Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Politics of protest

The following is posted for my friend Carl Morgan. It originally appeared in truncated form on the Dallas Morning News editorial page, but I'm putting up the unedited original for him so his full article will have a home:

CRAWFORD, Texas -- I guess we made a wrong turn.

This was all but obvious as a Secret Service agent approached the car and coldly asked what we wanted. We were too close to Bush's ranch.

According to radio station 570 KLIF, we were to park at Bubba's house (no joke), and meet with other pro-Bush supporters to demonstrate our support and to counter Cindy Sheehan's continuing cooperation with increasingly distasteful anti-war groups.

After we explained this to the SS agent, her manner completely changed. She became amicable -smiled even- and was extremely helpful. This was emblematic of every law-enforcement officer we encountered.

I joined 6 other Protest-Warriors, a conservative group that "protests the protesters," and headed down to Crawford on Saturday to get a better idea of what was happening. We cruised down to what ended up being another dead-end, but in the process had to pass through a carnival of liberal antiwar tents and tables. Cars were no match for them as they confidently strutted in front of us. We turned back around and talked to some more officers and finally found parking. A "Beat Texas and Bush" bumper sticker plastered the back of a truck. Where would you protest then? I thought.

So now I could finally accomplish what I was trying to do: talk to people. I went up to a Sheehan supporter and asked if I could talk to him. "No," he said. "Why not?" I asked. "Until I see some sort of press pass then I'm not talking to you," he said. "Unfortunately, they don't give press passes to student journalists. I could show you
my college ID if that'll help," I said. "No."

He wouldn't give me his name, in fact, no Sheehan supporter would give their name, let alone talk. I did come with the Protest-Warrior's, but I carried no sign and was not acting obnoxiously conservative. Does an unmarked shirt and jeans scream conservatism? I actually wanted to hear both sides. But they wouldn't have it.
Instead, I was faced with considerable hostility and awkward responses.

A person with the name "Mark" emblazoned on his vest said it would depend on my question if he would let me quote him or not. I wasn't impressed.

Finally, an unnamed girl started talking and making a lot of sense. "Everybody has a right to be here," she said. Before she could go further, a man came up behind her and whispered, "They're Freepers, you don't need to be talking to them," he said. A "Freeper" is a member of the online conservative news site FreeRepublic.com.

Shortly after, I met Gary Qualls, a man who lost his son in the Battle for Fallujah. He wore his son's boot tags and handed out information regarding his son's death. He received minimal press attention and was visibly upset when relating his son's story. He also had to bear witness to his son's name on a cross set out by antiwar protesters along the road.

The irony in my experience is that Cindy Sheehan and her supporters are asking the media and the country to probe Bush with challenging and adversarial questions, yet how can they expect Bush to do this when they themselves will not? The left is supposedly the party that celebrates a diverse range of ideas and tolerance
regarding dissension. I know this because I know Democrats who have no problem rationally disagreeing.

My thoughts were later confirmed when Bob Weaver from Fort Worth was walking around the antiwar groups and they asked him, "Are you for Bush?" He was wearing a very non-discreet pro-Bush shirt. "You have to go," they told him.

The conservatives, on the other hand, were unabashed in their eagerness to discuss a differing opinion. This I know because "cameramen" from antiwar groups came over and interviewed many of us. I did not see one conservative decline an interview or ask them to return to "their side."

The lack of healthy debate from the left I encountered is not because of empty intellect, rather it is much worse. It is the result of contagious attempts by overzealous liberals trying to contain their perverse monopoly over a potentially formidable party."


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