Rudeness mars peace message
If the cause of peace is worth supporting — and we believe it is — then peace protesters must demonstrate the values they promote. The vast majority of the estimated 15,000 protesters who took part in a peace march Sunday in downtown Portland did just that. They were well-behaved, well-intentioned and serious about their cause. But then there was a smaller group of demonstrators — if they can even be called that — who engaged in numerous actions that violated the sensibilities of ordinary people and damaged the very cause the activists claimed to endorse. This splinter group of protesters showed its support for “peace” by burning a U.S. soldier in effigy. It exhibited its supposedly pacifist nature by knocking a police officer off his bike — an action that brought out the police riot squad. Perhaps the most disturbing scene of the afternoon, however, involved the man who pulled down his pants in front of women and children and defecated on a burning U.S. flag. This disgusting act actually elicited cheers from some members of the crowd, but we hope that the emotion it produces in the community is one of revulsion. Offensive behavior does not advance peace and justice in the world. Rather, it undermines the moral message of peace demonstrators. It leads people to believe that it’s not possible to be both patriotic and opposed to the war in Iraq. If the goal of peace demonstrators is to influence public opinion and encourage an end to the war, the activists must connect with their fellow citizens — not repel them. Most of the people who marched on Sunday fully understand this. And by singling out the few who didn’t, we don’t intend to place thousands of demonstrators under one label. But the actions of a few do create a public perception that at least some advocates for peace are anti-American, anti-police and far out of step with mainstream values. The anti-war demonstrators who behaved responsibly this past weekend have an obligation to denounce — and distance themselves from — those protesters who purposefully offend others and consequently destroy the intended message of peace.