Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Interesting bit about protesting

Here’s an MSNBC article, reprinted from the Washington Post, about some protest in DC recently:

(Click on it, give them the traffic, go on…  there is some high comedy about the “trainers” testing the new protester by acting like war supporters saying things like “we’ll run you over with our big tank” or “we should shoot your with our guns”.  If that’s not a SNL skit, I don’t know what is.)


Anyway, I’m a little torn on the notion of protesting.  Protesting is, after all, an inherent right that all men (and women) posses and the government cannot take that right away from us.  And even if they did manage to curtail the first amendment, we’d still find SOME way to voice our opposition and disgust.


But that begs the question…  what constitutes “voicing your opposition”.


The Presbyterian Church’s (U.S.A.) Book of Order instructs parishioners who disagree with the teaching of the pastor to separate themselves from the congregation in a quiet and orderly manner.  Your absence is your protest.  Your silence, your empty space, that becomes your voice informing the leadership of your displeasure in the direction they’re taking the church.


The same, I presume, holds true with boycotts.  The absence of your dollar in the coffers of the company is your statement to the company that you disagree with their actions in the …  well, in the whatever the hell they’re doing.


The question is, though, do they care?  Does WalMart care that I don’t buy their cheap, disposable garbageware?  Does Shell care if I stay away from their stations because of their ongoing rape of the Niger Delta area?  Does GM care if I never, ever buy a GM car?  Does the pastor of my church care if I stay home, or quit the church in a “quiet and orderly manner”?


The fact is that I’m not GM’s customer.  The dealer is GM’s customer (read their annual report).  Me staying away from the dealer doesn’t hurt GM directly, it hurts the dealer directly, and the dealer doesn’t have the power to make policy decisions for GM.  The thousand or so bucks I cost GM is made back in interest in about [----] that much time.  Same with WalMart, and Shell.  To them I am a rounding error.


As for the church, if I disagree with the pastor and decide to just quit, one has to ask if the pastor or session/leadership even notices.  In a large enough congregation, the answer would be no.  In a smaller congregation, the answer might be yes, but the reasons behind may not be known.  In a “quiet and orderly” separation, it becomes beholden upon the church leaders to ask the reasons behind the separation, if they even know what’s going on.


I prefer “loud and orderly” protests.  The people in the article say it was a good protest because people got arrested.  I can rob a store and get arrested, but that doesn’t make it a good protest.  Were it not for the article I wouldn’t have even known there was a protest going on.  Take the outbursts at the town hall meetings.  Were they civil?  Not really.  Were they effective?  I think so.  They got the point across, if the point was “we’re mad, we’re frustrated, we have no voice in congress, and you’re not listening to us”.  As far as sharing specific policy goals, not so much.  But the tone of the confrontations was significant in and of itself in that it made those who were ignoring the voice of the people stand up and notice.  Respectful?  Not so much.  But our representatives are not necessarily deserving of respect.  And for what it’s worth, standing up in a town hall meeting and shouting at an elected representative is far FAR more respectable and effective than lone gunman lunacy.  Barricading yourself in a compound and shooting at officials is a despicable act.  I think everyone would prefer shouting in town hall meetings.


And that kind of demonstration of raw passion also translates at the ballot box.  An electorate that disagrees, but shrugs and moves on with its collective life, is not an electorate that will throw your ass out of office.  If they stand up and shout you down at a town hall, they might just mobilize and elect a grey cat, or maybe a bowl of daisies, to replace you.


Ask the republicans who are now out of work since 2006.


The question, of course, becomes how do you have an effective protest.  Simply marching or getting arrested doesn’t do the trick. 

A quiet and orderly separation from that which you are protesting only makes for a quiet and orderly opposition upon which boots may smoothly march.


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