From the days of the Boston Tea Party to what is observed on our streets today, anchorage for the American experience is found in one document — The Bill of Rights. It was penned by men who deployed a collective intellect and temperament to craft a deceptively simple appearing work which gave a prescient nod to human complexity.
The Bill of Rights is a strophe (from Greek: “turn, bend, twist”) which caused a chorus of voices inside The Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House to provide the antistrophe in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...”
The epode seen within our streets in a post-election environment will not be the completion of the movement. This movement toward freedom will continue. The Bill of Rights was written to meet the needs of each generation. Each generation has taken the gifts bestowed to add their own brick to the conceptual arches. Within the generations are both failures and triumph. But lucky for us, our good sense has prevailed.
My generation engaged in protest. I loaded onto the bus and took my sign to the state capitol. I marched and shouted until my uvula wiggled. I did not vandalise property, nor berated my fellow Americans. My protest was against policy, not people. But on the way back to Dallas, I did engage in chorus with my fellow Americans with a sense of great happiness. My voice had been heard — even if only by the birds in the nearby trees. That was a long time ago. But today? Today I will bake brownies and read a book.
Healthy governance provides an outlet for the legal art forms which are noted within the Bill of Rights. In the truest sense, the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are like old-fashioned chastity belts. “We the People” make it a bit more difficult for political copulation to overwhelm the system.
Let me provide a bit of commentary regarding our current protests. Journalism is about a mingling of facts with a sprinkling of perspective. Facts, not narrative should dominate.
Regarding facts, let’s just put the skunk on the table. There is linkage blindness regarding what is occurring on our streets today. Mainstream media has become less adept (perhaps intentionally so) at connecting the dots. The cities experiencing relentless protests are designated sanctuary cities. Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Houston, and the list go on. The cities who stand to lose federal monies due to non-compliance with the policy will be the first to feel the economic brunt of a Trump presidency. Hence, the bus queues are loading up with their cargo, the protesters are at times handed a pre-made sign, and a bark goes out. Woof!
But how big of a shout is being heard? Not much of a shout really; except that media platforms provide needed magnification. Take a look at the population clock provided by the US Census Bureau. We stand at almost 325 million strong with our clock loping along at lazy pace. Do the math. A few thousand protests. The rest of us go to work and pay our taxes.
Speaking of paying taxes, take a look at the demographic of the protesters. There are a lot of fresh young faces. Headlines blaze along: “Another day of student election protests planned”, “Students Protest Trump in Downtown Seattle”, “Los Angeles Students Stage Walkout...”
My sons have received instruction. “You get an opinion when you pay your own bills and submit to federal taxes. In the home, we will consider your concerns and help you sift immature thought. But an opinion expressed on the street is an earned right. Have sweat on your brow and then take your little march.” This is not to say that only those who are gainfully employed may vote. It is merely a posture which understands that those who work and others who have suffered the loss of employment understand economy on a micro level. They understand hardship and how to effectively struggle better than those who have suffered no real difficulties. So, there is linkage blindness concerning organisation and agitation propaganda, and careful analyses of the bleating sheep. If an individual is paid, coerced, or manipulated to hit the streets, there is the possibility of control by a political puppetmaster.
Regarding current protests, there is another aspect to consider. Protests are meant to be like soap bubbles. They blow through the wind of public opinion and then they disappear. Fast in and fast out. This was the intent of our forefathers. Protests are not meant to be occupation movements. And when they morph into such an animal the creature always devolves to a point where law and order can be restored. Occupation Wall Street did not fizzle out because of lack of passion. It did because a homicide, a few rapes, and criminality entered the camps. This allowed the police to enter, return order, and ultimately restore the public sidewalks and spaces to the ownership of all of us.
There is a sense of abject shock, of course, for Hillary Clinton loyalists. Shock, that a solitary man railed against a powerfully entrenched political machine and he actually won. Shock, that an election was not stolen but rightfully earned. Shock, that a pendulum which has swung too far left may seek adjustment by swinging too far right. This too is part of the American experience — an attempt to keep the political pendulum balanced. We are a vast and diverse community of people. From the Rust Belt to the wheat fields of Montana, from the fishing ports to the cattle ranges of Texas, from east coast edge cities to rural towns, we are the American people.
Our Bill of Rights is not a piece of doodle art. It is a legal art form which allows for multiple streams of expression within a mighty river containing our ancestry and their voices which call out to us. Be free!
The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org