Peace Protests

I’ll admit that, on some level, I’m considerably more concerned about the protests against the war than with the actual war itself. The self-righteousness and groupthink are becoming a little deafening, at least in San Francisco, where no good (or bad) war goes unpunished. It’s encouraging, though, that our city has at least taken a little break from its four decades of Vietnam War protests in order to focus on something a little more current.

The current trend in protests seems to involve inconveniencing as many people as possible without regard to who these people might be. The idea, I assume, is to draw attention to the issue by forcing people to stop living their lives in peace for a time. It’s a strategy which is doomed to backfire.

Backlash? Backfire?

Take Critical Mass (or “Hypocritcal Mess” as a friend who biked to work for years calls it) for example. Once a month, cyclists take to the streets, snarl traffic, and generally make life miserable for anyone trying to leave downtown San Francisco. A very high proportion of those inconvenienced are the very transit commuters and pedestrians with whom the bike crowd SHOULD be forming coalitions. I’ve talked to dozens of people whose position on the issue of accommodating bicycles has changed because of these demonstrations. To a one, they’ve all become LESS tolerant of cyclists as a result. A result, definitely, if not quite the intended one.

The war protests may have similar results. Aside from the tediousness of the rhetoric, the same old cliches, and the extremely partisan nature of the demonstrations, people are just plain going to get tired of being inconvenienced on a regular basis. And a lot of people — like it or not — are just not sufficiently sophisticated to separate their feelings about the protesters and their feelings about the issue at hand.

Arrogant Self-appointed Guardians…

Every time I hear a protester babbling about how “we just don’t feel life can proceed normally in the midst of this crisis” or whatever such claptrap, I think of how presumptuous it is for them to make that decision about my life for me. It must take a very, ummm, self-assured individual to justify such a level of uncloaked arrogance.

The plan to shut down the Financial District will ultimately present, at best, a mild inconvenience to the powerful ones (all rich people except Hollywood stars are warmongerers, right?) and the large corporations. It may, however, prove a tremendous burden to working people in the restaurants and coffee shops who can’t really afford to take an unpaid day off work because their workplaces are shut down by a peace protest they may or may not care to join. I guess, though, that this qualifies as “collateral damage”.

Again, the level of arraogance shown here is just plain alarming. What right do these people have to impede on other people’s need to earn a living, or to do anything else for that matter? The stock answer is that “the government has no right to affect my life by engaging in war either”. Bullshit. We elected the government to make decisions for us. Who the hell elected you to do anything?

Your right to break the law does not supercede my right not to. Whether you’re blocking an abortion clinic, an intersection, or a federal building, you’re breaking the law, and neither your sense of moral superiority and urgency, nor your “good intentions” can change that fact. You’re illegally infringing upon the rights of others who are legally going about their business. And if you have the gall to suggest it’s OK for you to do it and not for someone with whom you disagree, you’re the lowest form of hypocrite.

Terrorists. Period…

Last but not least, there’s the black bloc, a collection of self-described “anarchists” who feel that the war is a spiffy excuse for trashing businesses and personal property. They’re a microscopic minority, but the tepid condemnations by some protest organzers suggest that (a) they will grow in number, and (b) the organizers in question are not entirely opposed to their actions.

They’re nothing less that terrorists and should be prosecuted as such. Enough said.

A Bill of Goods…

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the peace protests is the set of assumptions made about anyone who does not offer full and complete support. It’s just assumed that anyone who is opposed to the war both will want to participate in demonstrations and will support the entire package, from impeaching Bush to freeing Mumia. Granted, this isn’t a stretch for a group which believes its opinions supercede the rights of an entire city, but how different is this, really, from the right-wing belief that anyone who questions the war or the government is a treasonous coward?

If you’re against the war, at least have the moral conviction to be an individual for peace; don’t hide behind some irrelevant illusion of a “united community” which really doesn’t exist. And feel free to pick and choose among your issues. Don’t assume that as an environmentalist or a homosexual or an artists, you are morally bound to support a whole slate of issues which really have nothing to do with the aforementioned characteristics.

My opinion on the war is irrelevant; this is about protesters who bastardize the concept of “free speech”. I’m speaking my mind. I am not, however, keeping anyone from earning his living. We are fortunate to have the right to free speech in the United States. This right to speech does not, however, come with a related right to disrupt the lives of random strangers in the street.