Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Good Guys and Bad Guys

Vice President Dick Cheney came to town yesterday. Yes indeed, the VP himself. Motorcade, closed streets, protestors… all the pomp and circumstance one would expect of such a high level visitor. On a very personal note, I wish he had consulted with me first. It just so happened that I had an appointment in downtown Sacramento at the very same time he came rolling through. I knew he was coming… everyone did; I just didn’t know where, exactly. As it turned out, luck was on my side and the inconvenience I suffered was negligible. And the spectacle was worth it – sort of.

I have been in the immediate vicinity of a high level state visit in the past. I saw Air Force One fly into NAS Moffet Field and the subsequent motorcade when President Clinton visited the Silicon Valley during his presidency. That is not the spectacle that I’m talking about. I have seen a great many protests in the past; many seem to attract the same crowds. These protesters, however, were somewhat different. It might have been that I was “in disguise” or perhaps the general disposition of those protesting has become totally intolerant, or maybe I still retained some degree of naïveté, but I came away with a foul taste in my mouth. And… wondering which side I’m on.

I am no fan of this administration. I don’t think it’s competent and I don’t think it’s intelligent. Mistakes have been huge. However, for the most part, I don’t feel that the administration is necessarily “corrupt.” I don’t think they are intentionally trying to harm anyone. I believe that they believe they’re acting in the nation’s best interest. I think there are major issues that have, at their core, an egocentric view of the world that doesn’t allow for any deviation from “staying the course.” Faults? To be sure. Incompetence? Probably; Ignorance? Absolutely. Maliciousness? I don’t think so.

All this brings me to the protestors that came from out of nowhere yesterday. They appeared to take their disagreements rather personally. It is almost as if Cheney knew these individuals, decided that for whatever reason he did not like them and went out of his way to do things that he knew would piss them off. Like they’re that important! I saw them chant; I heard the accusations and I get that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with this administration and the Vice President in particular. I not only get that, I share it. I do not, however, take the actions of the Vice President as a personal affront.

“Rumor has it that the asshole is going to J and 13th. We can catch up to the asshole there.”

This is a direct quote from one of the protestors. There was an odd kind of glee in her tone. It made me cringe. I don’t know Cheney well enough to refer to him in such personally derogatory terms. I can’t identify with such juvenile behavior. If I want to change the way things are, I certainly wouldn’t go about alienating those “less radical” than myself to further my cause. What they have effectively done is reduce the argument to one of civility versus anarchy. Guess which side I choose? My eyes forced open, I started to look around and I didn’t like what I saw.

I don’t look like your normal downtown urbanite. I’m usually wearing jeans and a T-shirt; I have long hair and generally consider myself a non-conformist. Because the appointment I had yesterday demanded a certain level of decorum, I had my hair tied back in a ponytail. I was wearing a modest pinstriped suit, blue dress shirt and a tie. I looked “respectable.” The numerous law enforcement personnel present also treated me respectfully. It is a dichotomy I have been aware of in the past and I know being a “rebel” or a “renegade” or an “individualist” requires a certain level of acceptance.

Yesterday the difference was glaring and quite frankly, I am glad I was not associated with the protestors. Not so much because of what they were protesting, but how they were protesting. The myopic, egocentric and intolerant view that the administration is so often accused of was exhibited ten-fold by many of the protestors (of course, the most vocal and visible) with the added bonus of sporadic, but regular maliciousness thrown in. No matter how much I disagree with the administration, I won’t lower myself to a shouting match.


Jinsane said...

I totally agree! It was almost the exact same scene here a few months ago when the President was in town. I was almost embarassed to even live here!! I didn't want to be roped into what some of those psychos were screaming at him. This war has been and will always be an awful part of our history. However, I wonder how many of these protestors have tried to stand in his shoes. 9/11 has forever changed our country. And the President had to be the one to deal with it!! In my opinion, I believe he was in a lose/lose situation. No matter how he handled the aftermath, half the country would be pissed off!!! None of us know all of the facts or the other tragedies he and the rest of the government have saved us from!!! I can't even sit here and take an anti-war stance. Not because I believe in it - but because I've got two family members fighting in it. Out of respect for them and all of the other people over there giving their lives for peace - that in my mind belittles their sacrifice.

