Monday, October 24, 2011

On “Proper” Protests

I don’t mind the Occupy Wall Street folks. They strike me as impractical and naïve, but if they want to demonstrate, I say: “Go right ahead.”
As I’ve blogged previously, I’m really not sure what they are protesting, and I’m rather disappointed that those who should be defending Wall Street (or State Street) are silent.

But if the protestors have fun doing their thing, or if they become unkempt in doing so, I’m not going to complain. Protests are like blogs: If you don’t like what is being said, don’t listen.

What annoys me more than the protestors is the fact that many people of my generation are now grousing so much about them. Why are we soooo offended by their antics? Since when is there a “proper” protest?

Is protest only ok when you agree with the protestors? Is it only ok where there’s a coherent message and attractive spokespeople? Is protest only ok when it’s convenient for the rest of us?

Think about this: There is no more hideously-offensive protest than the fervently-religious people who picket funeral services for fallen soldiers.

These people hold up signs that rejoice in the death of patriotic young men. They believe their deaths are God’s “payback” for our society’s acceptance of gay rights.

Only a sick, delusional and awful person would do such a thing, but guess what? We thankfully live in a society that guarantees free speech rights. The key word there is guarantee. In this regard, we don’t parse what speech is free and what isn’t.

By extension, I don’t think we should carry on so much about protest activities in a public park, either in NYC or Albany. (BTW, why was Governor Cuomo engaging Mayor Jennings and the State Police in this matter? Was his safety threatened? Or was it that he feels threatened politically? And if so, is it appropriate to engage the State Police on such “political” matters?)

“Oh, but, Dave, don’t you know these protests are becoming a health hazard! Aren’t you concerned about that?”

Well, um, no. I don’t really care if the protestors catch colds or have bouts of dysentery. (I will admit that the air was rather foul when I walked by Zuccotti Park a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve smelled worse at PIC meetings when the BS was really flowing.)

No, I’m just not very alarmed that park lawns have become muddy and litter strewn. I’m pretty sure the grass will grow in the spring, and I’m pretty sure the litter will eventually be picked up. One good rainstorm or cold snap and the cleanup can begin.

What can’t easily be restored when it’s curtailed is a free and open dialogue. That’s true of protests of all kinds. My little blog is in some ways a form of protest, and I wouldn’t want someone trying to silence me.

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