You know, when I used to protest in the streets as a member of Act Up and Queer Nation, we were notoriously loud, angry, and demanding. Part of it was an act, premeditated scripted street theater, but the outrage we harnessed came from deep inside. We infuriated people because we demanded equal treatment they saw as taking something away from them.

We knew they wouldn’t give us anything if we asked nicely. We knew that beyond any doubt because we had been asking nicely for years.

The 1989 invasion of St Patrick’s Cathedral (that liberal people then and still today decry as blasphemous and counterproductive) was not born in a vacuum. It wasn’t a whim acted on by a bunch of drama queens drinking beer in the back of a bar. It came about after years of systematic, structural oppression nobody would admit existed or mattered.

To this day people criticize us for being too over the top, too outraged, too violent, too … well you name it and it’s probably been said.

But you know what? It was the only way we could get anybody to pay attention. And pay attention, they did!

Historians say Act Up earned its reputation as the single most effective grassroots activist organization ever.

Nobody was prepared to share anything with us. Nobody was going to give up one tiny bit of status for us. Political and economic elites were perfectly happy to sit back and watch us die as they did absolutely nothing except pass moral judgment on us.

So of course we acted out and acted up. And our fierce anger won us great victories. Without our anger and aggressive tactics we would have accomplished nothing.

All of which makes me incredibly frustrated with young liberals and progressives today who insist that activists have to be nicer.

They have no idea what they’re talking about. They don’t even have a clue.

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