Reading about the protests planned for the Republican National Convention, which many are predicting will be as confrontational and violent as recent World Trade Organization protests or, harking further back, the massive and violent civil-rights and anti-war protests of the ‘60s, Culture Vulture is consumed by dreadful wonder.
A recent Rolling Stone magazine article relates the tale of a group that plans to follow individual delegates around harassing them every inch of the way for their political beliefs. “We want to make their stay here as miserable as possible,” as protest organizer Jamie Moran puts it, going on to cite aspirations for disrupting as many Republican functions as possible, including possible “occupation and property destruction” of corporations involved in the business of Iraq reconstruction.
This kind of rhetoric and action generates grisly flashbacks of the ‘60s protests, particularly the part where it was discovered that one of the finest ways to discredit protesters was to plant trained government agents in their midst who advocated extreme violence and destruction. By pouring fuel on the fire of well-intentioned people’s frustration and anger, such agents-provocateur can incite actions that will not only do nobody any good but will actually sway public sympathy away from the protesters and therefore away from their causes. That would be a very real shame.
To protest governmental and corporate violence and economic injustice by violently disrupting meetings or destroying property may superficially seem like fighting fire with fire, but the analogy doesn’t play out. In a forest the two advancing walls of flame consume everything between them and thus extinguish each other at a prearranged point, but in the realm of human ideology the sources of conflict are infinite, so no amount of strife—be it ever so finely balanced—will ever quell the “other” side’s desire for dominance.
One of the easiest and most destructive mistakes in the world is to transform disagreement into animosity. The moment one does that, the possibility for genuine communication is extinguished and hateful and/or meaningless slogans replace genuine dialogue. As rational, transcendent beings, we should be capable of rising above such pathetically petty concerns, but as physical creatures bound by the limits of our mortality, perhaps we haven’t yet quite developed the objectivity necessary for mutually benevolent negotiation of superficial disagreements.
Culture Vulture prays for the day when ideological oppression and economic injustice and governmentally condoned violence are concepts that can only be learned about in school.
In the meantime, we advise not hurting anyone.
Culture Vulture reminder
A memorial celebration for Gil Schoenstein will be held Saturday, August 28, from 5-9 p.m. Please see our calendar “EVENTS” listing for that day for more details.