Friday, October 06, 2006

Contest of Wills

Protests serve two purposes: to generate change and to make the protestors feel good because they think they are generating change. Often there is the latter without the former.

While heading to my car after class last night, I passed one of the campus quads which was crowded with protestors. There was no event in particular they were protesting, except perhaps the protest of another group. (It's hard to tell who was protesting whom.) On one side was a crowd of about thirty student insisting homosexual marriage should be legal (Virginians will vote on this issue in November). On the other side was an equally large crowd of people arguing marriage should only be between a man and a woman. There was one police officer walking between them, though actively restraining no one.

Each side seemed intent on making sure the other side could see their posters, as if pictures and slogans would change the mind of anyone who is already participating in a protest. They seemed far more interested in their opponents than the trickle of passing students who had no clear allegiance. Neither side talked to each other.

There's politics and there's the real world. This is a clear demonstration that the two rarely have anything to do with one another.


Daniel J. D'Amico said...


I think you point out something interestign here. Part of me really hates the idea of protesters. Especially when they seem to have economci equality as one of their driven goals (not in your case, but many others). In general this seems to be a strategic criticism. I tend to think that for issues like this little is accomplished by bum rushing, shouting, or denying people the forum to speak (like was recently seen at Columbia University).

But another part of me really feels empowered and motivated by civic disobedience. I recently saw the US v. John Lennon (which I highly recomend) and was riveted by what appeared to be clear signs of success out fo the protest culture of the 60s and 70s in response to war. It was a clear group of people sending a clear message to political rulers, and maybe it didn't achieve exactly what it wanted but I think it achieved something good nonetheless.

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