I received very nice responses to my poem on supporting the flag. One good friend suggested we should all “read ‘The American Miracle’ by Medved which documents the astounding number of extremely improbable events/factors which had to occur to bring about our republic.” He believes we need to read encouraging history of our past in these days when the negative narrative seems to get all of the attention. I welcome his suggestion.
Last week I shared my poem protesting the protestors of the flag. I thought even more about protesting this week after I saw this quote: ‘“I hate you for hating me, you hater,” has to be the quintessential taunt of this decade.”
Soon after that quote I read the following on the internet: “Mayor Bill de Blasio this month told the National Education Association to “stand up against hate,” then promptly declared, “I hate the privatizers, and I want to stop them.”’ Mayor de Blasio is the mayor of New York and has a large bully pulpit.
He is not alone. In my opinion, far too often protestors are: fighting bigotry with bigotry, fighting hatred with hatred, fighting injustice with self-righteousness, attention seeking, and Monday morning quarterbacking. Very few protestors understand proper protesting. With some rare, but good exceptions, most protests are unplanned knee jerk reactions to situations; a few are planned violence. Few, if any, have the wisdom of Gandhi, Mandela or King.
A Big Lesson
My personal knowledge about protesting was greatly developed by an incident that occurred while I was in graduate school. Students at Kent State University were killed by National Guardsmen during a protest of the Viet Nam War. I was attending The University of Iowa and our graduate students wanted to protest the killings. When we met, some students wanted a strike from their finals, but they still wanted their grades. They wanted to strike from their assistantship duties, but they still wanted to get paid.
After a few spoke, one older student jumped up and yelled; “You are gutless (he actually said chickenshit). If you want to protest the war here are some things you can do”—he listed several. “But you must be willing to accept the consequences for your protests.” Then he stormed out of the room.
He was from India and had been willing to go to prison to protest British rule. He understood the value of civil disobedience.
The students silently went away, unwilling to accept consequences, no protest occurred. I learned how serious is the task of proper protesting.
Gandhi, Mandela and King all understood civil disobedience. They also understood targeted protests with specific goals; a practice Jesus understood. He protested the money changers in the temple. His protest was specific and directed toward changing behavior. He did not protest in a general way, a hateful way, or to draw attention to himself. There are other considerations to proper protesting, for example non-violence. I simply do not see any outstanding leadership understanding the necessary conditions and leading us toward proper protesting. Proper protesting is difficult and very serious.
The primary reason I am asking each of us to do what we can to improve civil discourse is my fear of improper protests. The next election cycle is shaping up to be tumultuous. As the national discourse grows more hateful on both sides, we come closer and closer to major protests. Since few know how to properly protest, I fear we may fall into chaos.
If you are not into poetry, that is it for this week. I will tell you more about why I’m writing poetry next time.
If you can handle another poem read on.
proper protest: a poem
Mahatma, Nelson and Martin understood
mere mortals miss
bigotry fighting bigotry,
even in righteousness name,
Steel love, iron peace,
softens the cruel face of injustice,
but dangerous still.
Cruel faces often unchanging,
and evil sometimes kills.
Right in the name of righteousness, good,
bigotry by any name, bad.
Attacking color for color
be it white or black or brown,
or red or yellow,
The rants, the chants, the Molotov cocktail,
hurled from self-righteousness,
though feeling good, feeling strong,
achieve conflict, not change.
Love pierces the heart of the bigot
if anything can.
If anything can’t
the heart of one bigot shouldn’t make two.
Stand up for justice, as you should,
but in ways always good.
Never let the heart of one bigot make two.
Until next week