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Making a mockery of protest

By Amy L. Fletcher, Ph.D.
web posted October 8, 2001

Few things are more pathetic than a tenured professor in his or her mid-50s trying to relive the glory days of Vietnam War-era campus activism. Perhaps the only thing is the spectacle of privileged American students, many of them at the most elite universities in the country, who seem bent on following these faculty lemmings into a sea of imbecility. Remarkably, despite their SAT scores, these students seem incapable of distinguishing an undeclared war fought for controversial ideological reasons from a legitimate response to a deliberate act of aggression.

While most of the United States was still reeling from the terror of September 11, many middle-aged professors across the country rushed to organize versions of that hoary old technique of political posturing called the "teach in." The fact that Afghanistan has been a political and moral conundrum for every world power since at the least the mid-19th century did not really matter. In less than a week, the campus mandarins had declared that the United States is, no surprise here, the global bogeyman.

In tandem, a small-but loud-cadre of students rushed out of the classrooms and into the streets, seeking a bit of that old time radical religion called "protest." Mix in a few well-meaning nuns and a couple of street musicians and the players are all in place for a glorious Summer of Love re-enactment.

Demonstrators march on September 29, during protests in Washington. A few thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through the nation's capital, some dressed as doves of peace and others waving signs with anti-war sentiments such as "War will not bring our loved ones back."
Demonstrators march on September 29, during protests in Washington. A few thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through the nation's capital, some dressed as doves of peace and others waving signs with anti-war sentiments such as "War will not bring our loved ones back."

This time, however, these protests are not only in bad taste, but are utterly without a political or moral center of gravity. America could have decimated Afghanistan on the day of the attack, and President Bush had an unprecedented level of public fury behind him to support such an ill-conceived, though understandable, response.

Instead, the Administration has controlled its fury and charted a sane course through these dangerous political shoals. American food and humanitarian assistance continues to flow to international refugee relief efforts. Meanwhile, the President and his foreign policy team have received praise from even erstwhile international foes for their informed and consultative approach.

The student protestors and their faculty commissars are not evidence of the principled dissent that is a necessary part of any healthy democracy. They do not deserve to claim the mantle of Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead, they are charlatans whose rush into the streets and the dormitories betrays them.

These "activists" promulgate policy positions so outdated, ahistorical, and irrelevant to the crisis at hand that they are not really protestors at all, but instead a new band of street performers-political mimes. While sometimes difficult to ignore, particularly when they travel in packs, these self-indulgent street clowns only succeed in boring the hell out of those of us forced to watch.

Amy L. Fletcher, Ph.D., is a political scientist, freelance writer, and American citizen who currently works in New Zealand. She can be reached at amyfletcher@nzoomail.com.

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