Sunday, January 15, 2017

Today’s Embarrassing Left by Suz deMello (#Milo #politics #protest #FirstAmendment)

On the evening of Friday, January 13 I went to UC Davis with a friend to hear what Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos had to say. I was intrigued by this darling of the alt-right, who seemed to be a mass of walking contradictions: a gay Jewish man aligned with the most regressive, repressive bigots on the planet.

Milo, walking contradiction and
alt-right rising star
I was introduced to Milo by my cousin’s kid Jonah, a slyly charming teenager who always is the best dressed, most intelligent person in any room. When I met him for the first time, it was at Friday night dinner at my uncle’s home in north London. His brother came in wearing a T-shirt and cargo pants. His parents were nicely dressed, but Jonah outshone everyone with his navy pinstriped three-piece suit.

Wow. A teenager whose professed favorite music is heavy metal (the Iron Maiden logo is his FB profile pic) in a navy, pinstriped three-piece. Wow. I was suitably blown away.

A few days later I ate dinner and hung out with his family. Up in Jonah’s room we explored music he liked and talked politics. He’s very conservative, while I am about to fall off the far-left wing feather of the American eagle. Nevertheless, I wanted to give his ideas a fair hearing because he’s a smart, thoughtful person.

He introduced me to Milo by showing me a few youtube vids, and I was again impressed by a right-wing Brit. He seems articulate, intelligent and personable as well as layered and interesting—the kind of person I most enjoy.

So we went out to UCD to see and hear Milo. We arrived at about 6:30 p.m., the time that the event was supposed to start. With the help of our phones’ GPS and by following a stream of other folks, we found the lecture hall where the event was scheduled to take place. As we rounded a corner, we were confronted by a noisy protest that blocked easy access to the building. We asked how to get in and were directed to a line that stretched along the side of the building, curving around stands of pine and, more prosaically, a parking structure.

We waited patiently in the cold for a half-hour, then called it quits when rumors
Embarrassing..."speach"? At a UC?
of cancellation began to circulate; apparently the event had been called off because the university couldn’t guarantee Milo's or anyone else’s safety due to the nastiness of the protest. I can testify that as we left, we noticed that the protest had become much rowdier.

I understand that liberals on the left are scared and sad about the Electoral College results and Trump’s ensuing presidency. I feel the same. The PEEOTUS is illegitimate, the ideas he espouses are dangerous to our democracy, and the people he has proposed for cabinet positions are either unqualified or corrupted by conflicts of interest and even treasonous behavior.

A very smart person once told me that "it's easier to be mad than sad," so our sorrow and anxiety are manifesting in counter-productive ways. The left’s anger has led to revolting, offensive acts that are self-defeating. For example, at this event, a Breitbart cameraman was sworn at and spat upon. No one who’s lawfully doing his job deserves that.

The next day, Milo reportedly led a protest that centered upon the denial of his right to speak.  

The left's over-the-top protest ceded the moral high ground to the alt-right. Whatever happened to “when they go low, we go high”?

Whatever happened to the peaceful sit-ins I remember from my teenage years? Of course, these events occasionally became violent, but the violence was generally started by the police or National Guard rather than the protesters. 

Remember Kent State?
Four unarmed students were shot and killed at an
anti-war protest at Kent State University in 1970
I sure do.

On top of that, events like the over-the-top protest at UCD contribute to the decline of civility in our society. If we cease to be polite and kind to others, eventually society will become a vicious arena that no one will enjoy. That civilization and civility have the same Latin root isn’t random.

What can be done?

Insist upon courteous discourse when discussing politics. For example, on FB I block users who come onto my page and insult me and others by name-calling.

I hope that others will adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding rudeness. And please don't use the excuse "the right behaved badly when Obama was elected." So what? Remember: When they go low, we go high. 

This doesn’t mean that the left should roll over and play dead. For example: what if, instead of a protest, folks participated in a sit-in? At least a hundred protesters were there, so the building would have been effectively blocked and the event cancelled—same result without the participants looking like immature, rude jerks.

What if the protesters had made certain by getting tickets in advance that the lecture hall was filled with liberals? That would have provided the opportunity to ask Milo pointed questions that would perhaps puncture the balloon of his alt-right beliefs.

Another great example of a creative, courteous protest is Colin Kaepernick's taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before football games. It's quiet, respectful and very effective; other football teams all over the nation, both pro and student, copied him. Brilliant.

And if people really want to make a difference, read this document and
Don't get mad. Take action.
 It's easier than you think to make a difference.
implement its recommendations.

Change can happen. Resistance isn’t futile, but choosing one’s battles and fighting them with intelligence and creativity leads to better results than what we saw in Davis this weekend.

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