By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni
Dissent is the oxygen of democracy and peaceful protest is its lifeline. Sadly, lawful peaceful protest in this birthplace of democracy is no longer upheld or expected. When protesting, it is somehow increasingly okay for disaffected demonstrators to resort to violence rather than honor the parliamentary traditions of peaceful dissent and protest.
For winning elections and for its survival, the present administration has chosen to ignore ultra-disgruntled street fighter demonstrators who are intolerant of democracy, impatient with the slow process of statutory reform, and unable to respect the highest court’s rulings that do not match their own expectations and beliefs.
Like cowardly soldiers, protestors care not for their own or this nation’s dignity. Unlike the Charge Brigade warriors, theirs is not to do or die for the nation or for its people or for its principles, but theirs is solely to act as they please and to use violent means to achieve the policy and political outcomes they desire.
The bastardization of dissent started with the mayhem that followed a modern-day martyr’s brutal death beneath the crushing weight of the knee of a savage cop. Very quickly, the outrage over George Floyd’s death turned into full-blown (often violent) protests across the country. Aided and abetted by Black Lives Matter and winked over by empathetic or gutless elected officials and city and state governments, the protests spread like wildfire, managing to enrage and attract wide support from whites, blacks and every color in between.
Streets in Minneapolis, Seattle, and elsewhere became arenas for madness expressed through looting, burning, and destroying of businesses, public and private assets, and life. Threats of cop-killing dominated the anarchical protests.
Both the media and academia lost no time in endorsing the oftentimes outrageous conduct of street thugs as legitimate means of expression of protest. Elected officials went further to placate protesters by ceding to their unjust demand to defund the police and relax law enforcement as means of ensuring equal justice for all.
Unsurprisingly, this widely embraced ‘soft on crime’ approach, and validation of anarchical protest, gave a green light to subsequent protesters and served as a stepping stone for greater nightmares to follow. The summer of rioting – flashed on television screens across the nation – convinced dissenters everywhere to embrace the same tactics.
Violence is addictive, and unlike the genie, once ‘outed’, it is difficult to push it back into captivity. One could argue that the reprehensible January 6 protest that led to the ‘siege’ of the Capitol was a sequel to the sordid chain of unruly protests that first gained currency in the Summer of Riot (not Summer of Love, as mischaracterized by Seattle’s Mayor).
For Democrat-controlled Congress to sweat over the reprehensible January 6 events and to criminalize them as insurrection seem somewhat hypocritical. Surely some of the blame lies with city and state governments and legislators who willingly or under duress embraced crazy notions of justice that committed them to treat offenders with kid gloves while forcing cops to carry out their functions with their hands tied.
The consequence of tacit or explicit endorsement of violent protest explains why Democrat-ruled states and cities have now become sites hosting ultra-cruel, extreme, reckless, and criminal conduct by the disgruntled who are permitted not merely to think and speak but to act as they wish, with no accountability and no legal, civil or criminal liability for their deviant violent acts.
The seductive charm of unruly dissent has now mesmerized and incited those wishing to disrupt the ability to function of our highest court which is expected to shortly rule on a case concerning abortion. That ruling pro-abortionists fear will overturn Roe v. Wade, undermine a woman’s autonomy over her body, forcing her to carry a child to term, and to abort the fetus only within the limits and conditions laid down by law.
Clearly, the above contention amounts to jumping the gun, as the expected ruling is unlikely to ban abortion nationwide but instead to leave it to individual states to regulate abortion within what their legislators decide. But, regardless of which way the Court rules, enraged pro-abortion groups have preemptively resorted to expressing their protest through violent means.
Traditionally wedded to secrecy, and sensitive to the highly contentious and inflammable abortion issue, the Court would have gone the extra mile to ensure its deliberations remain hidden. But in the present context of unprincipled dissent, for possibly the first time in history, an overzealous staffer of the Court chose to leak the draft of the ruling.
That betrayal, in other democracies, would have rung the death knell for the leaker, or at the least, jolted the Justice Department into action, but not here, not now, not in the current highly politicized America where the system’s operatives seemingly prefer to look away in order to best serve political interests.
The leaked draft lit a match causing abortion supporters not merely to protest outside the Court, but also outside the homes of ‘suspect’ Judges. Death and other threats are common to American democracy wherein the tolerance level for violent dissent are high and the appetite for it is huge. But this time, a person with the intention to murder Justice Kavanaugh actually showed up with a plethora of tools to carry out his dastardly plan. Thankfully he was caught.
But that one lucky break does little to diminish the increasingly violent face of protest. For over a month, crisis pregnancy centers, churches, pro-life groups, and lawmakers have been the target of graffiti, firebombing, and vandalism. Leading this vicious charge is a radical group that calls itself Jane’s Revenge, which name it brazenly spray-paints at the sites of attacks.
Shocking by any standards of decency and democracy, this demented group has declared “open season” on pro-life groups and demanded that either they close their doors or become a target of attack. Claiming “we are not one group, but many”, they have vowed to take “increasingly drastic measures” which are not “so easily cleaned up like fire and graffiti.”
Those threats and dastardly attacks on pro-life facilities have finally awakened the FBI to announce it is “investigating a series of attacks and threats targeting pregnancy resource centers and faith-based organizations across the country”. Better late than never, that could serve as a warning against the hijacking of protests by violent fanatics.
In one of his many prescient moments, Hamilton had warned that “a dangerous ambition often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people.” Such zeal, as we are seeing, endangers democracy by ‘canceling’ dissenters and violently snuffing out dissenting views.
In support of dissent, one can go to an unlikely source – Lenin. In ‘Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder’, Lenin criticized the ultra-left for “mistaking their desire, their political-ideological attitude, for objective reality.” Such a miscalculation, he asserted, is “the most dangerous mistake for revolutionaries.” “Our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times