Friday, June 12, 2020

Protesting in the Good American Way

Recent march in New York City
A Facebook friend, upset by the extent of the anti-racism protests going on in this country, predicted that the current riots reflect how life will be under a Democratic president.

That is, of course, partisan nonsense.  Just for starters, they are occurring right now under a Republican president as were the anti-war protests under Richard Nixon, who was also Republican. 

In reality, there have been riots under presidents of every party.  In fact, our country has endured an endless series of both local and widespread riots stretching back to the beginning of the country – and when there were just separate colonies.  President George Washington, for example, had to call out Federal troops to put down a violent protest in Pennsylvania against the whiskey tax.

Since then, this country has been filled with protests, bot peaceful and violent.  Many have been racial nature, including the
latest initiated by the death of George Floyd.  However, in 2016, the nation endured multiple protests against the election of Donald Trump as president. 

Americans believe in freedoms promised in the Constitution, which includes the right to congregate and free speech.  The protests have again raised the question of the extent of free speech  That question is being fought on Facebook and Twitter as well.  Twitter has decided to note when lies are included on tweets while Facebook has declined.

Partisan newspaper from the late 1700s
Personally, I am opposed to censorship.  I believe it’s the obligation of individual readers to make an effort to separate fact from lies, not the medium.  Most outlets do, vetting information they produce for accuracy.  Some do not, a growing trend in this very political age and harking back to the 1700 and 1800s when, often, newspapers were extremely partisan.  Most of my postings focus on providing historical background in an effort to add context to discussions.

I would prefer that outlets like Facebook and Twitter eliminate fake sites – ones created for the sole purpose of lying to the public.  These so-called “trolls” abound and often are housed in foreign countries determined to undermine this country and its institutions.  However, I do not want to see legitimate sites shut down.  These would be sites where people express their views, even when the opinions are based on erroneous information.

All of us are responsible to stay abreast of political and social issues, and learn to identify credible sources.  Our Founding Fathers recognized that a democracy can only survive if voters are informed.  That’s one reason for free public schools.  Today, there are many unbiased debunking sites that quickly correct statements published by anyone earnestly attempting to mislead the public.  That is why this president has been credited with more than 18,000 documented lies.  Democrats didn’t do the counting; debunking sites did and presented supporting evidence to prove that claim.

Armed in Raleigh
Reality is that protests will continue on this and other issues.  Some of them are likely to be violent.  For one thing, Americans have more guns than any other nation.  Some people go to protests armed, especially opponents. 

In addition, protests often have been infiltrated by individuals in an effort to smear the participants.

In the recent protests,  for example, the FBI has reported that most of the violence has stemmed, not surprisingly, from white supremacists.  All that has done is given bystanders an opportunity to oppose the protests while feigning support for racial equality.

1960s  anti-war protests
Protests will continue.  They have a value because they serve as an outlet for dissension that’s far superior to a civil war and assassinations.  They also have brought about change.  The anti-Vietnam War protests, for example, finally forced Nixon to withdraw from that ill-advised war.

They also reflect a vibrant society.  Some countries deliberately ban protests to keep their citizens cowed and controlled.  We do not, and, I hope, never will.

Perhaps, the current protests will finally bring about racial equality in this country.  If so, they will have again verify the value of taking to the streets to initiate positive change in a traditionally American way.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at He is the author of the recently published novels Revelation! (Southern Owl Press) and The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

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