Peaceful Protestors are not Vandals

This Musing was published as a Letter to the Editor in the August 13, 2020 issue of the Sioux County Capital Democrat. 

I am writing to express strong disagreement with the assertion by Bonnie Reinders that the Democratic party “calls riots peaceful protests” and “justifies vandalism and violence in our cities.”

Bonnie fails to acknowledge a clear and indisputable distinction between two groups of people who have been out on the streets, in Portland and numerous other cities in America, including Orange City, where about 400 local residents participated in a peaceful Partnership for Justice march.

To be sure, a small minority of protestors, representing unacceptable extremes on both the political right and political left, have been vandals. Those in Portland who have damaged a Federal building have clearly broken the law and should be held accountable. I agree completely with President Trump that they should be punished in accordance with the laws of the land.

But what saddens me is that President Trump has ignored the central issue raised by the vast majority of those out on the streets; those who are nor breaking any laws, but are exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly to peacefully protest the prominence of racial discrimination and racial inequalities in America; persistent problems rooted in America’s original sin of slavery.

President Trump’s silence on this pressing question is deafening. How does one explain such silence? John Bolton, former National Security Advisor to President Trump, presents one response to this question in his book The Room Where It Happened, when he says that he is “hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my [Bolton’s] tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations” (485).

President Trump is building his hopes for re-election on sowing division between the races (and elsewhere) that feeds on fear and resentment rather than building the unity that is needed if America is ever to become a truly multi-racial democracy.

So, I, a registered Democrat, do not call riots peaceful protests and I do not justify vandalism and violence in our cities. But, based on my understanding of the Christian values of love for neighbor and justice, I do embrace the need for racial equality and I applaud all those who peacefully gather to promote this noble end. It is my hope that the fact that President Trump has done nothing to foster that desirable goal, but has stood in its way every chance that he gets, will be a decisive factor for citizens on both sides of the political aisle when they vote before or after November 3.

Note carefully that I am not basing my support of the quest for racial equality on the platforms of either major political party. My starting point when considering public policy issues is not what my political party says. Rather, I dig down deep to my understanding of the Christian values to which I am committed, which include love for neighbor and justice.