Protest Days

April 25, 2007 | 77 comments
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Only only time I’ve ever been arrested for civil disobedience, or held up a sign during a protest, or marched and chanted in the name of a political cause, was when I was an undergraduate at BYU. Go figure.

Why haven’t I done any of those things since? Part of it is the evolution in my own ideas, though not necessarily in the manner of the old Benjamin Disraeli quote (“a man who is not a liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a conservative at sixty has no head”). Rather, I’ve become both more radical (in political and economic matters) and more traditionalist (in moral and cultural matters) over the years, and thus have found fewer and fewer places and times where my ideas can effectively fit into a single-minded movement. So mostly I sit back and comment, vote and contribute where I can, and watch from the sidelines. And part of it, of course, is also simply the obligations which I carry as an adult as opposed to those I carried as a young man: participating in a long and enthusiastic Take Back the Night march around Provo sponsored by BYU’s feminist VOICE club is difficult when you have children you need to help put to bed, and risking incarceration for trespassing on federal land in Nevada as part of a witness against nuclear weapons testing organized by the Mormon Peace Gathering is foolish when your family depends upon the paycheck you need to earn the next day. And finally, let’s face it, I’m an academic, and you know us–give us a petition to sign, and often the first thing we’ll do is analyze the language of the petition, and consider all the alternative interpretations, and reflect upon the historical antecedents of all those interpretations, and then when we come out of our intellectual reverie the person with the clipboard has already moved on.

But all that being said, I actually the primary reason for the end of my protesting days is that I no longer live in Utah County, arguably the single most Republican place on the planet, and it is no longer the early 1990s, and no social environment I’ve been in yet has had the same strange, frustrating, defiant, heady rush as those days had.

I confess that, when it comes to the actual substance of many of the causes I was caught in at the time, I feel a fair amount of chagrin. Not a great amount, but enough. For those who weren’t there or don’t know, 1991-1994 was an interesting time at BYU and in Utah, with reports of excommunications and faculty firings and rumors and accusations filling the pages of the Salt Lake Tribune on what sometimes seemed a daily basis. There were candlelight vigils at stake centers while church courts met within, dueling statements about the meaning of academic freedom and the definition of “Mormon intellectual” in the pages of the Daily Universe, even a delivery of a symbolic “peace offering” of white roses to the Church Office Building during general conference (if I recall correctly, Elder Robert Hales was sent down to meet the delegation, accept the offering quietly, and shoo them off church property). I was sometimes present at the organization of these events, knew many of the principal participants and had some sympathy for them, but never got directly involved. Ultimately, I was neither personally nor philosophically comfortable with treating the church itself–and to whatever extent some of BYU’s decisions reflected the explicit interests of the church, BYU too–as an ordinary site of protest. I’m grateful for that now, though I still sometimes hash over what I did or didn’t say or do back then, thinking sometimes that I said more than I believed, other times that I allowed opportunities to challenge comments and actions I thought to be clearly wrong to pass me by.

Participation in other, more purely political and policy causes, whether national or local–the Gulf War, freedom of the press on campus, environmentalism and Earth Day, whatever–came more easily, and I have far fewer after-the-fact doubts about them. My thinking as regards several of those causes has changed from what it was fifteen years ago (and as regards a couple–*cough* wars in Iraq *cough*–I’ve even changed my mind back again), but I don’t see that as a cause of embarrassment; while going from passionate commitment to doubt to the opposite point of view can be taken as evidence of inconstancy and immaturity, I think it’s equally likely that it can be incorporated into a reasonable narrative of growth, one which will probably always include some rueful regrets and eating of crow (which ought to be done thoroughly and up front, to prevent one–*cough* Mitt Romney *cough*–from being dogged by charges of political expediency), but not one a person ought to feel a need to hide. I took a lot of pleasure from being part of and reporting on all these events, and I still do from my memory of such. Direct political action can, of course, be loud and self-righteous and simplistic, but it can also be a great and enriching and educational experience, in terms of the connections you make and the lessons you learn (including the costly, negative ones, of which I experienced a few)….and sometimes, just sometimes, it can even do some good.

I write this today because tomorrow, when Vice President Dick Cheney visits my alma mater as the commencement speaker at graduation, the event will be marked by the great and good work a lot of dedicated protesters have accomplished in recent days. The BYU Democrats put together a widely reported demonstration against Cheney’s visit, and will hold another protest on campus before commencement tomorrow; and between the hard work of dedicated organizers and the financial support of the netroots, an alternative commencement featuring Ralph Nader will take place tomorrow evening. I call this “great” because, again, I think direct political action is often–not always, but often–a healthy thing for the civic body and the individual soul; and I say “good” because, frankly, I think Cheney deserves to be dogged by protests pretty much wherever he goes, and it’s delightful that not even Utah County will be an exception. The theme of the protest–“go forth to establish peace”–is a fine one, and bringing Nader to Mormon Country as a counterpoint to Cheney actually strikes me as a lot more apt than one might at first think (more here).

I didn’t contribute to any of this, I have to say, because I didn’t think it would happen. Melissa and I agreed that we ought to cough up some dough for the commencement people, but we didn’t, as we figured it would be a waste. Unlike the more idealistic folks at FMH, I assumed that the effort to organize a critical response to the Cheney invite was doomed to failure, that the alternative commencement website would quickly be abandonded as an embarrassment, and that the whole affair would collapse and be forgotten, if not outright denied by those involved. That’s a legacy of my protest days too–eventually you get burned out and angry, then get to feeling cynical and superior towards anyone who thinks they can pull off a challenge to student apathy and official hostility. By the time Melissa and I left BYU we were thoroughly sick of the place, contemptuous of what it was trying to do and annoyed at many of the ways it implemented and presumed its plans. I’ve long since outgrown that contempt–dismissing the honest efforts and commitments of one’s fellow citizens and saints, unlike my acts of youthful protest, is the real sign of immaturity. (Though note that criticizing and even satirizing isn’t the same as dismissing.) But I fear I haven’t outgrown my fatalism, a fatalism that told me that even such a blinkered act as inviting a man whose record in public office is (or should be) at least as controversial as Bill Clinton’s would be accepted by the students of BYU with barely a peep.

Well, as it turned out, between faculty support and some good press coverage and some professional rabble-rousers and the power of the internet, there’ll be a little bit more than just a “peep” emerging from Utah County tomorrow afternoon and evening. To all those who made it happen, I salute you. I was never part of pulling off anything quite this big, and I can’t deny I’m jealous. Not jealous enough to wish I was there organizing it; I’ve got papers to grade and a lecture for a community action meeting to prepare and a missionary team-up to schedule and a daughter who needs help with her homework. But a little jealous, yes, nonetheless. Rock on, you guys. And give the VP my best.

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77 Responses to Protest Days

  1. mlu on April 25, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    I’ve long been skeptical about street politics. Protests seem akin to mobs, to me. Quite often they seem a tactic for breaking the connection between “consent of the governed” and government action, particularly since those who are the targest of protests have often won elections or been appointed by those who have won elections, and those who protest often want to subsitute their own will for those who have been chosen to lead and decide. I’m unamused, usually, when elected officials allow unelected protestors who cannot win at the ballot box to impose their will through the threat of bad behavior.

    Of course, I support the right of disgruntled folks to peaceably assemble. But I seldom take their posters seriously. I have a slight bias against any cause that manifests itself though protests.

    I quite like elections and books and magazines.

  2. Nate Oman on April 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    I think that the success of the protesters at BYU on this is a very healthy sign, and in that sense I applaud what they did. On the other hand, I despise Nader.

    As for Cheny and the Bush Administration, to paraphrase Talleyrand, they are worse than criminal; they are incompetent.

