I’m not that different from the cartoon character you see with an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other both whispering contradictory instructions into the ear adjacent to them. This became abundantly clear to me Monday night as I watch footage of demonstrators pulling down a confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina. Let’s explore.
I have long advocated for the relegation of confederate statures to their proper resting places – museums. They are part of history; but certainly not a part we need to honor! Almost none of those statues were erected in the days immediately following the Civil War to commemorate the service of local young men. They were mostly erected during later periods to intimidate blacks and the few liberal whites then living in the South that believed in equal rights. Had I moved to the South in my early adulthood there is a very good chance I would have been introduced to a tree limb via a rope.
When I saw a confederate statue get a yellow rope around it and then get yanked off its pedestal the devil exclaimed with joy into my ear. Just after that the angel whispered into the other ear that no matter how good the picture made me feel deep down I knew that was not the proper way to go about it. The angel was correct.
I almost invariably agree with the causes most progressive demonstrators support. Dr. King taught us that a demonstration brings attention to a problem; it does not solve it. The first step in problem solving is realizing and admitting that a problem exists. Therefore there is tremendous value to demonstration. Successful demonstrations will widen the recognition of a problem and move it from the back to the front burner.
Recently I feel that various protests at Congressional offices and tough questions at town halls played a major part in defeating Trumpcare. Politicians only respond to two things: money and votes. Most progressive causes are seriously outgunned financially but even the dimmest witted candidate or office holder can count angry noses. It’s relatively easy to fake numbers in a letter writing or petition campaign; it’s hard to fake angry noses when they are staring you in the face.
Personally, I’m not much of a demonstrator. I’m in my comfort zone working for the cause by writing and personally consoling those who seek out my opinion. Policy is much like baseball; if you are going to have a successful team you need players with a variety of skills. A good first baseman is generally not a very good shortstop.
I know a lot of my friends disagree with me but I think that protestors should strive to avoid arrest. That doesn’t mean pushing it over the edge and then being fleet footed when the police show up; it means not breaking the law in the first place. The idea of intentionally getting arrested is counterproductive in my mind. The arrests are just something for the other side to use as a diversion to avoid having to defend their acts. The vast majority of Americans are decent people at their core and they do not like what they see as an unfair situation. The persuadables (and there are many by definition otherwise an attention getting demonstration wouldn’t be necessary in the first place) are less likely to come around to the cause of people who they see being arrested.
Even more fundamental is the fact that demonstrators should not break the law. Especially laws against destruction and theft. Going back to the ‘60’s it was scenes like the cruel treatment of peaceful protestors that swung public opinion to the side of civil rights advocates; not the rioting and looting.
Remember that demonstrations bring attention to problems but political action solves them. Register, vote and work via the political process and within its laws to elect officials sympathetic to your cause(s). That is how change is brought about in a representative democracy. It’s not easy; if it were you wouldn’t have to get involved.
Don’t forget your body was designed with a brain between the two ears; reject the temptation and make the correct choice.
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