Thursday, April 24, 2008

Protesting, Freedom of Speech and Reason

Lately there are stories of people being uncivilized at Iraq War protests and counter protests. I do not have much experience with these specific events. I have been to a small number of such confrontations in my life. My experiences so far have all conformed with how I think such activities should be carried out.

When I went to the Kennedy School to protest Khatami speaking there, everyone stood with their respective groups. There were discussions, but no violence. Some people were angry and veered dangerously close to explosion. However, when that happened, someone allied with their cause would pull them back, figuratively, sometimes literally. For the most part discussions were thoughtful and as respectful as possible. I exercised my right to speak, to peacefully assemble. No one infringed on that. In turn, I infringed on no one else's rights.

Sometimes, in Plymouth there are protests about the war. There are some people who are pacifists and believe deeply that all war is wrong. They stand together with signs and candles. We stand a little away from them. We are a little rowdier and we try solicit horn-honking (you know the Princess loves attention!). But as I said to someone in an email earlier today, if anyone bothered those pacifists with their little candles........they would have to deal with me. I disagree with them wholeheartedly. There are things worth fighting and dying for. I will never see their point. But they have the right to stand there and hold their signs. If I can't respect that right, there is no point to anything else I am doing. If I can't respect the right of an American to stand peaceably and protest any action by any administration, then I am not worthy of my citizenship.

When people let their feelings about the war or the President or any other matter run so hot that they shout down another person or they block another person's view or camera they have lost perspective. Someone has to calmly point this out and talk them down. We need to dial it back, we need to remember to be civil.

There is currently a story being emailed around my corner of the blogosphere about peace protesters assaulting some military supporters. If the incident happened as portrayed then those peace protesters need to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves some serious questions. However, in the course of the day I have read many stories about protests gone awry. I have literally watched dozens of videos showing boorish behavior on both sides of this issue. I needed a break and right now I am listening to snippets of "1776" on YouTube (I love John Adams).

We tease The Armorer about his Rulez, but you know that's one place I can always count on for spirited but courteous discourse on almost any subject. The world needs more Armorers.

There is a time and place for everything. When it comes to protecting our country from an outside enemy I understand fighting to the death. But when two groups of Americans are airing different viewpoints......then NO, I do not believe in winning at all costs. Some costs are too great. My fellow citizens who don the uniform of the armed service do so to protect a "Code Pink" member's right to disagree with their actions as much as they do so to protect America from attack by foreign enemies. If we shut down dissent, it's a hollow victory.

What do we help when peace protesters block Marine recruiting offices in Berkley? Nothing. What do we accomplish when a military supporter calls an anti-war protester a "leftard"? Nothing. When your plan is to drive to where people are expressing a view you are opposed to, no matter how distasteful, with the sole purpose of agitating them, you are wrong. On either side. If your hope is to stifle the opposing view then you need to sit home and read the Bill of Rights. Your rights do not trump anyone elses. Period. No matter how much "logic" or "reason" you think you have on your side, it does not surpass anyone elses right to have a different opinion.

1 comment:

David M said...

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