  3. Jesse Harris on April 25, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Protesting says to me \”I like easy work.\” It doesn\’t take a lot of effort to walk around in a crowd and spout off your opinion and it similarly accomplishes very little. If these people really wanted to make a difference, they\’d be going to city council meetings, writing their legislators, testifying before committees, running for office, volunteering on campaigns, etc. Milling about in a visible manner gets your picture in the paper, but it isn\’t going to actually change anything.

    Protesting, much like blogging, is politics for the lazy.

  4. Ardis Parshall on April 25, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    What mlu and Jesse said. If you want my cooperation, explain it to me rationally and don’t block my access to some building or road in order to wave signs and shout at me. If you don’t want my cooperation, don’t block my access to some building or road in order to wave signs and shout at me. If you block my access to some building or road in order to wave signs and shout at me, I’ll know that you aren’t serious and don’t know how grownups conduct business.

    You jump immediately to the childish extreme of blocking access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at me. Your mama should smack you on the bottom (purely for breaking into your tantrum and getting your attention, you know) and take you home to put you down for your nap.

    I must be channeling the most reviled person in the bloggernacle.

  5. MCA on April 25, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Jessa, who’s to say that these students aren’t going to city council meetings and writing their legislators? Read the Des News piece Russell linked to about the BYU Democrats president, Diane Bailey, and you get the impression that she does all of those things that you listed — and she protests. Protesting can be a tool to create change, just like volunteering and running for office. It isn’t either/or.

  6. Mark B. on April 25, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    It would be an even healthier sign if BYU felt that it could allow protests without strict time/manner/location restrictions. After all, what are they afraid of?

    The sad fact is that all the protests/demonstrations in the world would not budge the vast majority off their collective thrones (Cap’n Moroni, where are you??). Lee Benson’s column in today’s Deseret News tells the sad truth–most of them just don’t care.

  7. Mark B. on April 25, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    And the breaking news on the DesNews website is that they’re giving him an honorary doctorate.

    Well, it’s time to pull out the old B.A. and burn it.

  8. Mark B. on April 25, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Ardis,

    You probably would have crabbed about having Samuel Adams living next door! :-)

  9. Geoff B on April 25, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    If I were ever going to join a protest, it would be as part of this group:

    http://hq.protestwarrior.com/

    Protest Warrior may even be needed in Utah County, it’s sad to say.

  10. Ardis Parshall on April 25, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Mark B. (#8). Probably — I had as many Loyalist ancestors as rabble rousers. But if Sam Adams had explained his point to me rationally, and hadn’t blocked my access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at me, I might have been converted.

    And speaking of conversions, you’ll note that blocking people’s access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at them is rarely a tactic employed by LDS missionaries. At least, not successful ones.

  11. Russell Arben Fox on April 25, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to walk around in a crowd and spout off your opinion and it similarly accomplishes very little.”

    With all due respect, Jesse, anyone who believes that organizing a protest, obtaining permits, developing themes, recruting participants, constructing signs, contacting media, and then marching down the street, perhaps in the rain, perhaps on a hot day, perhaps while police and/or counter-protesters are jeering at you, can all be reduced to “walking around in a crowd and spouting off your opinion,” has clearly never in fact done it.

    As for what it accomplishes, tell that to Martin Luther King.

    “If you want my cooperation, explain it to me rationally and don’t block my access to some building or road in order to wave signs and shout at me….If you block my access to some building or road in order to wave signs and shout at me, I’ll know that you aren’t serious and don’t know how grownups conduct business.”

    When the grown-ups–the Establishment, the Man, whomever–don’t listen to you, Ardis, because you’re black or old or an immigrant with a funny name or handicapped or because you believe in something totally unreasonable and outlandish (pornography is evil and ought to be banned from the community, innocent fetuses are human beings too, minority religions also have rights, take your pick), then sometimes blocking access to roads to a very good way to get their attention. This is why the ability to protest in public places is a protected right, even if a highly unpopular one.

  12. Adam Greenwood on April 25, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    between faculty support and some good press coverage and some professional rabble-rousers and the power of the internet

    In other words, its more of a farce than if it had just collapsed.

  13. Ardis Parshall on April 25, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Protesters can very seldom carry the day on their own. They need the help and cooperation of fellow citizens. You won’t get my help and cooperation by blocking my access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at me.

    A few years ago here in Salt Lake, a group seeking greater access to public transportation by the disabled carried on a protest. They did this by enlisting riders with wheelchairs to board the bus at one stop, ride it to the next stop, and get out. Another rider with a wheelchair would be waiting at the next stop to board the bus, ride it to the next stop, and get out, and so on down the length of the route. It takes time to lower and raise the wheelchair lift. With this protest, the buses were soon woefully behind in schedule. Who did the protesters inconvenience? Only people like me who take public transport and ordinarily would be the protesters’ natural allies.

    Find a way to enlist me in your cause with rational action — don’t block my access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at me.

  14. Vince on April 25, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    I’ve spent many an hour on protests and demonstrations and believe they are an essential fora for people to express their views. Whilst on these protests I have never broken the law (unlike nation states that flaunt international law. or elected inividuals that break national laws), been rude, offensive, or done anything that would diminish my role as a priesthood holder. I have never sought to impose my will by holding a placard – rather I have felt my protests might change something for the better. In that respect i consider myself an optimist. I believe I can have an effect on the world around me to bring about positive change. (Perhaps as a millenarist church we can sometimes be apathetic – “Of course there’ll be evil wars in the last days – so why bother to do anything”.)

    I try never to be cynical about the efficacy of protests because of one particular campaign. In 1997 my wife and I joined the Jubilee 2000 campaign that sought to see G8 countries stop the scandal of poor countries paying more money to the rich world in loan repayments than we give them in development aid. We had greater success than I could of imagined. Not total, but politicians were embarrassed into action because of the voice of the people

  15. Russell Arben Fox on April 25, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    “In other words, its more of a farce than if it had just collapsed.”

    That’s an interesting way of looking at it, Adam: if a movement acts through or alongside the aegis or with the support of other existing authorities and/or other unrelated interests and/or sources of funding, then it is a farce. Very interesting indeed. Let’s get together and talk about that, perhaps at a Federalist Society meeting, the next time the issue of how the legal culture has been moved over the past 30 years so that the recent Carhart decision became a possibility comes up.

  16. m&m on April 25, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    “Find a way to enlist me in your cause with rational action — don’t block my access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at me.”

    Well said.

  17. mlu on April 25, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Martin Luther King is the hero. Something needed to be done, and his cause was just.

    Sometimes I wonder though about the costs of orchestrating and provoking violent confrontations for the media, and permanently imprinting on the minds of a younger generation the televised images of Bull Connor’s forces turning fire hoses on black kids as something of the default image of the relationship between the races. Not much later, the riots in Chicago and Los Angeles, and other cities where MLK had become less respected than leaders with harsher messages seems also part of that legacy. I think the costs of those methods are still accumulating. They tend toward riot.

    I won’t talk about it an absolutes, but as I said, I’m very skeptical.

  18. Mark B. on April 25, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    And just as wrong, mlu, as those who ranted about Martin Luther King being a commie and all the rest of that tripe.

    Do not blame Dr. King for “provoking” violent confrontations. It was the police and fire departments of Birmingham that introduced violence into the arena. One may as well blame them for provoking violence because they had the temerity to be black.

  19. Mark N. on April 25, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    As for Cheny and the Bush Administration, to paraphrase Talleyrand, they are worse than criminal; they are incompetent.

    I’m glad they’re incompetent — competent liars are harder to catch.

  20. Mark B. on April 25, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Sorry for the sloppy writing–the “them” in my last sentence referred to those demonstrators who “provoked” the violence of Bull Connor and his henchmen.

