Protesting and eating vegetables – both unpleasant, but necessary

Posted on December 9, 2014

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Protests are viewed with disdain by many on the Right. When some see footage of fellow Americans demonstrating, it elicits something akin to a Pavlovian reaction. They don’t see people exercising their fundamental Constitutional rights to protest. Instead they see malcontents, rabble rousers, troublemakers. They don’t look like people we can personally relate to or would normally associate with.

And in some cases, like the Occupy (Wall Street) protests, the images and details that remain most vivid are those of the movement once it had been targeted for destruction by outside forces. In the case of OWS, the Democrat party went into panic mode and from that into damage control mode.

Democrats mobilized Labor Union agitators, various criminal elements, anarchists, the chronically homeless and ironically enough, Democrat party spokesholes to destroy the credibility of the protests and demoralize the movement. When that wasn’t quite enough, mayors in Democrat controlled cities such as Oakland, put brigades of riot police on them.

Net result – any chance of a coherent message about both political parties’ collusion in the financial collapse of 2008, was derailed.

Many of the original Occupy organizers and protesters were from the political Left and socialists.

I didn’t support their solutions, but I supported their right to ask important questions. The questions asked were valid and the answers we’ve discovered even after Occupy was co-opted, tell us a lot about the precise nature of economic crisis, how they are engineered and exploited and by whom.

Demonstrators on your TV news look a little too militant and yell a little too loud and their signs are a little too blunt and lacking in civility. Yet we cheered when we saw protesters in China (Tienanmen Square) and the Soviet Eastern bloc countries (Poland, East Germany) defy totalitarian civil authorities.

And in the present time, we endorse the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. And this image from the Murrieta protests against placement of illegal migrants in local processing facilities and dispersal into the community, will probably resonate with you:

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Many Americans feel solidarity with protesters in American cities as a matter of principal. They believe that society and its power structures are tilted against those with less political leverage and influence. To them, public dissent is part of a noble tradition such as the civil rights movement of the1960’s and even going all the way back to our nation’s founding. They also believe that silence equals consent.

As for me, I respect people with the selflessness to endure the intimidation and coercion of authority for the sake of calling the rest of us out of our aimless somnambulance. Martin Luther King Jr., in his “Letter From Birmingham Jail” wrote:

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Indeed there are people who appear through the lens of the network cameras that I don’t personally identify with. People I likely have little in common with. It doesn’t much matter to me if they don’t come off as polite or if they have a flavor of incivility. So when I see peaceful protesters, whether I share their political or social outlook or not, I am inspired. Why?

Freedom of expression minus anarchy, violence, disruption and destruction is sort of a ‘Canary in the coal mine’ of Democracy. It’s never a bad thing. No matter how distasteful you may find these malcontents, they are a sign of health in the body politic.

Protest is like a muscle that needs to be worked out or it will atrophy. The biggest threats to freedom are apathy, complacency, indifference, preoccupation with trivia – and escapism as a dominant societal trait. Express yourself without infringing on me and my rights, is all I ask. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and self-confessed Ayn Rand fan, enthusiastically supports peaceful protests as he discusses in this short clip:

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In a letter to President John Adams’ wife Abigail, Thomas Jefferson proposed that, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”

Patrick Henry saw passivity as a vice, not a virtue. “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings…”

And of course, we know that there is a precarious balance. There is the innate risk in mass gatherings, of the latent tendency of an assembly degenerating into a mob. What began as a protest in Ferguson, ended in ugly crime sprees and discredited anyone with a legitimate concern. In contrast, the protests in New York City, were largely credible and inclusive.

Judge Andrew Napolitano poses some critical questions on the shape of things to come, for better or worse:

Are the police our servants or our masters? Can the mobs in the streets express political opinions without harming innocents? Can the government be dedicated to preserving the personal liberty — the right to be oneself — of even the most vulnerable among us? Can we use the tragedy of Ferguson to achieve a freedom-generated, nonracial consensus on all this? If we fail to address this maturely, I fear that more Fergusons will soon be upon us.

 

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