To On the Fly:
I agree 100% with Ms. Hall's recent online article on protecting free speech; we need more of it, not less. Ms. Hall is also 100% correct when she states, "Though some surely feel that to protest the war is the most unpatriotic thing in the world, I do feel its important-- that the right to disagree is essential to any well-functioning democracy." Protesting the war through free speech is not unpatriotic. There are a lot of people who are not 'liberals', 'leftists' or anti-American who are totally against the war; just take a look at the positions of the free market Cato institute (cato.org), the Libertarian Party or Pat Buchanan.
Is protesting democratic? yes, if you protest with free speech such as at Overton Park. Aside from the fact that some pretty unsavory groups (essentially front groups for the anti-democracy Workers World Party) are organizing many of todays anti-war rallies, the problem with the recent protests (such as those in San Francisco) is that they are moving above and beyond 'free speech' and into the realm of domestic terrorism (this DOES NOT apply to the rally in Overton Park, which was peaceful and respectful of the rights of others). Specifically, anti-war activists who are
resorting to shutting down sections of the city (San Francisco and, today, New York) because they 'feel' that the government hasn't listened to their pleas for peace are showing their contempt for representative democracy, and their fellow citizens. They are taking away the rights of other citizens to use the streets
in their own communities; they want to dictate through mob action what others will or will not be allowed to do.
Such tactics also turn off a lot of people who would otherwise perhaps be sympathetic to their anti-war message. Does anyone think that abortion clinic bombers help win votes for pro-life positions?
Per the San Francisco Chronicle (see http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi file=/chronicle/archive/2003/03/23/MN22135.DTL), "The protesters are acting like sore losers," said Aitan Melamud, a retired urologist, as he watched a protest outside Bechtel Corp. headquarters Friday morning. "Like if they can't have their way, then we can't go on with our lives."
"The threat to "shut this country down" is a terrorist threat that shows a loss of faith in the processes of democracy. . . In October, after days of debate, the Senate voted 77-23 and the house 296-133 to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refused to give up weapons of mass destruction. Clearly the antiwar position was listened to, and 146 representatives voted against the measure, but, in keeping with the rules of our democracy, the measure was adopted." Victor Eremita
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030326/ap_wo_en_ge/na_gen_us fifth_avenue_protest_3
I hope people continue to march for what they believe in but I hope they do so with respect to the rights of others, and I also hope that they care enough to be informed on the issues they are protesting for and about the organizations they are protesting with. I don't think that's too much to expect from people engaged in protests to 'inform' and express an opinion meant to change the hearts and minds of others.
I do disagree with Ms. Hall when she states, "See, the thing is-- I often vacillate mentally as I try to understand whatever a given point of social contention is, and it doesnt make me a good candidate for the manning of a megaphone"; that intellectual honesty alone gives her more credibility than most. It's to her credit that, as a journalist she's acknowledging that issues are complicated, and that there's more than one side to any given story.
On an interesting note, Ms. Hall states, "If there were ever easy solutions to things such as a war, then of course there would be no need for protest. ". One could change one word, and come up with "If there were ever easy solutions to things such as a war, then of course there would be no need for war." I point this out because on the web site for the Mid South Peace and Justice Center lists 'disarmament' as one of its field of studies. I wonder how they would accomplish this when confronted with a totalitarian dictatorship that doesn't want to disarm...use harsh language? In their mission statement they state that the Center "engages issues of peace and nonviolence, human rights and social justice." I don't know the answer to the following question, but I am curious: did they ever once organize a protest against the\ horrendous human rights abuses of Saddam Hussein?
Anyway, it was a good article on the recent peaceful anti-war protest in Memphis.