Special Edition:Reality Bites by James Norton

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Since when did the concept of peaceful protest turn into a free for all?

As far as I can tell, from my opinionated perch, the premise and promise of protest has always been one where we
try to effect change in a peaceful, meaningful and purposeful manner. That’s a lot of “fuls” jammed into one action. Depending on the topic, over the years, one of the great excuses for protest has always been pulling a page out of history in this country and referencing The Revolution and the Boston Tea Party – shades of “no taxation without representation” come into focus then and everything is alright.

Honestly, that’s a bunch of bullshit to me. That was December 16, 1773 – not December 5, 2014. Different world, different circumstances. Well, it’s the same thing when it comes to racism, sexism, war, peace, Darfur and of course – oil – amongst anything else that comes to mind that we aren’t in the mood for. All in the name of something more righteous and just for the world. For our children. For our own sake.

Well guess what, that’s a bunch of bullshit too. This isn’t Area 51 and the year isn’t 1955. You can’t sneeze in public without someone posting a frigging YouTube video about it. Technology is awesome and access to information is at its highest point in history – so why are people acting and reacting in such an archaic manner lately? Injustice is part and parcel with every day life. Sometimes life is unfair. Welcome to the real world.

Take for instance the most recent protests locally, regionally and nationally that were centered on the lack of grand jury indictments against police officers involved with two deaths that were, quite frankly, neither ordinary or even extraordinary to be honest. The incidents happened, investigations commenced, grand jury convened and evidence presented – and no indictments on criminal charges. It happens, we need to move on.

We don’t need ridiculously racist and singular-minded people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson telling us this is all about race and class and we need to protest the powers that be in order for justice. That’s not the message we should be sending to the young people of today. Maybe we should be teaching less about how this country was founded on social and economic unrest 241 years ago in civics classes and maybe more focus should be placed on how the process of change is supposed to come about – through intelligent and less-fanatical debate – maybe more focus should be placed on people going out to vote, maybe putting their names on a ballot and taking a leap of faith into a system that really does work. If you let it, though.

This isn’t a police state and this certainly isn’t the wild west. In order to strike that balance, there needs to be some kind of social order. Not every perp is a sweet and innocent person who was struck down for no reason and not every cop is a race hating inbred sociopath. Seriously. Not every issue is about race or the one percenters or middle to lower class injustices. If you want to make systemic change, then causing traffic jams and preventing vital public services is definitely not the way to go. Listening to former hippies who now collect $250,000 salaries and live quite comfortably in the suburbs dictate how students should or shouldn’t “fight the man” is about as sane as the notion that there is a vast conspiracy to keep the lower and middle class in line socially and economically.

There are plenty of old school, racist, elitist assholes who hold office and make policy. Vote them out, but don’t vote for candidates who will end up being even worse in office. Strike a balance – vote beyond party lines and vote for the person/candidate who has at least a chance to make some real change. And please, get it out of your head that anything that is established now needs to change. Not everything does. Be smart, use your brains instead of only your heart, and make rational and more globally-driven decisions to bring about change. Don’t lay down in the street because some cop didn’t get indicted and create more chaos – that’s just stupid. And dangerous.

And how about not breaking the law to begin with? There’s a whole different conversation, for another time. #GMK

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