Protests are not convenient

Last week’s protest shows we are all afraid to commit to a decision, all afraid to actually get our hands dirty.

In last week’s article regarding the student-organized anti-Iraq war protest, and more specifically the protest’s march through Coffman Union, one student was quoted as saying that he supported free speech but wasn’t sure Coffman Union was the right venue; stating that “This is a study areaƖ” A more poignant statement expressing the attitudes of the American public couldn’t be made.

Our nation has turned into a collective of selfish, passive children. Everyone is so preoccupied with making himself feel that they have made a difference that so few actually do.

I’m sorry but if you don’t feel that the four-year anniversary of a war that your peers are fighting and dying in isn’t deserving of a 10-minute intrusion upon your study time, shame on you. I’m offended you’re a member of this student body.

This brings us to the problem. We are all afraid to commit to a decision, all afraid to actually get our hands dirty. The people who protested did no good, their actions achieved no victory. Since their actions were futile, and even more so since their actions were uncommitted to, their act of protest becomes an act of selfishness. They protest so that one day they can tell their children or friends, “While I was in college I was such a rebel; I protested against Bush, against the war, against evil.”

But do they make a difference? No.

If history has taught us anything it is that words will never change the policies of an oppressive institution. Solutions are found through violence and civil disobedience.

If you are not prepared to march on the Capitol building and start hurling rocks, I understand. But why didn’t all these protestors go sit on the tracks of the light rail, arms locked, refusing to move? Because they didn’t want to be arrested? Because they didn’t want to be late for class? Because they didn’t want to inconvenience someone on the way home from work?

I commend the actions of the one student (a former solider in the Iraq war) who broke away from the protest to stand in the middle of a crosswalk, refusing to move, while other protestors walked by him, yelling their anti-war chants. But why did he stand alone?

I commend the actions of the five people who threw red paint on the army recruiting center last year. But where were the rest of you? When did we all become so docile? When did the success of a protest become measured by getting a green light from local authorities?

We are the children of a generation of men and women who were tear gassed, beaten and arrested fighting against a war they deemed oppressive. Do we not have the resolve of our parents?

If I was a more eloquent writer, I would plea to you to take a stand next year, on a day that will mark the half-decade our country has been involved in this so-called war for Iraqi freedom. This day would not be for marching and chanting and patting each other on the back, but a day to stop and really take a stand. A day to create an action so inflammatory that it will not rot as a footnote on the pages of this newspaper, but instead perhaps cause people to take notice – and take up the cause.

But wait. Why does that day have to wait a year? That day could just as well be today, or tomorrow, or any day that individuals finally decide that this struggle is worth dedication. All it takes is one person to make a stand that others will notice and follow, irrespective of consequences.

I know I can’t be alone in this thinking. I know I can’t be the only person who feels alienated from both those who support the war and those who futilely protest against it.

Unless your actions are loud, no one will hear your plea. If you don’t have the resolve to commit yourself to a struggle, don’t come out. You cheapen the efforts of those who do.

How many dead American soldiers and Iraqi civilians will it take?

Ashton Flinders is a University graduate student. Please send comments to [email protected]