Opinion

Protestors? Demonstrators? Nuts to that! | Whale

Like many other people throughout the region, I caught the evening local news covering the May Day demonstrations in Seattle.

Peering up at a television inside Auburn's Rainbow Cafe, I watched with mounting anger as for yet one more year, people, their faces swathed in bandanas or concealed under gas masks, hurled rocks and obscenities at police who had asked them to clear the streets.

Bad enough.

But what really fried my wig was listening to local media describe the provocateurs as "demonstrators," "protestors" or even "anarchists".

I don't buy any of that, no way, no how. And people who make their living with words should know better.

I have always considered it one's patriotic duty to raise a fuss from time to time in the face of wrong and injustice. To sound, in Whitman's words, one's "barbaric yawp" over the rooftops of the world.

Like those civil rights protestors of the 1960s did, demonstrating for the simple right to sit at a lunch counter in Birmingham, Ala., and eat lunch.

Or before them the women's suffragettes, agitating for the right to vote.

Or the abolitionists before that, demanding an end to human chattel slavery.

But extending these terms to people involved in the May Day mayhem in Seattle grants them a status and a dignity to which they are not entitled.

For one thing, it makes no distinction between the earlier, peaceful May Day demonstrations and the primitive stuff that developed as darkness came on. In a wider sense, it lumps those guys in with brave souls who suffered cracked bones, or worse, fighting for a better deal.

It's not acceptable.

I think the more egregious error, however, in calling those guys "protestors," was the total absence of anything on the ground remotely resembling a cause as evening came on.

Was there a change they had in mind? I heard nothing about it.

Were they upset about a particular law or policy? Must have missed that one, too.

Thing is, I'm convinced after years of watching this stuff play out on Seattle's streets that the rock throwers really don't have a cause, unless one wants to call a "cause" showing up in Seattle every year on May 1 to vent one's personal anger and disappointment at life by smashing things.

You don't bring gas masks unless you intend to pick a fight. You don't bring weapons unless you expect to fight.

These guys call themselves anarchists. But I really wonder if they have ever considered what real anarchy would mean.

Something the writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote made a lasting impression on me. Without rules, Chesterton argued, "life wouldn't be any fun." Without rules and standards, that is, everything that enables human beings to live together in relative harmony, everything we hold dear, would be impossible.

In the absence of rules, for example, there would be no sports, which certainly rely on them. Without agreed-upon standards of behavior, no one would be safe at night anywhere.

No, anarchy wouldn't be any fun. And I suspect that had the Seattle police simply waded into the crowd and started clubbing and punching, the "anarchists" would have been the first to bitch about "police misbehavior."

Which, of course, would imply some sort of standard officers had failed to live up to.

So please, let's have no more nonsense about "demonstrators," "protestors," or even "anarchists".

If we must call them something, I prefer the short, yet apt words of Mr. Tom Petty: "Rebels without a clue."

Staff writer Robert Whale can be reached at 253-833-0218, ext. 5052, or rwhale@auburn-reporter.

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