Recent protests missed right target

(My Clovis News Journal column for February 19, 2016)

The past couple of years have seen various protests against out-of-control government employees and agencies. Earlier it was the “Black lives matter” protests of deadly police encounters; more recently, ranchers protesting abuse by the Bureau of Land Management.

These protests miss the mark– sometimes tragically.

Rule number one: When you protest, make sure you target the enemy, not bystanders.

While I agree “Black lives matter”, I couldn’t support the protesters when they vandalized, looted, and burned the property of those who were not their enemy. The residents affected by the protests came to fear the protesters, who instead of laying siege to the police station and courthouse, attacked the property of people who were not the problem. They alienated potential allies, causing them to beg for more police in the area. Just fanning the flames. Targeting the innocent is aggression, and cheapens your life, whoever you are.

Rule number two: Be consistent. I agree that the Bureau of Land Management is an abusive, rights-violating gang of bullies. Its buildings– occupied by the protesters– were built on stolen land with stolen money. But you lose credibility when you protest under the flag of your enemy; venerating your enemy’s symbols.

So, although the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge protesters had the right target, they fumbled on principles.

The only aggression in the attempt to reclaim the wildlife refuge from the agency was committed by the government enforcers, who ultimately committed the only homicide to result.

In both protests, death came at the hands of government employees, and the killers got away with it. How would it turn out for you or I had we done the same thing?

Ranchers have a long history of being abused by government, sharing this common ground with residents of poor neighborhoods who have also experienced a long history of abuse at the hands of government employees.

Both share a common enemy, and I’m sad neither of them notice they should be on the same side. If only they’d move past the divisions which have been manufactured to keep them from uniting against the real enemy. And keep their protests free of hypocrisy and aggression.

Don’t copy the behavior of the bad guys. Be above it. Join with others who have been similarly violated where you can find common ground. Together, we outnumber them. Let them come to that horrifying realization, and maybe things will improve once they know they can’t get away with it anymore.

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