The American Protest: Part One
Protesting has made quite the comeback. In a two-part commentary, I will illustrate my thoughts on contemporary demonstrations. Look for part two tomorrow, Nov. 17.
I have written in support of protesting. I have protested myself. And I fully believe in anyone’s right to protest. I think it can be effective and powerful. But recently, I have been unsettled over particular protesting tactics. In full disclosure, I am apprehensive about writing this because it does speak against some of the practices by people whom I respect a great deal. Hopefully I have made clear that I indeed hold protesting and demonstrating in high regard.
When the protests started in Wisconsin last spring, it was heavily populated with Union workers and their supporters. As subsequent bills were introduced and further conduct was revealed, the face of the assemblage modified to include a wide variety of individuals and causes. Yet the end goal was similar and clear. And everyone worked beautifully together to envision that goal.
When Occupy began, it was also a diverse crowd and they seemed to mainly hold a focus on the disparity of wealth with anger toward the corrupt greed being allowed and encouraged by our government. Since then, the movement has grown into so many separate cultures and messages that sometimes have very little to do with one another. It has added much confusion and distraction.
I have always been mortified seeing anti-choice protesters drag their young children along to their hostile confrontations. I feel that kids need to be kids and should not be thrown into the pit of adult situations. Talking to them, teaching them, even an occasional family friendly event is one thing. But I don’t believe they should be required to trade their baseball mitts and crafts for cowbells and picket signs.
I proudly admit to bringing my daughter along the first time we went to a Madison protest. And it was a cool and rare experience for her. But that one time was enough and it was time for her to go back to thinking about Clifford the Big Red Dog and Webkinz. Children living at Occupy camps, standing in front of abortion clinics or spending each weekend at political demonstrations just make me uncomfortable.
And another thing while considering the participants of such events - when you support a message which is completely outside of the realm of common sense you will look like a damn fool. The protesters at Penn State last week looked absolutely absurd. There really aren’t even words, well, not ones I can say here anyway.
In the most recent weeks of the Occupies around the country, violence has become an increasing crisis. There have been deaths, rape, illness, hygienic issues and even a suicide. Anyone can set up a tent and fade into the crowd. Anyone, under the guise of an active citizen, can quietly hunt their prey. Unstable criminals are peppering themselves among the well-meaning activists and tainting their movement.
Some of the violence has been committed by those who are against the demonstration and there have even been reports of police brutality. The longer this continues, the more extreme become the participants and the more dangerous the activities will become. I think safety needs to be a consideration and I do not think that local governments are out of line for becoming concerned and attempting to close the camps.
I believe that denouncing the misfits of a group will only help your motives. If the Tea Party doesn’t agree with the racist signs and suggestions prominent at their rallies, they need to vehemently discredit those intruders publicly. Otherwise, those messages will remain a part of the Party’s image.
Those involved in these protests are representing the cause. Whatever that cause is - people will always hear about the most extreme individuals and see the most extreme behaviors. The "who" in these scenarios are crucial to the public's perception and that is what ultimatly dictates the outcome.
To be continued later this week.
*I would like to add a personal thank you to all of those passionate protesters who use so much of their time, energy and resources to stand up for all of us - including those who do not or cannot stand up for themselves.