  21. Craig V. on April 25, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    I’ve been fairly conservative most of my life, but was part of some organized protests in the 80s. What got me involved was not really politics but concern for a friend. I was an assistant pastor at a church near Los Angeles and in charge of our ministry to people with disabilities. One of the people I worked with was sufficiently disabled that he could not drive a car. His only way to get places was either through someone helping him or public transportation. He wanted, like all of us, to be as independent as possible and so tried public transportation. The problem was the buses would often not pick him up. Sometimes it would take him all day to get from his home to my office and often, I would have to pick him up myself. This was the beginning of my adventure as a radical protester. I started by calling the bus company and complaining when my friend was left at a stop. I then graduated to standing at a bus stop with him and yelling at bus drivers that wouldn’t take the time to use the lift and get my friend on the bus. Given the befuddled reaction I got from the drivers (and a little guilt at yelling at someone) I began to suspect that the problem was more in the bus company than in the drivers. This led to my seeking and obtaining an appointment to the mayor’s council on disabilities, my attending public meetings of the bus company and my participating in a few protests. What was the result of all of this? I don’t know if any progress was made on the big political issues, but I do know that within a couple of years my friend was no longer left stranded at bus stops (and I assume the same changes were enjoyed by many others).

  22. Jesse Harris on April 25, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Russell: And what at the end of the day gets accomplished by that organizing? Did the mass protests by immigrants last year do anything? No, they didn’t. Californians, Arizonans, Nevadans, Texans and New Mexicans cynically rejoiced in the clear freeways and short lines at the grocery store while exactly zero legislation, positive or negative, got passed on the issue. What if those millions of people had written their Senators and Congressmen and appeared at hearings? I’d bet we’d have some legislation on the table, that’s what.

    Protesting is the one-in-a-million shot at getting your minority heard through media exposure. It’s trying to accomplish in 15 minutes of fame what normally takes months or years of dedicated work. I’m not saying that there isn’t some work involved in organizing a protest, but it’s a lot less work than going to meetings, talking to legislators, writing letters, etc. The work is less and the potential payoff is greater by going with a protest and everyone thinks they can beat the odds. It’s a Vegas mentality, the same one that drives poor people to buy lottery tickets.

    As for MLK, his day was different. Getting media attention in the 1960s was a different beast than getting it today. It’s an apples and oranges comparison, IMO.

  23. Ardis Parshall on April 25, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Craig V. (#20) — I hope you realize that in my example I objected only to the unnecessary loading and unloading of wheelchairs, staged in a deliberate attempt to disrupt service for all of us. Anyone who rides public transportation regularly realizes that we all need to stick together against those (usually powerful) voices who insist that because they personally have no need for the bus, it is unconstitutional for their tax dollars to be spent on buses (the same voices who see nothing wrong with requiring me to pay taxes for their golf courses, swimming pools, and the roads that carry them to their ski lifts and boat launches). Yet it was their natural allies who were inconvenienced. That’s generally the kind of people who are inconvenienced by protests — the workers who have only their lunch hours for running to the post office and bank but are blocked by pro- or anti-immigration marches, and the people who have been summoned to federal jury duty who have to fight their way past the anti-war protesters who have chained themselves to the federal building doors. The powerful and rich who can send their secretaries to run errands or who have keys to private security-guarded doors are not the ones who are inconvenienced by protests.

    Sorry for ranting so much on your thread, Russell. I suppose I’ve made my point that I object to protesters blocking my access to buildings and roads in order to wave signs and shout at me, so I’ll try not to annoy further.

  24. John Williams on April 25, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Deseret News article on the leader of the current anti-Cheney protests at BYU:

    http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,660214543,00.html

  25. Craig V. on April 25, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Ardis,

    Our protests were pretty mild, the goal being to let the public see that people with disabilities weren’t being given real access to public transportation. We never disrupted any services. I would not, however, totally rule out such a practice. If I believed that stopping some buses would change the access, I would probably do it. The very real dilemma, as you illustrate, is that I may be alienating some people that would otherwise help my cause. Perhaps this sheds some light on Russell’s questions. A protest can be an exercise in futility if it loses sight of the goal. In our case, the goal was clear (and somewhat small) and, by God’s grace, we succeeded.

  26. Clark on April 25, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    My problem with most protests is that they seem much more about solidifying ones own beliefs than really changing anyone else. I mean seriously, is there anyone out there who’s going to change their mind of Bush or Cheyney on the basis of this? So what’s the point? It’s to make the protesters feel better.

    I only make exceptions from this for a few big protests such as civil rights which really did raise awareness and got politicians acting. Now perhaps protests against Reid or other prominent Democrats would affect them due to who their constituents are. But most protests (IMO) are on par with heading over to Karl Rove at a dinner and expecting to change his view on global warming.

  27. Jim F. on April 25, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Clark: perhaps protests against Reid or other prominent Democrats would affect them due to who their constituents are

    Clark, that’s down right weird. Why is it that prominent Democrats would be affected by the protests of their consituents, but prominent Republicans would not?

  28. Nate Oman on April 25, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    “My problem with most protests is that they seem much more about solidifying ones own beliefs than really changing anyone else.”

    Don’t denigrate the value of public rituals for solidifying beliefs. I actually like the sort of politics-as-spectacle thing; I suspect that it is the frustrated classicist in me. Of course, these days the public rituals are largely about creating televisable events, and our ritual vocabulary has been much impoverished. We have protests and marches, but not a whole lot else. There use to be a much much richer set of public rituals that political organizers could use: torch light parades, club houses, Lincoln days or Jefferson-Jackson days that were more than mere fund raisers, etc. etc.

    I think that most protests are politically impotent, and that is probably a good thing. From time to time the urge to protest may actually coincide with other conditions so as to become relevent, but not that often. When I worked on the Hill there was a some sort of a staged protest event around congress at least once a week in the summer. Almost without exception they were politically irrelevent. Most of them were also in favor of silly causes or poorly thought out policies, so their impotence struck me as evidence of a healthy process (or at least a process less pathological than it would be if the protests were successful).

    What makes me sad about valorization of protesting, however, is that it is a sign of a deeper sickness: the impoverishment of our political spectacles and public rituals. Of course, we can thank the Progressives and the baby boomers (and of course television — the ultimate political evil) for that. Something for RAF and other protest valorizing lefties to think on.

  29. John Williams on April 25, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    @Russell Arben Fox

    Sorry, I had not read your post in its entirety, so I did not know you had already linked to the Des. News article on the leader of the BYU anti-Cheney protests.

  30. Russell Arben Fox on April 25, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    “Of course, these days the public rituals are largely about creating televisable events, and our ritual vocabulary has been much impoverished. We have protests and marches, but not a whole lot else. There used to be a much much richer set of public rituals that political organizers could use: torch light parades, club houses, Lincoln days or Jefferson-Jackson days that were more than mere fund raisers, etc. etc.”

    Very true, Nate, and well put. Though–while I’m as willing to beat up on tv as anyone–even more than the influence of television I would actually blame the evolution of modern fund-raising and political financing, with its attendant corruption of the political primary system and the consequent decline in the power of political parties in the face of candidate-centered campaigns, as the strongest single cause of decline in our civic life. Most of those rituals you mention were supported by and organized by political parties; once political parties, as social organizations, forums for public expression, carriers of tradition, and tools of teaching public virtues were turned into mere fundraising machines, the main institutional proponents of those rituals were gone.

    “I think that most protests are politically impotent, and that is probably a good thing. From time to time the urge to protest may actually coincide with other conditions so as to become relevent, but not that often.”

