Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Social Change through Protest

I went to college in the early 70s when protests were daily happenings that disgusted our parents and frightened the "establishment." Some protests got pretty violent, including one I witnessed first hand here at Ohio State.

Interesting isn't it that in our country, the most radical social changes have always been initiated by protests and ultimately violence. Last fall, the wife and I visited the battlefields of Concord and Lexington, Mass. When you hear the story from the British perspective, the colonists were clearly seditionists and terrorists. We of course glorify them as freedom fighters and patriots.

Less than 100 years later, the country erupted into civil war because the gulf between the political positions of the North and South could not be resolved satisfactorily through the vehicle of the federal government.
Another 100 years later, and America appeared to come apart at the seams as the youth of the country rose up against our government's insistence on fighting a stupid war. Simultanously, the civil rights movement turned violent as citizens found no other way to achieve justice. The feminist movement took hold in the same period. Once the yelling began, many many joined in.

I think we may be in the simmering stage of similar outbreak. The war in Iraq, which has so many similarities to Vietnam, might be the fuse. Or it could be the issues of race that arise from the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Whatever the ignition source might be, I think that a tax revolt will be a part of the conflagration.

Do we have an opportunity to prevent the glowing embers from bursting into a full fledged forest fire?

Perhaps a more important question is whether we should try. Just as a forest fire clears out the underbrush and diseased trees and opens areas for the development of a new, more healthy forest, it could be that one of the strengths of the American system is that we have forest fires every once in a while too. We clear out some degree of the insanity that builds up and proceed on into the future a stronger nation.

Maybe it's time.

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