It angers me so much that people can't just love each other...even in my own little space in this world!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I agree that it does nothing for their "cause" to behave in this really awful manner...But, what they do or any crowd of protesters does doesn't change or alter what In feel about this administration and their interests, which I see as very self-serving...And I feel that what they are doing and have done may not come out of a direct line to evil and mailiciousness but people in Germany didn't think what Hitler and his gang were doing
was a bad thing, either. Remember?...I've always heard it said that all Hitler was trying to do was to make Germany a better place and how the trains in Germany and Italy didn't run on time till the Hitler & Mussolini regimes. Well, the trains running to Bergen-Bellson and Dachau and all the other camps seemed to run just fine, I'm sorry to say. I'm not saying this administration should be compared to the Nazis in all things, but I personally feel that THEY feel they are right about whatever they do, and when they are comletely wtong-- and so therefor how they get to these ends doesn't really matter...We must be ever diligent in watching over our rights which are slowly being chipped away...and in some cases, not so slowly. These are dangerous times. End of story.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Jen ~ I'm not so sure I would give Bush that much of the benefit of the doubt, but I would point out here that we are having a civilized echange of ideas. There is no yelling or belittling. I don't fault the protestors for protesting, it's their right to do so. Its even their right to be as obnoxious as the want... it's just not effective. If what they want is change, they need to bring as many from the middle on board as they can, not chase them off with their venom.

oolith ~ I agree that these guys are dangerous - indeed, Americans have died as a direct result of decisions they have made. My point is that the extremists are not helping - at all. They're making it worse. Those in the middle - the decent folk who don't go around saying a**hole in public are not going to be wowed by anything further these protestors have to say - cogent or not. There is plenty of real, hard and damning evidence that theses guys sre morons, egotistical, self-righteous, and alot of other real superlatives. A**hole is a metaphor, and not a very good one at that. We can do better. We can win this debate - and the people - on real, factual debate. And I, for one, do not take it personally. They don't even know me.


Ellen said...

I guess in their quest they forgot the teachings of Ghandi and Dr. King, huh?

JR said...

Extremism is ugly and dangerous, regardless of which side is spewing the hate. I'm with you. I don't like this administration or what they've done, but I also don't believe they've acted out of meaness.

Lady Prism said...

Bravo!...Bravooo!..yes!...well said!...so poignantly pointed out!...

" I won't lower myself to a shouting match!"..

I can see you there standing in the crowd..looking confidently cool...!

I juuust luv' a post that hits evrything right on the nail!..yah!


mckay said...

mike, your post made me think of a blog i read recently (i think he's a link of yours, but my feeble brain can't remember for sure). whenever i come across this concept i'm reminded of the pure and simple rules by which it should be so easy to live:

kindergarten rules...
Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Wash your hands. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. When you go out in the world, watch for danger, hold hands, and stick together.

there are more things about cookies and naps, which are all fine and good, but more appropriate for a sunday afternoon and not a wednesday morning comment.

have a good day, you.


OldLady Of The Hills said...

Hey Mike...I knew exactly what your point is and as I said, I agree with you. I do not believe they help "the cause" by behaving as badly as they do...I was just venting some cause you gave me the opportunity....and I thank you for that, my dear.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Sometimes, even the best of us, still have not learned the lesson that screaming the loudest, or bringing on the chaos does not work.

Good to see you are still writing.

Kathleen Jennette said...

AAhhhhh---refreshing to know I am not alone in my political thinking...You wrote it perfectly...thanks!


Lacey said...

Hey Mike,
I haven't been contacted about a scholarship yet. You seem so certain you didn't get one!! Don't we have to wait for the next Press Club dinner before we hear who won?

My interview went fairly badly. I just didn't answer the questions smoothly.

And wasn't it fun staring down cops as we crossed the police line to enter the building? :)

I have a "long," (or as long as I can remember) proud history of participating in protests. I feel it's important to speak out when I disagree, and sometimes I need to be in a group who is as vocal as I am. It's supportive, less depressing. Having said that...

You cannot enter into the alternative thought scene without rubbing elbows with people who have their own agendas and who push those agendas on everyone around them. It's sad, but in some ways, those people are similar in their search for power to the power-holders they so adamantly protest.

What's an activist to do? If I could inject society with a massive dose of sanity, I would!

Michael K. Althouse said...

ellen ~ how's that saying go? Don't forget the lessons of the past lest we be destined to repeat them. Something like that.

vv ~ no argument here. I do believe we are on the same wave-length.

lux ~ well, ahem. Thank you. Perhaps you'd talk to my interviewers - they were not as impressed.

mckay ~ I remember reading something like that too. We must be traveling in the same circles.

oolith ~ no problem - I just wanted to be sure we understood each other. I thought as much!

bfc ~ How's that saying go? You can attract more flys with honey...

kt ~ see lux above.

lacey ~ I emailed them and they said that this years awards were awarded. My thinking is that if you didn't hear anything then the answer was probably "no." I would still shoot them an email just to be sure.

Regarding the protesting, I have not been one to get involve with the marching and picketing or the like. I do participate in other ways. More effective ways I feel. Letter writing, is far more effective. The problem with protesting is that it doesn't lend itself to delivering any kind of depth. That comnpounded with the most visible and vocal members spewing the most derrogotory, hyperbolic and extreme rhetoric... not even rhetoric - it's not that good - just plain name-calling, gives any legitimate argument no audience. The extremists have limited supoort via alienatiuon to nothing but the most extreme minority - the ones that get on TV and make eveyone shake their heads.