    To be certain most protests don’t make a “difference,” but frankly I’m surprised that someone who values rituals would speak that way. Indeed, I’m surprised at the attention to the supposed ineffectualness of protests on this thread in general. Surely if anyone understands the simple power and relevance of self-expression, of witnessing and testimony, it ought to be us Mormons. Now, I suppose one could argue that most testimony doesn’t make a “difference” either, or if it does, it is able to solely because most testimonies are expressed in contexts and environments wherein people are capable of hearing what the speaker and Spirit have to say. In which case, then, the problem isn’t protests in themselves, but rather the fact that most demonstrations don’t take into consideration the creation of an appropriately receptive space–Ardis’s example of a protest that only solely affects those who least need to hear the message being a great (meaning, awful) example.

    “What makes me sad about valorization of protesting, however, is that it is a sign of a deeper sickness: the impoverishment of our political spectacles and public rituals. Of course, we can thank the Progressives and the baby boomers (and of course television — the ultimate political evil) for that. Something for RAF and other protest valorizing lefties to think on.”

    I can guess that you mean this to be a snark, Nate, but I just don’t get it. Yes, the reforms of the Progressive movement was responsible for much of the break-up of corrupt party patronage networks which enable parties to exercise the influence they did; whether that was a price worth paying in terms of civic life is worth considering. (Remember that the Progressives also opposed the elite campaign finance networks pioneers by Mark Hanna, meaning that if they had their way the primary system would have turned out much more populist and equitable than the system which eventually emerged.) But in any case, what the connection is supposed to be between actual progressives–Jane Addams, Bob LaFollette, etc.–and the baby boomers (who were, by and large, a bunch of indulgent individualists who rejected the collective social concerns of the Old Left) and television (which is similarly an instrument of atomization) and lefties today who feel like they might as well sometimes make use of the few paltry tools of protest still available to us, completely escapes me. Care to explain?

  31. Ben on April 25, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    “I’m an academic, and you know us–give us a petition to sign, and often the first thing we’ll do is analyze the language of the petition, and consider all the alternative interpretations, and reflect upon the historical antecedents of all those interpretations, and then when we come out of our intellectual reverie the person with the clipboard has already moved on.”

    Indeed :)

  32. Glenn on April 25, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    The wheelchair bus protest (#13, 20, 22, 24) sounds beautiful. In my younger years I would have loved to have supported that, especially as one of my best friends was also in a wheelchair. The point of disrupting the ordinarily supportive (but rarely inconvenienced) commuter allies is to get those ordinarily supportive (but rarely inconvenienced) commuter allies to experience the real, practical inconvenience for the voices who are being ignored (by everyone, allies included) — to feel, if they chose to, empathy and provide extra-ordinary support to change the status quo – to rally to their allies’ cries for help. How real is this alliance and the ordinarily supportive supporter’s support if they feel put-off and cancel the alliance the minute they are personally inconvenienced?

  33. Glenn on April 25, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    As someone looking at this from outside of Utah, and often outside of the country, I am wondering if this Cheney/Nader pairing is an extension in any way from the angst created by the Michael Moore/Sean Hannity thing at UVSC a few years ago.

    I recently saw “This State Divided” — wasn’t aware of these events as they were happening — and found it fascinating and frustrating. It sounds like the Cheney/Nader thing is bigger, but can annyone point me to any comparisons that have been made to the Moore/Hannity experience, and does anyone know if “This State Divided II” is in the works?

  34. Nate Oman on April 25, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    “Though–while I’m as willing to beat up on tv as anyone–even more than the influence of television I would actually blame the evolution of modern fund-raising and political financing, with its attendant corruption of the political primary system and the consequent decline in the power of political parties in the face of candidate-centered campaigns, as the strongest single cause of decline in our civic life. Most of those rituals you mention were supported by and organized by political parties; once political parties, as social organizations, forums for public expression, carriers of tradition, and tools of teaching public virtues were turned into mere fundraising machines, the main institutional proponents of those rituals were gone.”

    The problem, of course, is that television is the number one driver of current fundraising policies. The second determinate is the unintended consequences of our current regime of fund raising regulations, which are almost wholly counter productive in my view. Indeed, McCain-Fiengold is a wonderful example of the pervisty of good-government hand-wringing over campaign financing. By banning soft money, the act does a great deal to drive the final nails in the coffin of political parties as real supra-candidate power centers by eliminating their funding. I see it as part of the anti-party, pro-“democracy”, pro-candidate line of reforms stretching back to the Progressive attack on Tameny Hall, etc. etc. Ick! Ick! Ick!

    “Yes, the reforms of the Progressive movement was responsible for much of the break-up of corrupt party patronage networks which enable parties to exercise the influence they did; whether that was a price worth paying in terms of civic life is worth considering. (Remember that the Progressives also opposed the elite campaign finance networks pioneers by Mark Hanna, meaning that if they had their way the primary system would have turned out much more populist and equitable than the system which eventually emerged.)”

    I see the Progressives as being essentially hostile to the notion of politics. Rather, what they wanted was an anticeptic process by which policy elites would be given sufficient bureacratic power to solve social problems. (I have in mind here thinkers like Brandies or Frankfurter or Learned Hand; I freely admit, however, that I tend to think in terms of legal rather than political history.) In the drive for such a technocratic vision of the state, they ran rough shod over the institutions and rituals that made civic participation meaningful, reducing the whole process to the private anonymity of the well-protected voting booth. (They also laid the legal ground work for the administrative state which has hardly been an unmitigated success in my view.) I actually suspect that some version of elite finance networks is the best way of preserving mass political movements. Politics takes money, and you can either make it’s voluntary accumlation enormously difficult — which is what our current system does — in which case fund raising becomes a central political activity. Second, you can have public financing, which case you get government control of political dialogue, a prospect I am paranoid enough to find extremely troubling. Third, you can allow fundraising via small networks of mega doners. Provided we have real transparency (which the Hanna system did not have), I suspect that the third option is probably the best. The masses have votes and the rich have donations. There is a certain equipoise to the forces involved and we get something of Aristotle’s mixed constitution. I am enough of an elitist to think that a bit of constrained oligarchy is probably not such a bad thing for the body politic.

    As for the baby boomers, they undermined the symbolic basis of public ritual, building on the Progressive assault on its institutional basis. So we get the politics of “F-ck the Draft” t-shirts and yo-yos before congressional committees. When rising elites heap contempt on public rituals it is little wonder that they atrophy, until “protest” — which is the only civic logic underlying the yo-yos and the t-shirts — becomes one of the few rituals that is still part of the public vocabulary.

  35. Ardis Parshall on April 25, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Glenn, you claim that we are “rarely inconvenienced.” That suggests you don’t depend exclusively on public transport, at least in Salt Lake City where we cannot count on the timely arrival of buses, where drivers are allowed to park where they block bus stops, where there are virtually no benches and absolutely no shelters to protect waiting passengers from the weather, and where much of the neighborhood bus service is being eliminated in August in favor of running more frequent commuter service from park-and-ride lots (what about those of us who have no alternate transportation to get TO the park-and-ride lots?) to funnel businessmen into downtown. We are frequently inconvenienced, to the point where people don’t ride the bus if they have any choice. A protest that hurts fellow passengers without drawing new voices into the alliance is dumb, not effective — it’s the equivalent of friendly fire. Get back to me with your idealistic criticism after you’ve picked up a little more practical experience.

  36. Nate Oman on April 25, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    RAF: You know, of course, that the snark is entirely affectionate and is done soley in the hope of persuading you to write me an interesting response.

  37. mlu on April 25, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Do not blame Dr. King for “provoking” violent confrontations. It was the police and fire departments of Birmingham that introduced violence into the arena. One may as well blame them for provoking violence because they had the temerity to be black.

    The Birmingham authorities are the main villains, of course. MLK knew they would react as they did, and I think he knew the resulting footage would advance his cause. I don’t blame him for doing what he did. I don’t know what I would have done, but I hope I would have felt something needed to be done. I hope I would have been drawn to his cause.

