Conflicting Emotions - Walking home in Gainesville

As I frequently do, I was walking home from work tonight.  While leaving the building, I heard some shouting and a flurry of colors on University Ave.  It's Fat Tuesday, so I was prepared to chalk it up to general revelry.  Quarter after six is a little early, but this is a college town on spring break...

It turns out that the shouting and colors belonged to a protest march. "Show me what democracy looks like" was echoed with "This is what democracy looks like!"  As I got closer and our paths intersected, I saw that the protest march was drawing attention to Governor Rick Scott's proposed cuts to education.  The crowd was getting larger and the parade of protestors extended at least two blocks back.  Impressive for a small town.

I admit I had a swell of emotion as these people joined in solidarity to demonstrate how they felt about cuts to education and changes to public workers' pensions policies, hearing the many honks of affirmation from rush-hour drivers and the cheers that resulted.  If I didn't have my work laptop in one hand and my lack of full understanding of the situation in the other (I've heard the rumors but haven't done the research), I would've joined in right there.  I did give them a mental fist in the air and a silent whoop of support as I walked by.

It was a great feeling just to experience this moment in time when people are coming together to express their opinion about a topic and to see the community react positively to it.  It was uplifting, to say the least.  

Fast forward about four minutes... as I get further away from the protest I can no longer hear the shouts.  I am now walking behind a group of five or six young folks in their late teens or early twenties.  They are passing around red plastic cups and generally living up to unpleasant stereotypes.  They finish their drinks and toss one of the red cups into the air.  It lands about five feet in front of them and they just walk by it, completely ignoring its existence.  I pick up the red cup and take it home.  I toss it in my recycling bin with a sigh of disappointment.

Here is an article on the protest.

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