There were two different stories published at two very different online locations over the past two days. The stories themselves however, had a lot in common.

The first, published on the 17th, recounted the tale of the San Patricios, also known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion. The San Patricios were 175 odd first generation Irish immigrants to the United States, who were recruited or conscripted into the U.S. army at the time of the Mexican-American war and later defected to Mexico’s side to fight against invading U.S. troops. According to Alexander Billet of the Socialist Worker,

Nativist racism aside… (t)here were plenty of reasons to defect to Mexico. The discrimination and poor treatment that ran through American society most certainly extended to the army. Irish Catholics no doubt saw the potential for more equitable treatment in Mexico, itself a Catholic nation. Mexico granted citizenship to those who fought; the U.S. did not.

Though the San Patricios were composed primarily of Irishmen, their ranks included German Catholics and immigrants from all over Europe. Notably, a few escaped Black slaves also participated in the battalion.

But there was likely another, more basic motivation: solidarity. The same country that had dashed the dreams of the Irish immigrants was also seeking to plant its boot on the necks of the Mexican people. The formation of the San Patricios represented an amazing example of oppressed immigrants shaking off the shackles of their oppressors.

Read Billet’s piece: it’s worth your while. Worth all our while, to look back into the history of the United States and find proof of when individuals perceived an instance where the strong imposed on the weak and in response chose to stand with the weak, combining forces in the face of insurmountable odds.

Now, depending on how you vote, this story could be interpreted five different ways. However the one fact no one can ignore is: dissent and supporting the underdog/down-trodden are integral parts of an individual or a community’s democratic identity.

But does our dissent and support today go beyond “like”ing a posted article or video link on Facebook?

Which brings me to the second tale of protest. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article by George Gilder on net-neutrality. Without taking sides, let’s just say Mr. Gilder is less than enthusiastic about the concept.  On the face of it, a powerful publication has endorsed a strong stance against an issue that’s relevant to the online community world-wide.

How do ordinary people oppose carefully-worded editorials being read daily by every other working man or woman on the way to work? I’m not sure there’s one single answer.

But I’ll tell you what Sam Gustin did: he decided to fight fire with fire, and published a detailed response to Gilder’s piece, taking his argument apart point by point.

Granted Gustin is no impoverished army defector, nor, as far as we know, is the WSJ planning to invade Mexico. But this is dissent. This is one way in which you and I can engage with a powerful naysayer, by going beyond being just a passive reader and turning instead into an active respondent. Do more than just hit the like, RT, digg or share button. Attend meetings and open houses. Sign up for classes outside your major. Volunteer at a local non-profit. Interact with people outside your friends circle and find out what their story is.

And if it’s a compelling story, tell it.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke