Thursday, January 20, 2005

The absurdity of denigrating protesters

In a situation similar to the one that resulted in my post concerning the widespread disdain for environmentalists, I realized today that the attitude of many Americans towards protesters is very much the same. While it is indeed strange that people harbor ill feelings towards those who desire a clean planet, its even more absurd that so many people denigrate protesters, especially those who commit minor infractions of the law.

Just recently, the media, along with both conservatives and liberals, heaped enormous amounts of praise on those who included themselves part of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. These people were protesters! Even more ironic, they were protesting election fraud! But those protesters who allege election fraud in the US, well, they are just plain wrong and evil.

Additionally, I'm pretty sure that our nation was born out of protest. But most Americans label those who attempt to break over police barriers in parades as dangerous anarchists, while those who illegally boarded a ship moored in the Boston harbor and committed a large act of vandalism involving tea are hailed as the purest patriots and are heroes that are worshiped from the age an American child studies national history in elementary school.

Surely, there must be some difference I'm missing between the Sons of Liberty who fought for increased freedom of speech, and those who get arrested for wearing shirts that say "Protect our civil liberties".

Personally, if any protesters are going to be denigrated, it makes more sense to look down on those who lack the will to do anything illegal for fear of the law. I could probably be included among those, but scoffing at intelligent protest is not something of which I make a habit.

Many conservative Christians point to Romans 13, where Paul writes of obeying civil authorities, to warn of the "sin" inherent to protesting. This argument does not work with me, as I tend to take Paul's writings with a grain of salt as historically they have been misinterpreted thousands of times by those failing to examine their cultural context. Also, it seems obvious that Christ should be held up as the model for Christians, and he mocked and attacked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and even vandalized shops found in the Jewish Temple once. If this wasn't protest, then I do not know how overturning police barricades and attacking Bush with written banners and signs and voiced anger can be called protest either.