Time magazine's Person of the Year isn't one specific person -- it's The Protester. Are you surprised? Last year it was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But this year it's protesters, and Time isn't just talking about Occupy Wall Street -- they're also talking about protesters who brought down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and protesters in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Mexico, Greece, and Russia.
I was surprised by Time's choice at first, but it makes a lot of sense to me. This year the world saw more people marching in the streets than we've seen in a long time -- and many of those protesters actually got results. At the very least, protesters got us all talking.
I think it's a bold move for Time. We're used to hearing about the genius or heroics of individuals, especially people in power. But to highlight relatively powerless people is exciting. Ordinary people changed history this year, and that's something to celebrate. Here's what Time had to say about the choice:
For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is TIME's 2011 Person of the Year.
Some might think the Occupy Wall Street protesters don't belong in the same category as the protesters who brought down oppressive regimes in the Middle East. Clearly those protesters faced greater dangers and had much more at stake. But I still see the OWS as part of the movement -- Americans took inspiration from protesters from across the globe and sparked their own movement here.
Believe it or not, protesting requires work and sacrifice, even in the US. If it were so easy, more of us would be doing it, right? A lot of these protests even happen on weekends and we still don't show up. I'm speaking for myself here -- I would much rather take my son to the park, roast a chicken, run errands, see a movie, do the freakin' laundry, you name it, than show up to a protest. The only way you could get me to show up for a protest is if you promised me BLTs and Bloody Marys, plus childcare and a swag bag. I don't think this makes me a bad person -- just really average.
But there are some passionate people out there (most of them young and middle-class, true) who are willing to show up, again and again, and yell on the streets. And before they show up for those protests, they're having meetings and making plans and talking about strategy. Yes, even the Occupy Wall Street protesters talk about strategy. Protesting isn't for everyone -- but this was the year I stopped thinking of protests as a lame waste of time and realized that they're still an effective tool for change.
What do you think about Time magazine's choice for Person of the Year?
Image via Time Magazine