Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Protests and Free Speech

I was slightly amused today when, on my way between court and lunch, I see a batch of about 15 protesters. Judging by the signs, they appeared to be protesting Communism. I found this amusing. So much so, that I could not stop myself from driving past again in an effort to figure out exactly what message they wished passers-by to receive. Given the totality of the signage, I guessed they were protesting the recently enacted health care legislation.

Now, I am all in favor of the right that we have to peaceably assemble and speak our beliefs. I don't have a problem with these people announcing their views to Main Street, in spite of the fact that my views differ significantly from theirs; and I even commend people for taking advantage of this right, when so few people are active in politics these days.

However, I have a large problem when such a protest is not a debate or commentary on ideas, but rather an excuse for name-calling and racial slurs. Many of the signs I saw had pictures of what I can only describe as Vaudeville-era "black-face." That is, a dark-skinned face, enormous white eyes, and a ridiculous red grinning mouth. This is offensive to me. If you don't like President Obama, I totally respect that. So say, "Down with Obama!" or "Impeach the President!" or whatever you want. I have no respect whatsoever for people who hold up signs with the clear meaning that because the President is black, we should not trust him. Many of these signs also called President Obama a liar. Now, I don't know if he is or not. But he didn't lie about his intention to reform healthcare. In fact, the reforms that were passed were significantly less than those proposed during the debates. e.g., no "public option" or government insurance plan. If you don't like the healthcare legislation, say so! On none of these signs was there the word "healthcare."

If these protesters desired to protest the healthcare legislation, it would make much more sense to hold the rally prior to the time it's actually law. If their desire was to simply Obama-bash, this is fine, too. But they should actually state what their problems with him are, or they won't convince anyone who doesn't already share their beliefs. From what I could tell, they don't like President Obama because he's a Communist, a liar, and/or because he's black. He's clearly not a member of the Communist party, or he couldn't have run on the Democratic ticket. And since it's unclear exactly what they're saying he lied about, this isn't likely to get them very far. And if their dislike of him is based on his skin color, they should take another look at all those American flags they were waving around, and possibly the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as well.


NMjewel said...

Thank you for your astute comments, and since I live on the opposite side of the county I can only say "grrr" and agree with you.

smith said...

You really did a great job on that! thanx for sharing thisGo Public on the FSE

Kimf. said...

Excellent comments about a healthy debate when it comes to protests, verses petty slurs. I also agree about protesting in advance of passage, however this bill was presented the same day it was to be voted on. Of course we see this antic from both sides of the aisle, I'm with you, let's have some REAL discussion. Thanks again for an excellent post.