    Having said that, I still wonder about the costs–about the way moments ripple on, having effects beyond the immediate moment, persisting in time (especially when filmed) and having other effects. . .

    The lasting and ongoing imagery from all those protests seems to me to have as its enduring meaning the ritualized public enactment of racial hatred. Racial hatred in many quarters seems to me to be getting worse. Though it’s now most often focused on white people, it still seems quite a toxic legacy. Living where I do, I’ve met quite a few young people who believe it’s normal and justified to hate white people. I expect such feelings will bear fruit in the future, as they have in the past. I wish the iconic images of racial interaction were other than they are. I wonder whether it was possible, at the beginning of the television age, to have planted other images in the public psyche. . .

    None of that’s intended as a criticism of MLK, who had a small part in a big story. It’s something I think I need to meditate about when I decide what to join and how to act in the moments that are unfolding now. . .

  38. Mark B. on April 25, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    Of course, the costs of doing nothing would have been to leave southern blacks disenfranchised, unable to effect political change from within the system because they were excluded from that system.

    The iconic images of racial interaction before firehoses and German shepherds in Birmingham or the Edmund Pettus Bridge were Butterfly McQueen in Gone with the Wind, Step ‘n’ Fetchit and Amos and Andy. They unfortunately helped whole generations of white people come to believe that they could look down on blacks as inferior.

  39. Chino Blanco on April 26, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Can anyone recall any other BYU moment in the last 20 years that even comes close to what these kids have pulled off? I’m totally jealous and feel like my old adventures at the Student Review seem pretty lame by comparison.

    dismissing the honest efforts and commitments of one’s fellow citizens and saints, unlike my acts of youthful protest, is the real sign of immaturity

    So true. I left BYU for NYU in ’90. I enjoyed my 2 years at NYU, but I’ve always felt I met the more mature, engaged students during my 2 years at the Y. I can’t extend the same compliment to the faculty or the administration, but my BYU classmates were tops, and these kids look to be an impressive bunch as well.

  40. Russell Arben Fox on April 26, 2007 at 12:48 am

    “Indeed, McCain-Fiengold is a wonderful example of the pervisty of good-government hand-wringing over campaign financing. By banning soft money, the act does a great deal to drive the final nails in the coffin of political parties as real supra-candidate power centers by eliminating their funding. I see it as part of the anti-party, pro-”democracy”, pro-candidate line of reforms stretching back to the Progressive attack on Tameny Hall, etc. etc.”

    I definitely can see the plausibility of the genealogy you’re sketching out here. But isn’t it just as plausible to read McCain-Feingold and similar laws as attempting to do, as best as possible in today’s context, exactly what you recommend? You suggest that the best option is probably to “allow fundraising via small networks of mega doners…[so long as] we have real transparency.” Well, raising the hard money limit (regarding which is it relatively easy to mandate transparency), and banning soft money (which is frankly impossible to fully disentangle and make transparent), seems an important step towards your recommendation. Of course, McCain-Feingold isn’t about restoring the sort of explicit networking that parties once handled; as a law, it fully assumes that the media- and candidate-centered campaigns of today are the unalterable model of things. Perhaps they are wrong–though I suspect that, unfortunately, they are not, since even following just your own analysis suggests that there is little change the degeneration of elections in the U.S. unless the government takes the draconian step of banning tv political advertisements entirely, perhaps by mandating the networks and cable channels provide X hours of free advertising air time and absolutely nothing more. (Though you know, I could totally get behind that idea…). Failing that, we deal with permanently weakened parties…and in some an electoral world, McCain-Feingold and other similar laws maybe the best shot which real (as opposed to plutocratic) democracy has got.

    “I see the Progressives as being essentially hostile to the notion of politics. Rather, what they wanted was an anticeptic process by which policy elites would be given sufficient bureacratic power to solve social problems….In the drive for such a technocratic vision of the state, they ran rough shod over the institutions and rituals that made civic participation meaningful, reducing the whole process to the private anonymity of the well-protected voting booth. (They also laid the legal ground work for the administrative state which has hardly been an unmitigated success in my view.)”

    This is a fairly common reading of the Progressive movement, especially amongst many of the populists I argue with all the time, and there’s a lot of evidence to back in up. Perhaps we’ll have to get into a long conversation about the Progressives on of these days; for myself, I tend to believe that the distinctions drawn by historians between populist and progressive reformers are often overstated, my primary evidence for that being the fact that so many figures sympathetic to and supportive of localist, participatory populist causes–William Jennings Bryan, Mary Lease, etc.–moved (mostly) easily into Democratic and Progressive circles, and I find it unlikely that all these deeply pious prairie rabble-rousers were abruptly brainwashed by the lure of an antiseptic politics. In every movement there are several facets; just as there were some populists who basically just saw themselves carrying forward the campaign against uppity blacks in defense of poor whites, there were surely some progressives that wanted to take the political process out of the hands of all these dirty, ethnic, fraternal backroom dealers. But I don’t either group represents the movement at its best. At its best, both populists and progressives were looking for the right sort of bureaucratic and administrative machinery to truly democratize the economy and fight the influence of entrenched wealth; if the introduction of the progressive income tax, the direct election of senators, the regulation of the railroads and civil service reform seemed to be the best tools available, they they made use of them. Some of those changes, clearly, came round in the end to make real local political action and civic life harder than it had previously been. But the also made it possible for some of those local actors to hang on socially and financially, which might not have happened if the railroads and the Senate had had their way. I suspect that all these reformers, confronting the reality of a less agrarian and more nationalized and diverse country, believed a fair balance could be struck.

    “As for the baby boomers, they undermined the symbolic basis of public ritual, building on the Progressive assault on its institutional basis. So we get the politics of “F-ck the Draft” t-shirts and yo-yos before congressional committees.”

    Sorry, I don’t see any connection between Progressivism and the 60s whatsoever. The one good thing going on in the 60s–well, the one good thing amongst white liberal elite college students; there were actually a lot of good things going on elsewhere–was the rediscovery of Jeffersonian principles of direct citizenship, which fired their opposition to the technocratic “vital center” bequeathed to the postwar Democratic party by Dewey, et al. Unfortunately, very few of the New Left had any idea of how to form the sort of communities with standards within which such direct involvement makes sense, as they had rejected in the name of individual liberation both the examples of their parents and the moralism of the Old Left (and, I would argue, the progressives and populists before them). So they became hippies and read Marcuse and invented symbols on the fly, because they knew–unlike the mainstream–that you really needed symbolic action; the civil rights movement proved that. Unfortunately, except for a few here or there they couldn’t for the life of them come up with any real contect to those symbols. Pretty sad, really.

  41. DavidH on April 26, 2007 at 12:49 am

    I think the Framers were wise to include in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” I do not think “assembling” and “petitioning” governments, or higher educational institutions, are pointless exercises.

    Even though Roe v. Wade has not yet been overturned, I think my having marched many times with other pro-life protesters of the decision, along with making contributions to various pro-life organizations, and writing letters to my representatives, has had an effect, small as it may be.

    I agree that the massive pro-immigration marches (in which I participated) last year did not result in legislation. But I wonder if they may have contributed, however slightly, to the Senate’s refusing to go along with the House’s draconian anti-immigration bill.

    Another advantage of protest marches or assemblies is similar to the advantage many of us, who grew up where Mormons were few in number, felt when attending regional or area conferences–a sense that we are not alone, that others, sometimes many others, feel as passionately as we do. And this can lead to other forms of unified action, like grass roots letter writing campaigns, get out the vote efforts, and fundraising. And sometimes they can act as a symbol to the powers that be (and to other citizens) that there is significant sentiment behind a given position.

    I agree, that marching itself usually does not result in legislative or other governmental action–but I wonder if some of the massive protests towards end of the GDR did not contribute to the wall’s coming down.

