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Lorelei Christie

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Slut Talk

Posted: 06/15/2012 9:23 am

This editorial answers the question, "What is the American Experience?" It is part of a series from the junior AP Language and Composition classes at Oakton High School in Northern Virginia, and was selected by a panel of student judges for publication on HuffPost Teen.

With her blonde hair dyed black at the ends, a young woman stands tall, left fist in the air, right arm raising up a huge white sign that reads, "THIS IS NOT CONSENT FOR RAPE." Sporting nothing more than minuscule shorts, duct tape, and an open, black jean vest, all worn with the utmost shamelessness, she holds her head high in the throng of dissenters. Everything about her tells me that she knows exactly what she wants and won't stop until it's achieved. "Two, four, six, eight, it is not OK to rape," she shouts in unison with the hundreds of others present. A sea of individuals, in everything from fishnets and undergarments to long skirts and conservative shirts, advances towards the towering Washington monument.

So what exactly came from mobs of similar liberal, self-proclaimed 'sluts' springing up around the globe to advocate women's rights in the most in-your-face way possible? A little over five months after Slutwalk DC, the FBI revised the Uniform Crime Report's official definition of rape to include victims of any gender and those "incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age." The dissenters, in the power of their unity during Slutwalk movements around the world, were able to shed light on the devastating norm of victim-blaming that characterizes so many sexual assault tragedies in America. But this storyline is not unfamiliar to America. We have seen, time and time again, dissent, then unity, then change.

Dissent has proven to be the ultimate expression of patriotism. The Declaration of Independence marked the official beginning of our journey as freedom-hungry rebels -- it was a document based on and filled with dissent. Eventually, the continuous tyranny of the British compelled us to fight them in the Revolutionary War, even though we supposedly owed them our loyalty. Out of resentment towards the monarchy of England's perpetration of injustice, we rebelled against tradition and formed a democracy. Our democracy was born from unified dissent. So if democracy is a cornerstone of the American experience, then isn't dissent, also?

Dissent is defined as the expression of opinions that deviate from those commonly held or officially enforced. The storyline goes like this: Masses of Americans unite in dissent against leaders, institutions and ideals whose foundations lie in injustice. As a result, an overwhelming sense of unity and will to fight develop, enabling progress towards a truly free and happy future, which we were promised in the Declaration of Independence. The First Amendment to the Constitution holds that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This first modification of our Constitution vindicated the nation's roots in rebellion and set a precedent for the constant patriotic dissent that was to come. Today, Occupy movements for economic justice remind us that the American experience remains what it was since day one of our nation's creation.

The morning of February 4, 2012, I heard that Occupy DC was being evicted from McPherson Square. I hurried to the camp to find a wall of police in full riot gear firmly grasping their batons, while other officers looked down from atop tall horses. They were evicting peaceful Occupiers to enforce a no-camping National Park Service regulation. Did they perhaps forget about the existence of the First Amendment? Crying, "Occupy will never die; evict us, we multiply," Occupiers flowed into K Street, where they held a General Assembly in the darkness of the cold pouring rain to discuss the events of the day and possible future action. Despite attempted attacks on the movement, the Occupy community continues to dissent against the economic inequality entrenched in the American system.

What is more American than fighting for a government "of the people, by the people, for the people" through our right to peacefully assemble and petition the government? We've seen the power of this American dissent in the creation of democracy and constant movements for equality -- whether they're based on race, gender, sexual orientation or social status, all of which have shaped American history. So the next time you're told to stop being so radical, remember that dissent is patriotism. And when you are told to stand down, rise up.

 
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