If there is one thing I learned the other night, it is that the baggage claim at LAX the week of Thanksgiving is like a clown car. The people just never stop coming… which is why I got home so late Sunday night and was unable to prepare my weekly musing to you for the customary early Monday delivery.
Nevertheless, I had great aspirations of providing you with a list of helpful hints to guide you on your future travels, things that I learned during this most recent vacation. Lessons such as:
1) A Mr. Potato Head in your carry-on does not set off any alarms from the security screeners;
2) Keep your eyes open always. The more you travel, the more amazing things you will see-like a woman who is the spitting image for Howard the Duck; and
3) Clouds are beautiful and wonderful to look at-but bouncy to fly through.
Instead, a more serious topic came to light which I felt required some attention and thought. You may disagree with me and I welcome your thoughts on the subject. Being embroiled first hand in a similar incident has put some of this into perspective for me.
I am talking about the recent events at UC Davis and the pepper spraying of the protesters.
Now, I will not comment on whether the actions of the police in question were justified in their tactics. I don’t know all of the facts and would prefer not to take a position based solely on seconds of video images that have permeated the airwaves. But what I will discuss is the effectiveness of the whole idea of protesting. I think that protesting has run its course and has no further business in our society. There, I said it. An attorney sworn to uphold the laws of the Constitution telling you that the fundamental right of assembly guaranteed by the 1st Amendment should be revised to exclude the right to protest.
Back in 1996, while studying at California State University, Northridge, I was actively involved in student government as a Senator. The hot-button ticket for debate was Proposition 209, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, and the student government president decided that we as the senate should sponsor a debate to educate the students on this volatile issue. To participate in the debate was David Duke, a Louisiana State Representative and former grand poobah of the Ku Klux Klan.
At the time, I vociferously argued against Duke’s participation in the debate; not because I was against his politics or his views (which I clearly am) but because I believed that Duke’s presence would be a distraction from the actual merits of the issue such that people would resist conceding if he made valid points for fear that they would be branded a racist for agreeing with a known bigot.
My voice was overruled and the debate proceeded as scheduled. After the debate, some of the student government officers holed up in the student government offices because of the protests and demonstrations taking place in the campus. Reinforcements were called and I can recall police on horseback trying to keep the peace. Mind you that when I attended CSUN, I lived no less than 5 minutes from the campus. The riots that had taken place after the Rodney King verdict were still fresh in my mind, and my concern was that similar events would take place in my backyard. While it may have begun as a peaceful demonstration and protest of David Duke’s attendance and participation in the debate, it quickly turned into a powder keg waiting to explode.
We take for granted the right we have to protest actions of which we disapprove. But the methods employed by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seem to have fallen by the wayside. Instead we have peaceful protests that become overshadowed by the excitement of “exercising the 1st Amendment right.” What begins as a potentially powerful tool quickly turns into two things: first, an inconvenience to the rest of the population and second, a free for all made up of the poorly informed, not entirely clear as to why they are protesting.
The goals that the protesters are attempting to further get overlooked because of the inconvenience they are creating. When you are trying to get through downtown and protests are taking place, are you really concerned about the issues or are you concerned with getting to your meeting on time? Or, as a student on a campus with protesters, do you care more about whether you can get to your class?
And what may begin as a peaceful demonstration of a handful (or more) of the well-educated and well-meaning protesters becomes a breeding ground for the mob mentality that undermines the importance of the issue being protested. People love a reason to become distracted, so what better way to avoid whatever it is that you need to do, then by joining a protest and marching alongside your brethren to fight for… what was the issue again? How significant does the issue appear to the public when one of the “protesters” is interviewed by the media and comes off as a buffoon because he just happened on the protest that day and joined in?
The idea of a protest just doesn’t seem to have its cache anymore. I am sure that everyone who orchestrated a protest had visions of marching on City Hall or giving a rousing and impactful speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Those types of events just don’t happen anymore and they won’t. Instead protests are a breeding ground for civil unrest and inconvenience to the rest of the general public. They serve no solid purpose anymore.
My advice to all of the people who feel the need to protest-find another way. Write articles, get measures on the ballot, do something else. Because when things go bad (and they frequently do) the you know what hits the fan. And protesters will get no sympathy from me if they are pepper-sprayed or arrested. They bring it upon themselves.
Understand this-I am not saying that what happened at UC Davis was acceptable. But take a quick second to try to remember what they were protesting. Do you fully understand the issues about which they were protesting? Or do you, and the media, instead focus on the actions of the police? With the actions of the police on the UC Davis campus, wasn’t the purpose of the protest defeated because the newsworthiness of the protest was the actions of the police and not the issues the protesters were trying to demonstrate against?
I don’t mean to sound heartless or close-minded. One person can change the world; I truly believe that walking amongst us right now is another Dr. King or Gandhi. But the ways of the past are no longer effective. Find a different way, because instead of causing me to empathize with your plight, I am distracted by the unrest that you cause and constant media attention that is given to the actions of the masses. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch and when the protest gets out of hand, that leads to many bad apples and not only is the bunch spoiled, the entire harvest is spoiled.