It has been a long time since such immense and intense protests ever erupted in the West. The yellow vests movement, as it has come to be called, has rocked France and shocked its allies. Not for many years has this sort of fervent anti-establishment hatred taken to the streets and made itself seen. The French are no strangers to protesting, of course, but the sheer scale of these recent happenings has astonished most who know anything about them. It is a movement that has swept their nation and forced the rampant corruption and abusiveness of their government into the limelight. For this, the protesters must be commended, for this a feat not often accomplished in the modern world. And, naturally, they must be emulated. The yellow vests movement can show hopeful Americans, in particular, what it is that they are missing in their efforts to make their government work for them.
Origins of the Movement
The yellow vests and their shared sentiment have been simmering beneath the surface of French society for months. Since May of 2018, online organization around the group’s goals was already being undertaken. In November, serious calls for real-world action were made, and the protests began quickly afterward. This is a breakneck pace as far as political efforts are concerned, and its roaring success can largely be attributed to how it resonates with the general populace of France. The goals of the movement — decreases in unfair taxation, increases in standard of living, and general government accountability — are supported by a large swath of the citizenry. It is this sort of widespread popular support that is absolutely crucial for any movement that seeks to achieve anything other than a tiny sliver of its objectives. There is no room for modern movements that refuse to focus on tiny issues through ineffective means. The citizenries of today need sweeping stories and crucial causes to rally behind. This is the sentiment the makers of the movement understood and harnessed, and the results have obviously been staggering.
Results of the Movement
The yellow vests movement, ever since it roared to life and first challenged the establishment, has been an immense success. It has already achieved many of the goals it began with, as President Emmanuel Macron made a laundry list of concessions to the protesters recently in an attempt to quell the chaos. He and his government originally simply used the usual method of suppressing violent dissent with overwhelming force. Thousands of policemen combated the yellow vests throughout the country and made at least 2,300 arrests (as of early December). At least 1,000 injuries and even several deaths have also been reported. Weekends in France have, as of late, occasionally been battlegrounds between the henchmen of the establishment and those seeking to make a difference. And, even though the eventual outcome remained a mystery for a long while, it is now obvious who has come out on top. The causes of liberty and security are strong; stronger than any others, perhaps, and they have once again made their influences known in the triumph of the yellow vests. The protests are ongoing, as more of an outburst of general frustration with the French government than a movement with any specific objectives. However, the protesters have already done enough to call their efforts a success.
An American Issue
On the other hand, there have been countless protests in America (particularly Washington, D.C.) as of late, and very few of them have had any impact at all. Both the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches, held in opposition to President Donald Trump and in support of feminist and liberal causes, were forgotten just as soon as they stopped. They were among the largest protests in all of American history. Millions of people took part in them. The media covered them incessantly. And yet, they accomplished barely anything. The March for Our Lives, held in early 2018, is also counted among the largest protests in history. It too, failed in its objectives to end gun violence and increase the restrictions on gun sales. The March for Science has gone just about the exact same way. Again and again, Americans (especially the American Left) have shown up in force to protest their government. And, every single time, they have been ignored. There is clearly something terribly wrong with the way Americans go about protesting, for none of their momentous efforts have ended in anything other than failure.
A French Solution
There is one glaring difference between the many failed American protests and the successful yellow vests movement, and that is one of intensity. The multitude of vanilla American movements have followed a very predictable pattern; they arise, organize, hold a monstrous and wholly peaceful demonstration, and then leave. Perhaps they return the following year for an equally meaningless waste of time. There is no vigor or sense of angered urgency in their messages. Never do the protesters pose a threat to the authorities who are present. Never do they use their numbers to push back the police and terrify the watchful elites. Never do they ever even raise a finger, for they lack the understanding that a government fearful of its people is also beholden to them. The French have accomplished something rarely done nowadays, for they have made their government tremble before them. The Americans need to do the same if they want anything to change. The time for civility is long past. The time for disobedience is here; not the sort of rampant vandalism seen in American riots, but instead the type of targeted aggression displayed by the French. So pick up your nearest stone, oh frustrated protester, and throw it at your nearest tyrant. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”