I personally don’t like conflict. I would much rather use diplomacy to solve the problems that arise in my life. So, I’ve been a bit disturbed by the disorder and anger shown at town hall meetings. I don’t understand why the representatives couldn’t answer the simplest of questions, or why Nancy Pelosi and others were labeling citizens who were exercising a constitutional right with negative names. I don’t understand why SEIU members were outside these meetings intimidating and shoving people acting within their rights. I wonder if, now that the Obama’s vacation is over and the Tea Party Express is on the way to the 9-12 celebration in Washington, the confrontations are going to become riots or rhetoric.
I’ve been thinking about guidelines for such confrontations, and have looked at the non-violent protest policies of Gandhi that were later adopted by Martin Luther King, the advice of Glenn Beck to “question with boldness,” and even my grandmother’s admonition of poor behavior. “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I’ve reflected on our nation’s beginnings, filled with protests and action: the Boston Tea Party, protests and disagreements with King George and Britain’s taxation of the colonies, and, finally, armed conflict.
I read a statement from The Freedom Works today, and had an “ah-hah” moment.
Policy goes to those who show up. It is a law of political decision-making as dependable as gravity, and as old as the American experiment in republican democracy.
Policy goes to those who show up. The vocal group wins. Samuel Adams said, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.” Women marched and won the right to vote. Americans who were horrified with Sinclair’s, “The Jungle,” brought about safer foods and drugs. Protests from followers of Rachael Carson banned DDT. A simple bus boycott brought about Civil Rights laws. College students marched and brought about the end of war in Viet Nam. And, the united voices of laborers brought forth safer working conditions. Adams was right when he said that the very last “interest group” that most politicians want to hear from is “The People.”
As Freedom Works pointed out, violent confrontations can escalate to the point where the parties' only concerns are victory, vengeance, and/or self-defense. Winning becomes the principal, and the original reason for protest is forgotten. Non-violent resistance avoids this trap.
Far from being cowardly, this is a strategy that requires tremendous courage, self-control, as well as a willingness to endure pain.Glenn Beck has been asking for “boldness” and standing for our beliefs in the face of fear. It’s a page right out of our country’s birth story.
Now, we must act. It is time. “Teddy Care” is going to be thrown at us with a renewed vigor. But act with intelligence and purpose. Whether you are at a Tea Party, a 9-12 event in D.C., or in a discussion around the water cooler at work, consider a few points of common sense and etiquette.
THE LOCATION: Know the local rules and ordinances of any place that you gather.
Are signs permitted? Do you need an ID? Where can you park? Are you allowed on grassy areas? Can you have bullhorns? Are pets allowed? Is there a dress code? Can you distribute flyers or brochures? Can you sell items?
THE MESSAGE: Do your homework and know details of the issue.
Know what is in the Constitution. Study it. Study the issue that you are protesting. We seen example after example of citizens being better informed than their representatives who had not read a bill. However, we have also seen tirades by the ignorant and uninformed. Do not give the opposition ammunition! Neal Boortz warns everyone to look for other sources to confirm what you hear. Fox News tells us every day to decide for ourselves. Then, like Limbaugh, be unapologetic for what you believe.
THE DELIVERY: Be correct.
Do not take the microphone without a planned, intelligent statement. Do not carry a sign with poor grammar or misspelled words. Do not misquote others. Do not misrepresent the legislation. If you are saying something for a dramatic effect, preface it and explain it. Regardless of what you do, you will be called a “red neck,” but don’t be one. Begin each question with, “I believe in……” Then ask if they agree.
THE DEMEANOR: Look and act the part of an informed, intelligent person.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but look clean. Wear nice clothes. Make a logical point instead of an emotional rant. Take a permanent marker and write in your hand, “Stay calm.” Avoid name-calling. Remain positive and polite. If someone affronts you, calmly say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Do as Beck says, speak without fear. However, if shoving starts, consider just sitting down. If violence breaks out, leave. Let THEM start the violence, though.
