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Protests: Voice ideas, not idiocy

On April 15, Americans in cities across the country took to the streets. Revolution was in the air, and people were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Some were decked out in Revolutionary War uniforms, others screamed about fascism; these rabble-rousers were anything but former President Richard Nixon’s self-proclaimed “Silent Majority.” They were the tea-baggers – thousands of Americans who (here’s a shocker) don’t like taxes and more than likely didn’t come out on the winning side of the last presidential election.

Four years ago, the protesters wouldn’t have been the patriots we see today, but na’ve, pot-smoking, gay-loving, Noam Chomsky-reading traitors being manipulated by the far left. How the times have changed.

Through November 2007, Bill O’Reilly called Code Pink protesters “pinheads.” Today, he says no matter where you stand, “the protesters today are valid” and “Fox News respects dissent.” Four years ago, liberal protesters were dismissed for calling President George W. Bush a fascist and donning his picture with a Hitler mustache. Today, we see the conservative right waving posters of President Barack Obama dressed in Nazi garb, and we hear conservatives like Cody Willard of the Fox Business Network proclaiming that fascism has come to America.

At one protest, when a man tried to remind his fellow dissidents that some blame lies with the Bush Administration, and Obama is actually cutting taxes for those making less that $250,000 a year, he was booed. At another event, Gov. Rick Perry (R – Texas) shockingly suggested Texans might want to secede from the Union, the epitome of treasonous talk.

My initial reaction when looking back on those events was conservatives have completely lost their minds. And while that may be true, in reality the lesson learned from the tea-baggers is losing is a rather unpleasant experience. Looking at signs that proclaim “The American Taxpayers Are The Jews For Obama’s Ovens” and “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery” held by tea-baggers, you can’t help but wonder what they would be saying if their guy had won.

It seems far too often we opt for belligerence and swagger over rationality and civility. It’s far too easy to drift into extreme waters when the leaders of our political ideologies are commentators caked in makeup who drive up ratings by making outlandish comments. Can any protest really be taken seriously when theatrics overwhelm common sense? At the tea party in Washington, the demonstrators bought one million tea bags to dump in Lafayette Square to protest wasteful spending.

This campus has had its fair share of protests this semester and will likely have more in the future. For those of you who might find yourself outraged and taking to the streets, I beg you to think back to the tea-baggers before you demonstrate and ask yourself a few questions: “Do I know what I’m talking about? Would my mother take me seriously if I showed her this sign?” And lastly, “Do I sound and look like an idiot?”

These are high times to be outraged but rage has a tendency to lend itself to absurdity. Perhaps if we consider those things, we can get past a strategy of anger and work toward a strategy of solutions.

Justin Snow is a sophomore history major. He can be reached at snowdbk@gmail.com.

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