FIRST-PERSON: How not to protest

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)--It is with mixed emotions that I have observed reports of the anti-Bush, er, I mean anti-war protests taking place across America. On one hand, I support every citizen's right to voice dissent with government action or policy. I have participated in rallies and marches against the murderous but legal practice of abortion. I am grateful that I live in a country whose founders had the foresight to guarantee freedom of speech as a fundamental right.

On the other hand, I am frustrated with the actions of the current protestors. It is one thing to rally and march peacefully, and yet another to force a message on those who don't agree with it. I find it especially disconcerting with the war in progress.

Protests usually have a point, a reason for occurring. The civil rights marches and civil disobedience of the 1960s targeted unjust laws and the unequal treatment of black Americans. Those participating in the activities had a goal in mind. They wanted to change law. At times, the protestors violated specific laws in order to highlight their unjust nature. Those involved were committed to the cause whatever the cost.

Anti-abortion rallies are about the changing of law. I pray for the day that the womb will be a safe place for pre-born children. As it stands, a life not yet born can be terminated for almost any reason -- or for no reason. Because of this reality, I routinely gather with likeminded individuals to voice opposition to current state and federal statutes concerning abortion.

Another purpose for protests is an attempt to influence public opinion. The peaceful resistance of the civil rights movement had tremendous impact. When Americans saw fellow citizens being beaten and mistreated by overzealous police, it galvanized public sentiment for the goals of the movement.

The current anti-Bush/anti-war protesters are opposed to the action in Iraq. They have a right to their opinion. They also have a right to express it. However, with the war underway, the only point any protest could hope to communicate is dissatisfaction with our government's action.

So, my question to current protesters is, What is the point in blocking traffic or destroying property? If you think you are going to stop a war in progress, you are at best extremely naive. Hoping to sway public opinion with your antics? I am certain you affected the thinking of those whose morning and afternoon commutes you interrupted, but probably not in the positive way you imagine. If anything, the in-your-face "I am going to make you listen to me" approach to protesting is proving just how self-centered modern liberalism has become.

Take for instance the "vomit-in" that took place in San Francisco. According to a variety of reports, protesters took to heaving their breakfast and/or lunches on the sidewalks and plaza areas around the federal building. Their point: war makes them sick. I can relate. I get a little queasy when I think about how many pre-born children die each day as a result of abortion. But you tell me, how can anyone take seriously an event that is tantamount to a third-grader's strategy for being sent home from school?

In Portland, Ore., protesters took to the streets blocking traffic and smashing the window of at least one business. Not content with snarling downtown traffic, some anti-Bush/anti-war demonstrators made their way to interstate highways where they stopped traffic. The protests went on for hours. Thankfully, and amazingly, no one was injured. Somehow I don't think the long-haul trucker from Houston who was stopped on I-5 in Portland was too impressed by the protesters' method or message.

Perhaps liberals should start offering seminars addressing protests and public relations. A suggested title could be "How to Demonstrate Without Infuriating the Public." Current protest participants would benefit greatly from such instruction.

Right now about the only point they are communicating is how foolish and clueless they really are.


Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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