue in the downtown Gainesville square. Another was a conversation series between the Newtown Florist Club, Gainesville’s civil rights organization, and local law enforcement and judicial officials. 

The first issue is simple. Tear it down or leave it alone. There was a bit of background that could inform opinions on the issue, such as when Old Joe was erected and the details of the county's lease to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. But it didn’t require much patience to tune into this saga or have an opinion on it. More than 27,000 people viewed the video. Of course, actually removing Old Joe may require some patience. 

The second issue is complicated. In fact, there are several issues at play: Community policing, deescalation tactics, mental health training, bail reform, racism — just to name a few of the issues discussed at the two-part conversation series. In part one, community members addressed their concerns to law officials, and in part two, law officials addressed the community. 

Those conversations may not have happened without the loud protests along Jesse Jewell Parkway first, but now the community is showing patience and persistence to discuss and address the issues. Newtown has presented details on what changes it would like to see and continues to work toward those goals. Alas, the Facebook Live audience for this conversation series was a quarter of that for the Old Joe protest. One viewer complained it was boring.  

No doubt, protests seem more exciting than policy change. But protests don’t in and of themselves reform longstanding law enforcement and judicial policies. Some policies can change quickly, such as banning chokeholds unless deadly force is required, but others, such as bail reform, require legislative changes. That requires patience and a heck of a lot of it, because government can be maddeningly slow. 

Forming good policies based on evidence and then bringing together a coalition of people to push them ahead is not easy work. Let’s try some patience and persistence to learn about these issues, what to do about them and then move ahead to effect change where it’s needed. 


Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. 

 

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