  42. Russell Arben Fox on April 26, 2007 at 12:54 am

    “I’m totally jealous and feel like my old adventures at the Student Review seem pretty lame by comparison.”

    I don’t think SR was lame in principle, Chino, but I’ll be the first to admit it often was in practice, especially towards the end. (If you left BYU in 1990, then I probably missed you; I worked for SR my freshman year, 87-88, then got involved again when I came back from my mission in 90, and worked on and off for the paper, eventually becoming its publisher as it went completely on life-support and entered its final death throws around 93 or so. Who did you know and work with back in your day? Joanna Brooks? Matt Stannard? John Armstrong? I still keep in touch with some of them.)

  43. Clark on April 26, 2007 at 1:14 am

    Clark, that’s down right weird. Why is it that prominent Democrats would be affected by the protests of their consituents, but prominent Republicans would not?

    Who’s up for re-election and the fact that most of the folks protesting wouldn’t have voted for Cheyney either whereas protesters probably could swing a Reid or other prominent Democrat election.

  44. mlu on April 26, 2007 at 1:19 am

    Mark B: So if I don’t think staging images of racial violence is good, I just have to be content with dumb racial stereotypes. I said that something needed to be done, and I have no interest in trying to make MLK out to be a villain. Do you wonder at all what I am saying?

  45. mlu on April 26, 2007 at 1:29 am

    DavidH: The actions you describe sound civil and useful. I also keep in mind images from the Battle for Seattle, which I’m sure felt sexy to some involved.

  46. Chino Blanco on April 26, 2007 at 1:43 am

    I didn’t say that SR was lame. I was admitting a certain level of lameness in my own adventures with SR. As I recall, I think I became calendar editor because I met a Merrill Oakes, and he introduced me to a Jane England, and I figured if all the SR girls had hair like Jane’s, that’s where I needed to be.

    Our dear leader was B.J. Fogg back in my day. Gary Burgess was over at the Universe around the same time. I can’t say I ever got to know many of the writers that well, I was more involved in distribution, although I’d submit a piece now and then just to maintain my welcome at the parties. As long we’re going down memory lane, I’d like to give a shout out to anyone who remembers the Backyard, the basement of the Honors bldg, or the debate squad.

    The only protest I remember being in was against Geneva Steel on a July 4th across from the stadium, although there was a regular Speaker’s Corner / Hyde Park kinda thing going on at some point on campus, but I don’t remember whatever happened to that.

  47. Nate Oman on April 26, 2007 at 1:49 am

    RAF: Quick responses and then off to bed with me.

    1. McCain-Feingold is not what I really want, because of the contribution limits. My gut instinct is that we ought to have unlimited contributions and full disclosure. I realize that in implimenting this we have some problems but I don’t see that any of them are helped by our paltry contribution limits. (Even under the increased spending limits under Mc-Fien.) One of the great advantages of soft money contributions was that it gave the parties a fund raising advantage vis a vis the candidates. That has now been destroyed, which further weakens the parties. Furthermore, it is utterly niave to think that money is not still in politics. It simply now goes into various forms of issue advocacy and we are left with the FEC drawing silly lines about what are the magic words whose utterance will cause the government to fine you for your political speech. It also means that the money sloshes into issue and idealogical driven groups with fairly narrow agendas that are not submitted to the disciplining force of tradeoffs that political parties must make.

    2. I grant you that Bryan was not a technocrat. One can see the progressibe movement as involving a thousand flowers happily blooming together, or you can see it as populist rubes being hoodwinked by pointy headed Northeastern technocrats. Of course, I am also sympathetic to the progessivism-as-organized-racial-and-ethnic-hatred interpretation. David Bernstein has actually done some very cool research showing that much of the earliest Progressive labor legislation worked (intentionally) to exclude blacks from certain trades and dramatically depress their wages. The interesting twist is that the black workers benefited from Herber Spencer quoting Lochner-era judges who struck down the legislation as violating a constitutional right to freedom of contract. Which is just another way of saying that one can read the actual results of Progessive policies in much darker terms that is suggested by your suggested vision of a cooperative and virtuous search “for the right sort of bureaucratic and administrative machinery to truly democratize the economy and fight the influence of entrenched wealth.”

    3. I am not trying to draw a genetic link between the Progressives and the New Left. I am simply pointing out that they both served to impoverish the vocabulary of civic participation, their differing genelogies notwithstanding. The bad guys needn’t be related in order for them to both be working toward the same evil.

  48. timatotoro on April 26, 2007 at 1:53 am

    the LDS church is a world-wide church. we sometimes forget that. I wonder what members in say France or Peru or South Africa would say about Mr. Cheney addressing an LDS institution? persoally, i think this is where the danger lies for the church as a whole. i am positive that there are members outside the US who do not support Mr. Cheney nor the administration he represents for reason that are moral in nature, who may think twice about thier affiliation with the church, it certainly bothers me.

    As to those who say the protest are meaningless excersises, would you say that to las Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, whoes loved one dissappeared? or to the black students in Soweto or to the shipyard workers workers in Poland? We often take a UScentric view of things, forgetting that this is a large world.

  49. Chino Blanco on April 26, 2007 at 3:35 am

    I’m slippin’ this in for posterity … someone else who brought something different to Utah county Duke Major

  50. Norbert on April 26, 2007 at 5:27 am

    I appreciate your personal response to political action, Russell — I have had similar shifts in attitude. In the late 1980s I got involved with the anti-apartheid movement in LA, which introduced me to more fringe politics — putting up anti-Reagan posters on freeway underpasses at midnight, looking for skinhead graffitti in West Hollywood and covering it. It was heady and symbolic. I have a memory of sitting in an apartment while a guy smoking pot talked about what would happen ‘after the revolution.’ It makes me giggle now. In the mid 1990s I was writing speeches for several politcal action groups advocating homeless rights and offering militant responses to domestic abuse, but there were fewer sit-ins and more cocktail parties. I have no doubts that some of these actions were nonsense, but some had real effects, and the dismissal of political action as meaningless or immoral seems to me to be a middle class fantasy about the security of our lives and stability of our political system.

    But I have given up on political action. Part of it is being disillusioned with the process, and the 2000 elections finished off whatever wind I had left in my sails. But equally I have had a re-alignment regarding what will bring me personal satisfaction. I have come to the conclusion, like Candide at the end of the eponymous novel, that happiness will come as we ‘go and work in our garden.’ Obviously being an ex-pat further insulates me from the need to be involved.

    And so I read the paper and chuckle or shake my fist at the antics of Bush and his posse, and I’ll march against a war on a sunny afternoon — even though I know the minds that brought us ‘shock and awe’ warfare could care less than less about what a bunch of slackers in Helsinki think —

    But as a teacher I’ll keep challenging my student’s myopic and complacent views of the world, and offer them chances to hear as many voices as I can that might result in taking action of their own, whatever that action might be.

  51. Wilfried on April 26, 2007 at 7:15 am

    “We often take a UScentric view of things, forgetting that this is a large world.”

    Aha, I’m not alone anymore! Thank you, timatotoro!

    And, indeed, where would the world stand were it not for those protesters who, from within their idealism, despair and, yes, sometimes naiveté, were the little stone that started rolling from the mountain. Some never made it, but others changed their world, step by step. So many countries owe their democracy and justice to them.

    They are still needed. Do not compare with the U.S. only. Examples like las Madres de Plaza de Mayo say it all. There are still so many in the world who only have that channel left. They may block my access to buildings or roads and wave signs and shout at me. I welcome them.

  52. Guy Murray on April 26, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Well done BYU protesters! Because of your efforts the world will know that not all Mormons or BYU alumni are comfortable with BYU and the Church honoring such a dishonorable man. I will be there in spirit.

  53. Peter LLC on April 26, 2007 at 7:51 am

    #35:
    “Get back to me with your idealistic criticism after you’ve picked up a little more practical experience.”

