Monday, August 29, 2016

The Myth of Popular Protest

As we drive along the thoroughfare of history, heroes are clearly seen for their heroism as we leave them behind in the rear view mirror. In the context of the times in which they lived, however, they were seldom viewed with universal magnanimity.

Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand during the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of football games is not only criticized, it is compared to the efforts of others and seen as inferior in purpose and appropriateness. Among the individuals mentioned is the iconic Reverend Doctor, Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am just old enough to remember how Dr. King was viewed in the context of the times in which he lived. During his lifetime, a number of people and institutions who now sing his praises and cite him as the standard of reason and acceptability, considered him a rabble rousing troublemaker who needed to be silenced. Their wish was granted and his demise was even celebrated at institutions I have since had the experience of attending. Even securing a holiday in his memory was a great point of national contention, with every shortcoming displayed during his life presented as "proof" that he was not "deserving" of a holiday in spite of the enormity of his work for good. Thankfully,  his work spoke for itself and a remembrance was established, yet that recognition was no easy undertaking.

I am also old enough to remember when Nelson Mandela was viewed with great suspicion by many mainstream Americans. Those same Americans predicted the proliferation of chaos and mayhem should Mandela be elevated to power.  The facts of history expose the ignorance of that perspective.

I am not claiming that Mt. Kaepernick is a King or Mandela. I am, however,  pointing out that in the context of their times, these now iconic heroes were not viewed as benign,  Santa-like Teddy Bears.  Their views were seen as dangerous and disruptive and cost them their freedom and one, his life.

No matter how reasoned or peaceful,  dissenting voices will be seen as a nuisance. It is part of the journey for those who dare to speak out and it is a hefty portion of the price of freedom...and it is not popular.


Anonymous said...

Sam, i would counter that Dr King (unlike many current 'peaceful protesters') actually WAS peaceful, despite the fact that the ugly thugs-in-power often treated him violently.

This is in complete contrast to the violence being brought by Black Lives Matter and other similar "protests" - they are actually engaging in domestic terrorism, NOT in protesting to see a peaceful change made.

I'd love you to compare MLK to BLM. Kaepernick isn't even on the same page - he's a kid who's made millions "despite" his color, yet somehow thinks his own journey of learning should be chronicled as a battle for significance.

Sam said...

I'm making a very specific point. People often present Dr. King as if he was viewed as non-threatening and safe. There is no question that he was nonviolent. Nevertheless, he was not viewed as safe and was seen by many as disruptive during the time that he lived. In the context of their times, those who protest, even peacefully, are generally viewed with negativity. Dr. King was widely viewed in such a manner during his life. Forn that reason, people should refrain from citing him as if he was not seeking to bring about change and disrupt a corrupt system, because that was exactly his intention, though without the use of violence.
Regarding BLM, I am in the process of preparing a formal paper I will hopefully be presenting in October in Texas on the group and the issues surrounding it.