“We Shall Overcome,” er, We Shall Overrun:
The Cliché of Protest in 2017
Welcome to the first post of the Academic Redneck on Inauguration Day 2017! It’s a little after 6 a.m, and I’m tuned in to Fox News watching the action. It should be a great day, despite the protestors who’ve descended on D.C. and other major cities to express their contempt for the president-elect. We have a long tradition of protest and civil disobedience in this country, which has often been a vehicle for effective social change. From the Sons of Liberty’s dumping tea into Boston Harbor to civil rights demonstrators standing their ground against Bull Connor’s forces in Birmingham in 1963, protest can bring attention to a worthy cause.
Unfortunately, protests can serve to undermine a cause as well. In Chicago in 1968, Mayor Daley’s police may have been heavy handed against ant-war protestors, but the chaos and mayhem that resulted served to hurt the Democrats and their cause. Likewise, in the last few weeks, as celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell urged President Obama to declare martial law to keep DJT from taking office and famous activists like Michael Moore called for widespread disruption, the opposition seems far less righteous as it does surly. There’s a good chance that reasonable people will simply roll their eyes and say, “So you are pissed off? What’s new?” Furthermore, the “love Trumps hate” slogan loses its effect when groups of enraged people are setting fires, crashing barricades, and trying to keep Trump supporters from enjoying this day. Perhaps some of the inaugural protests are genuine expressions of opposition. However, the rent-a-mob hordes provide a “we shall overrun” air to the festivities.
A lot has been said about Congressman John Lewis’s involvement in the civil rights movement. He will be remembered as one of the most courageous heroes in American history. How unfortunate that now he is a member of the most powerful governing body in Washington, he forgot the lesson of love and understanding he so effectively schooled Americans in during the 1960s. It’s not particularly credible to criticize Trump for his hatred when you turn your back on the new president and walk away in anger.
Social activism is a great thing. Trump supporters like me are proud that we went up against the establishment in our own party and insisted on a dramatic change of direction. Though Trump supporters have been accused of violence and brutality during the campaigns, today will make clear the distinction between those of us in the grassroots who worked effectively to helped Trump win the White House and the people who hypocritically talk about love and understanding yet don’t practice what they preach.