    Ardis,

    I know you weren’t addressing me, but I believe I have the qualifications* you require to get back to you. Anyway, if you’re wondering why

    “we cannot count on the timely arrival of buses, where drivers are allowed to park where they block bus stops, where there are virtually no benches and absolutely no shelters to protect waiting passengers from the weather [snip] We are frequently inconvenienced”

    you need look no further than your own acquiescence. You may prefer not to inconvenience anyone, and even turn against those who inconvenience you (even if in the pursuit of more justice for all, so to speak), but the fact is, changing the status quo will require inconveniencing someone. Or do you suppose that increasing the availability of public transportation (or anything else, for that matter) is a costless alternative? Until you and your fellow travellers find a voice that inconveniences taxpayers, city administrators, elected officials, etc. more than paying additional taxes, reapportioning budgets or passing new laws, y’all are going to be out standing in the cold waiting for the bus to come.

    *I have depended exclusively on public transportation since 2 Nov 2005 and for long stretches totalling about four years before that.

  54. Peter LLC on April 26, 2007 at 7:53 am

    “So many countries owe their democracy and justice to them.” (comment 51)

    Exactly. The former German Democratic Republic comes to mind. Certainly protestors weren’t the only factor, but an important one nevertheless.

  55. Russell Arben Fox on April 26, 2007 at 9:23 am

    “I have come to the conclusion, like Candide at the end of the eponymous novel, that happiness will come as we ‘go and work in our garden.’”

    While I think Voltaire meant that line–like the whole book–to be darkly satirical, in truth there is a lot of wisdom there, wisdom which is often lost on liberals and conservatives (to say nothing of leftist protesters) alike. Our gardens, besides being–hopefully!–literal gardens, are our homes, our wards, our families and children and intimate friends. If we do not tend to–if we do not remain, first and foremost, tenders of–that which we have received historically and of that which made us what we are, then direct action and protest is bound to become groundless and self-indulgent. And I would never deny that this is, in fact, very often the case: I can appreciate in a utilitarian fashion the fundraising networks and expertise of the professional rabble-rousers out there, but when you come right down to it I don’t really trust people who dedicate their lives to protest, to stirring up trouble, to confrontation and challenge, because I don’t think they have much of a home, of a core. There are good times and places for direct action (especially if you’re young!), but really, you need to have a garden to return to, a home in the back of your mind that you are aiming to conserve, to guide your action over the long term. Without a longing for a home motivating you, then you’re just in it for the business of shouting.

  56. Ardis Parshall on April 26, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Peter (53), I’m not usually the idealist, but in the case of protest marches and screaming matches and chaining yourself to doors (which should generally be the last-ditch effort, not the first and only effort), I believe there are more effective ways to achieve political action than inconveniencing the greatest number in the worst way for the longest possible time, which seems to be the primary goal of protest marches.

    We got light rail by appealing to the city/s self-interest in terms of profitability, ridership, time-savings, improved reputation, reduced traffic congestion, cleaner air, and every other positive result we could think of. We didn’t get it by preventing car-driving commuters from getting to work, or drowning out city council business with the raucousness of our shouting, or grafitti-ing public surfaces with obscenities.

    Disruptive protests shouldn’t be the first option. They add to the ugliness of the world in the name of making improvements.

  57. It's Not Me on April 26, 2007 at 9:37 am

    I hear and read an awful lot of criticism of Bush and Cheney regarding bad intelligence received before going to war in Iraq. Unfortunately, most of what I have heard and read comes across as political rhetoric, which doesn’t mean much to me.

    I would really appreciate it if someone could point me to a source, a “smoking gun” as it were, which is reliable or credible, which shows that Bush and Cheney received bad intelligence, that they knew it was bad (i.e., false), and that they were the only persons in authority who received that intelligence and knew it was bad.

    I’m not interested in hearing that we haven’t found WMD. Bill Clinton acknowledged that Saddam had them and used them on his own people, and the fact that we haven’t found anything in Iraq doesn’t mean anything to me.

    I am only (and sincerely) interested in the intelligence information. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  58. mlu on April 26, 2007 at 11:22 am

    57–You’ll wait quite a while. Don’t disrupt the echo chamber.

  59. a random John on April 26, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Can anyone recall any other BYU moment in the last 20 years that even comes close to what these kids have pulled off?

    There was a pillow fight in the late 80s (I think) that really pissed off the administration. It was a very large pillow fight. It made the news. I was pretty amazed at how upset the staff they interviewed were. I would guess that those same people are pulling their hair out today.

  60. greenfrog on April 26, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Let ‘em go bald. (It’s not that bad a condition, I attest.)

  61. Clark on April 26, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    I didn’t say that SR was lame. I was admitting a certain level of lameness in my own adventures with SR. As I recall, I think I became calendar editor because I met a Merrill Oakes, and he introduced me to a Jane England, and I figured if all the SR girls had hair like Jane’s, that’s where I needed to be.

    Our dear leader was B.J. Fogg back in my day.

    Nothing will ever top B.J.’s lampooning of the SR’s homosexuality issue with his coming out of the closet as a communist with pictures of him in a Red Army uniform (which were oddly rather popular on campus at that time – they were widely available with the fall of the Soviet Union).

    I still have fond memories of bugging B.J. and others who were protesting nuclear weapons testing by telling them I worked summers at Los Alamas on nuclear weapons and most of the team I worked with did the testing. Lots of fun.

    I didn’t work on the SR but I worked on some of the other projects and occasionally helped distribute the SR.

  62. Clark on April 26, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    There was a pillow fight in the late 80s (I think) that really pissed off the administration. It was a very large pillow fight.

    Funny story. It was a missionary companion of mine who orchestrated that. They all took off before the pillow fight got out of hand so they never got in trouble.

    (Man, this is all bringing back great memories)

    The closest thing to the Cheyney protests I can think of was the protest against New Kids on the Block (sort of an early 90’s/late 80’s boy band like In Sync) As I recall BYU clamped down on the protest.

  63. Russell Arben Fox on April 26, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Clark, are you sure it was B.J. in that uniform? I remember the issue, and I remember B.J., as botha freshman and later–he hung around BYU forever, eventually wondering off to some English program somewhere. But my memory is telling me that is was Jesse Curtis who dressed up as Der Kommissar. Weirdly, I was actually remebering that article with its accompanying photo on my bike ride this morning. Odd what Student Review stunts lasted the test of time. Testimony bingo, the Daily Unifarce (which we ran every year, but which never surpassed its first issue, I think)–I still have people asking me about them on occasion, years later.

    Incidentally, Clark, it wasn’t a “homosexuality issue”–it was just one anonymous article. (There was a couple a gay-themed issues later on, circa 1992 and 1993, but those followed from the fact that there were several SR staffers at the time in the closet. To my knowledge, the specific article–which has sad and heartfelt, but also preening and self-righteous–which Jesse or B.J. parodied came out of the blue, from no one with a previous connection to the paper.)

    Chino, you bring up some fine names that I haven’t heard in a long time. Merrill Oates, who became a global traveler and grew his hair about as long as Legolas; Gary Burgess, who was so relaxed he could sleep anywhere at anytime; and of course Jane, who took us all out to the England’s cabin in the mountains for a couple of SR parties and with whom I once was part of an embarrassing late-night encounter on a trampoline. Good times.

  64. Mark B. on April 26, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    There wasn’t much for political activism at BYU during Fall 1972–the Nixonians were pretty much in control, and McGovern wasn’t exactly the strongest of candidates.

    But we had fun. There was the Great Spiro Speech, filling the Marriott Center with students, kindergarten students bused in to provide bright smiling faces and a few dissenters. We almost got into a fight with the guys behind us who couldn’t see their beloved Spiro through our McGovern-Shriver banner, but we otherwise behaved ourselves all too well and didn’t get thrown out or arrested.