THE REACTION: Listen to what the opposition has to say.
In the town hall meetings covered on the news, there has been very little listening. We cannot have a conversation without it. Listen politely. Listen intently. Take notes. Record it so that you can digest and analyze it later. If you disagree, stay quiet and let them finish. Then say, “I disagree with you because…” or write a blog, email, or editorial about how wrong they were later. Others will watch and hear and decide.
THE QUESTIONS: Be specific and clear, whether asking in person or in writing.
Glenn Beck has offered a week’s worth of questions (http://tinyurl.com/n5goey), and I offer other examples below. Pick and choose what suits you, or, better yet, ask yourself the hard question of what you believe, then decide what answers YOU want.
I believe that fiscal responsibility is necessary for a sustainable future.
• Did you vote for raises for yourself?
• Did you vote to spend our children’s future and increase taxes on us?
• Are you capable of creating a balanced budget?
• Have you accepted money for your special interests in return for a vote?
• Do you know why the president did not purge the budget ‘line by line’ of pork?
• Will you agree to vote against anymore stimulus spending and put unspent money towards the deficit?
• How much do all of the president’s trips cost?
• Why does the first lady have such a huge, expensive staff?
• Would you give your pay until we have a balanced budget?
I believe that industry, business and manufacturing made this country great. • Would you pass environmental regulation when you have no proof of global warming theories?
• Would you place the protection of any plant or animal above the needs and security of people?
• What business experience have you had?
I believe in a representative government and the senate’s power to approve presidential cabinet appointees.
• Do you favor the number of Czars, or advisors, that have filled Washington?
• Are you aware that many of these are enemies of the Constitution?
• Can you tell us who pays for the salaries, office space and staffs for these non-elected, non-approved advisors?
• Have you read any of their published works? Will you tell us what they believe?
• Why are they, and other non-elected officials, drafting legislation?
• Why does the president out-source his job?
I believe in American citizenship. • Do you think illegal aliens and foreign terrorists should have the rights of an American citizen?
• Do you have proof that our president is a citizen?
I believe that every American has the right to pursue happiness, but does not have the right to THINGS that they do not work for, including government medical care. I do not believe that our nation is entitled to handouts.
• Do you? Why?
• Why don’t you favor capitalism and free enterprise that would naturally create jobs so that people could provide their families with the THINGS that they need?
• Do you agree that small businesses should be taxed excessively?
• Can you tell me what you have done for the American farmer?
I do not believe that the federal government is a good steward of our funds or a competent business entity. • Do you favor a single-payer, government run public option for health care?
• Will you allow the American people to see the final bill that the Congress will consider?
• Will you vote for any healthcare plan that will increase the deficit or increase costs for your constituents?
• Can you just fix Medicare first, to prove to us that you can run something efficiently?
I believe in the first amendment guarantees for our freedom of speech.
• Do you believe in free speech?
• Do you believe in freedom of the press?
• Will you support legislation that seeks to control the internet, talk radio or conservative TV?
• Did you hide from your constituents who were trying to practice free speech at town hall meetings?
• Did you support the White House efforts to collect “fishy” emails and blogs?
I believe in the 2nd amendment guarantee for our right to bear arms. • Will you support legislation that attempts to limit gun laws?
• Do you own a gun?
I believe that the constitution has given the federal government explicit and limited powers.
• Will you vote for any bill that increases the size or powers of the federal government?
• Can you explain to me how the takeover of GM or the bailout of banks is constitutional?
• Why don’t you think that the states have jurisdiction over health care?
I believe that the government has the right to know how many people live in the USA, and where they live.
• Do you favor the intrusive questions that are in the current census survey?
• Do you think that an organization proven to be involved in voter fraud should be involved in the census program?
• Are you in favor of the federal government targeting school children to gather census information?
• Can you tell me what parts of our lives you do not have the right to control?
I believe in the power of the vote.
Do you agree that you MUST be replaced if you do not do what your constituents ask of you?