Protests are as American as apple pie; but violence is bad news

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By Greg Markley
For the Opelika Observer

For the first time since I traveled to Boston as a sixth-grader, I saw again the place in Boston harbor where the original “Tea Party” happened, on December 16, 1773. Close by is Quincy Market, another national treasure. Referred to as “the Cradle of Liberty,” this 1743 building is temporarily closed. No one was inside the hall in late June when I walked by, another inanimate casualty of COVID-19.

Two nights in a row there were marches and speeches. They started out as anti-police events, calling the death of George Floyd a murder most foul. But then it became a potpourri of Leftist sentiment, radical ideas and advocacy of socialism. University students, blue-collar workers and others were exercising their right to assemble and speak freely without the government shutting them up. Boston rebel Samuel Adams, who spoke here in favor of Independence in the 1770s, would be proud of this peaceful protest. 

“The (2020) protests in America’s big cities and tiny towns far from the coasts, may be the most widespread in the country’s long history of marching,” reflected The Economist. “What began as a protest against police violence against African-Americans has led to an examination of racism in all its forms….When enough citizens march against an injustice, they can prevail. That is the power of protest.”

As undergraduates in the late 1970s, we were living in what was nicknamed the Me Decade. This was based on an essay by American author Tom Wolfe. He argued that America was much different from the activist 1960s. The individual was now the focus, not saving the world or joining communes or marching.

In fall 1975 I was a freshman studying political science at Rhode Island College. The 1960s advocacy and civic engagement approach was still present. Our student newspaper had many announcements and accounts of protests and marches people could or did attend. Was climate change a hot issue? No, not really. How about the controversial Vietnam War? Of course not, that had ended on April 30, 1975.

The campaign drawing students to California dealt with–Drum Roll– grapes! People felt farmworkers were underpaid. They were, given the demanding hours and work conditions. The 1960s fight was wineries vs. the United Farm Workers (UFW). By 1976, when my classmates drove out West to help, it was unions versus illegal immigrants. I respected my classmates for showing how effective peaceful protesting can be. But I myself skipped the activism route.

Who among our readers has not had the following happen, in one job or another? You take a position based on benefits, rather than liking the potential of the job for your career, or because you know some coworkers already and like them. Then you realize the benefits may be “too good to be true.” This happened to several retiring students I taught at Fort Benning, Georgia.

One was a single-parent with two teenage boys; he was told he would have most weekends off, as a truck driver. That didn’t happen, so he lacked quality time with his sons. Another former soldier was attracted by “promotion potential” the civilian job recruiter said was a benefit. But promotion looked far off for this woman. Four workers were hired at the same time, and not one supervisor planned to retire or quit for years.

The real “too good to be true” Ponzi scheme is socialism. Protestors say “all is free under socialism, health-care, college education, etc.” How silly! Middle-class people will get a tax increase under socialism. Job-creators will hand much of the costs to you. CNN.Money noted that Denmark, at 60% in 2012, had the highest top personal income tax rate among 34 countries. Plus, that 60% applied to income over $55,000. Is it “too good to be true” to get something “free” that you actually end up paying for?

“Ronald Reagan said that freedom is always one generation away from extinction,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “He said that freedom is not passed along in the bloodstream—it has to be taught.” Sasse sees a corollation between U.S. teenagers not knowing civics and the fact that polls suggest nearly 40% of Americans under age 30 believe the First Amendment might be harmful.

That amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, protects, among others, the right to peaceably assemble without government interfering. There is no reason for politicians or police to disrupt peaceful protesters. The police I talked to in Boston were delighted that a riot did not erupt, as happened in Atlanta and Washington DC.

Politicians often try to gain “law and order cred” (credibility) by labeling a peaceful protest as a riot. Don’t be gullible to that scam. On my first visit to Faneuil Hall I never imagined it would draw protests 50 years later. Especially not with a pandemic in place! I couldn’t imagine the Hall’s name would change because Peter Faneuil had slaves. I am delighted that free speech is strong and that we are rectifying past errors.

Greg Markley has lived in Lee County for19 of the past 24 years. An award-winning journalist, he has Master’s degrees in education and history. He taught political science  as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama.

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