    Spiro’s speech had been billed as a major campaign event, but it was all tripe. He stumbled famously on “gamma globulin” and told us that the Democrats were the party of acid, abortion and amnesty and said a bunch of stuff about the Mormon pioneer spirit that you could tell he didn’t believe.

    But the crowd was huge–so big in fact that the next time a big crowd showed up for a forum assembly in the Marriott Center (in September 1976), Pres. Oaks leaned over to the speaker and quipped that it was “the largest crowd we’ve had for a forum address since Vice President Agnew.”

    Back to 1972–there was the anti-war table near the WC during Militaristic Week. (Do they still have that down there? It was especially nice during those Vietnam wind-down years.) We had the usual stuff: lots of photos of My Lai and other great work our guys in uniform had been doing in Vietnam, a copy of a 1st Presidency letter from the late 40’s in which they stated their opposition to a proposal for universal military service, etc.

    And along came Elder Hartman Rector Jr. and Adm. Thomas Moorer, who was then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. We had an interesting little conversation, but it didn’t make the newspapers either.

  65. William Morris on April 26, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Re: Glen’s #33:

    If I recall correctly, one of the cinematographers for This Divided State posted something to the LDS Film list saying he was going to do something similar for the Cheney/Nader thing.

  66. Russell Arben Fox on April 26, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    For those who can’t make it, the alternative commencement will apparently be broadcast live on their website this evening.

  67. Mark B. on April 26, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Lost in all the noise, the tripe about respect for the office of the Vice President (clearly a last ditch effort by those who can’t think of anything nice to say about the current occupant, other than that he’s a Republican and that’s good enough for them but sounds cheaply partisan), and, lately, a comment by some airhead interviewed on KUTV that they were honored to have him take time out of his busy schedule (cough, cough–no foreign heads of state from second rate countries die recently, eh?), and in this enormity of a sentence, is the great line by the incumbent about 10 back (let’s see, Cheney, Gore, Quayle, Bush, Mondale, Rockefeller, Ford, Agnew, Humphrey, Johnson, Nixon, Barkley, Truman, Wallace, Garner–I guess that’s 14 back) John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, who, speaking of that dignity- and respect-deserving office, said: “It’s not worth a pitcherful of warm spit.”

    I think John Adams had similar sentiments, though not put in such memorable terms: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

  68. Giasen on April 26, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Protests these days are not much more than vainglorious crap-parades.

  69. Chino Blanco on April 26, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Protests these days are not much more than vainglorious crap-parades.

    I noticed you also left this gem over at the KBLO Radio site

    I was thinking GORE = DOUCHE. Then four years later I was thinking KERRY = DOUCHE.

    and I was thinking … there’s quite the scatological streak in those deep thoughts of yours, Glasen.

    Although, this morning, I feel I should be the last person to give you a hard time about this.

    My first reading of #61 nearly bowled me over: “I still have fond memories of buggering B.J. …”

    Good times, indeed, and good to see the kids today are also gonna have some great memories to take with them from BYU.

  70. Giasen on April 27, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for visiting! I’m impressed you know French!

  71. Chino Blanco on April 27, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Ann Coulter Rocks!!!

    Espèce de gros con lobotomisé …

  72. Maryanne N. on May 4, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    To whom did Elder Oaks lean over and say the comment about VP Agnew?

  73. manaen on May 5, 2007 at 11:57 am

    59. Re: Can anyone recall any other BYU moment in the last 20 years that even comes close to what these kids have pulled off?

    There was a pillow fight in the late 80s (I think) that really pissed off the administration. It was a very large pillow fight. It made the news. I was pretty amazed at how upset the staff they interviewed were. I would guess that those same people are pulling their hair out today.

    My aunt and uncle fondly recall a weekend after Spring Break in the early ’60s, just before I arrived on campus. This was during Pres. Wilkinson’s authoritative administration.

    A big water-ballon fight broke out at Helaman Halls. Campus Security was unable to quell it, so they called Provo Police came. The cops quickly became targets of choice for the waterballoonists so the Fire Department was called. They tried to use their hoses to disperse the crowd — in a water fight! — but the students soon learned to surround the police cars and disperse when the fire department’s streams came, so the fire department ended up hosing the interiors of the cop cars.

    Then Pres. Wilkinson came and announced that they’d start taking names in 15 minutes. Party over.

  74. Mark B. on May 5, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Who do you think, Maryanne? Your grandfather.

  75. Maryanne N. on May 7, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    I thought as much. Hey, want to sing Javelin man at our next family reunion?

  76. plovering2 on May 28, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I am coming to this discussion late but have been wrestling with the idea of protest and a moral life for several years now. While I have in my far-away place from Provo loved the Cheney protest, I have wondered if I should not be out organizing protests against the challenges by this administration to our civil liberties, by what I see as emerging war crimes growing out of our fear of terrorism, and by the sending of young men and women to a war that was ill-conceived from its inception (and has always impressed me as a way to sustain our dependence on oil–maybe not consciously, but it is difficult for me to imagine the oilmen of this administration probing into their consciousness to see how their work has shaped their world view).

    My sense of the Progressives is that they did us a great disservice in distancing citizenry from the political process. Whenever I hear questions of voter apathy, images of turn-of-the century Progressive reformers come to mind. And despite my historical knowledge of why so many people have pulled away from political activitism in their acceptance of our dependence on bureaucracy, I find myself feeling helpless and apathetic. I am convinced that the letters I sent to my representatives against the war had little impact other than my impatience with the condescension inherent in the form letters I received back.

    As Zygmunt Bauman notes in his book on the Holocaust, modernity invites us to ignore the distant ethical decisions made by bureaucrats even as we become complicit in their decisions by paying our taxes or even through our silence. So, as I read the news, I wonder if when I die and am in the midst of reviewing my sins, will the ones that are most galling be those where I did not speak up soon enough to stop things that were going on far away?

    I am not sure. I wrestle with Wendell Berry\’s notion that protest is not to be about whether the protest is successful but about our own integrity. While Berry is not into \”movements\” nor into collective action, I am struck that if enough people spoke up out of integrity it could puncture some of the alienation many of us feel regarding politics.

    I confess to putting my reform energies into local choices, but even that feels at time hopeless. For example, I live in Hawaii where public education is dismal. At first, I thought I would get in and see what I could do to help shape up the DOE. However, it did not take long to see that our poor education is part and parcel of the colonial legacy of Hawaii. We have an extremely high proportion of our children going to private schools. Many elite and middle class folk dealing with and even creating our educational challenges by not sending their children to public schools. As you can imagine, little effort is spent on making our educational system better since it is those who support the public schools who have the time and resources to get in and make changes. But even the class boycott of public schools is not enough to explain what is going on. It did not take long to figure out that undereducation works with the underemployment necessary to sustain the tourism which dominates our islands. The difficulties in education children in Hawaii is systemic.

    Since I believe a public education is necessary to a democracy, I do not feel comfortable sending my children to a private school. So for me the question is how to help improve things. I have opted not to spend my time reform our incredibly disfunctional DOE. Instead I am working with local teachers to create an alternative space in our local elementary school that taps on the wealth of talents and cultures in our little community. It is a great journey…..but, and this is why I write, I am not sure that it is enough. Does my alienation from national and even state political processes mean that as the work of Bauman and Berry suggests I have abdicated my obligation to speak out against choices made at a bureaucratic level far removed from my life? It is on my mind. Is my focus on \”local\” too focused? And if the answer is yes, where do I put my energies?

  77. plovering2 on May 28, 2007 at 10:50 am

    I can see there are edges I needed to smooth over. This is my first toe-dip in participating online. Could I get some hints on how to go back in and clean up?