Anyone who has been reading this blog for more than a couple of months has probably read me writing about my distaste for political protest. ((Let's look at that word: "Distate." I don't want to ban it, I won't do anything to stop you from doing it. I just don't like it and think it damages more causes than it helps. So don't write me and tell me I'm a fascist, m'kay?. (My dislike for how we throw the word "fascist" around these days deserves a whole 'nother post.))
When I tell people that protesting is usually a dumb idea*, I'm usually talking to liberals and tend to get accused of not liking it because I'm more conservative than they are. So it's nice to be able to talk about it when conservatives are doing it.
On the UU theology mailing list, I'm getting a chance to look at the protest argument from the other side of the political aisle. A UU from Finland posted an article saying that The Rev. Fred Phelps is back to his old tricks of protesting funerals.
Responses on the mailing list have been along the lines of "What is it going to take to ban them?" and "OOoh this free speech thing. I used to be a defender of it." (Are even UUs starting to say this? That also deserves a whole 'nother post.) And indeed, several states have been moving toward legally banning funeral protests.
As a civil libertarian I'm more or less against banning funeral protests, though the right to protest funerals is not a hill I would typically chose to die on. Besides, these funeral protests are the best thing in the world for liberalism.
Naturally, "how can we stop these horrible protests" is exactly the wrong response. Liberals suck mightily at working together, conservatives do not. If the Democrats could run a political party half was well as the Republicans can, there would be no Green party. I'm sure the conservative extremists seem just as implacable to the Republican party as liberal extremists do to the Democrats, but the Republicans manage to keep a majority of their extreme members just happy enough to stay in the party. The Democrats can't.
Any fissure we see in the Republican party should cause all Democrats to get some popcorn, grab a ringside seat, and shut up.
Needless to say, the Rev. Fred Phelps and his protesters come off as redneck assholes on TV. They look angry and nasty and like no one you would want to join ever. Their arguments are completely illogical to anyone who isn't in love with their cause. They actually look more alienating than hippies, which is saying a lot in my book. Most beautiful of all, they are protesting MILITARY funerals. The military is typically a huge Republican voting block. And here conservative extremists are insulting their dead brothers.
So, no, don't ban these protests. Just sit back and watch and hope Phelps alienates as many Republicans as he possibly can before the Republicans stop him. (And they will. Because they've watched Liberals for years and they know how the public reacts to protesters who act like offensive assholes.)
But the next time someone in your Union or liberal organization says ""Hey, let's close down all the bathrooms in the Chicago airport. That will make people pay attention to us! When little kids, pregnant women, sick people and old people who have to go so badly they are in pain beg us to please let us use the bathroom, we will say "no!" Because nothing gets a cause on the news like pointless cruelty to incredibly sympathetic victims,"" you might want to think about how Fred Phelps is looking on the news these days before jumping on the bandwagon.
Someone stuck up "threatening to close down the bathrooms at the Chicago airport" up at Peacebang one time as an example of a "funny activism story."
What we should really be doing is sending it to Fred Phelps as a suggestion.
*It uses a fuckton of volunteer resources, a cause often as not one comes off in the media looking worse than it did before and political leaders don't listen to them anyway. (Yes, I know what Nixon said. He was lying.)