Not since the 1960’s have we seen such wide spread civil disobedience. However, whereas the protests attributed to the Vietnam War were centered most notably in the United States, the dissent that is present and thriving today is not contained to one country, or one segment of the population, as was the case in the time of peace and love. Today’s discord has far greater reach and substantially greater ramifications.
From Tahrir Square in Egypt to the Kingdom of Bahrain, in the streets of Yemen, Tunisia and Libya, in Jordan, Italy, here in the United States, and most recently in Morocco, we have been witness to nothing less than a cultural, political and ideological revolution. The consensus seems to be that those in power, in regions all over the world, have been irresponsible, neglectful and in many cases cruel to the point of inhumanity. Protesters throughout are seeking political reform from oppressive governments, currency instability, inflation, civil rights violations, and class division.
With the somewhat successful campaign of civil resistance in what is now known as the Tunisian Revolution, what began in December 2010 has led to the usurping of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. There has been a firestorm of civil unrest and community organized protests throughout the Middle East, parts of the Mediterranean and here in America. A series of street demonstrations, marches, rallies, acts of civil disobedience, riots, labor strikes, and a number of violent clashes in Cairo and Alexandria, culminated in the ousting of Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s ruler on February 11.th of this year.
Little did the world know at the time, but this spark of social and political reform would reverberate around the globe. Through the use of social media and the courage of “on the ground” reporting by professional journalists and the blogging community, the spread of information and ideals has lead to the illustration that a combined movement of solidarity can affect meaningful change in the structure of a governing body, and all who have labored under it.
In the United States there has been a long tradition of citizens coalescing against policies enacted by an over reaching and irresponsible government. From the anti-war movement of the 60’s, the anti-nuclear protests of both the 70’s and 80’s, to the immigration reform and tax protests of more recent times, America is rich in protest history. Unfortunately here in America (as with those abroad) even the most peaceful protests are often met with a staggering amount of violence on the part of governments.
In Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has threatened to institute the use of the National Guard to “break up” peaceful protesters who disagree with the proposed budget cuts, and changes to the collective bargaining laws. The Associated Press reported: Walker said “The Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees.” To say that this is a violation of the “people’s right to peaceably assemble” is simply stating the obvious. The Constitution of the United States has been not just ignored but patently denied in this case.
The right to redress our grievances is being whittled away incident by incident, such as the one in Wisconsin. Each time we allow any politician or governing body to blatantly disregard the Constitution and the principles, by which it was enacted, we allow another piece of the liberty it represents to be manipulated and cajoled into something that is looking more and more like tyranny.
With the moniker of “the freest nation on earth” the right to peaceful protest should be preserved at all cost. It was Howard Zinn responding in an interview to the growing discontent to the Iraq occupation who stated: “dissention is the highest form of patriotism”. (Often misquoted as Thomas Jefferson)
As we progress as a society, not only here but the world over, the people of every nation are beginning to recognize the power that is inherently ours. Government is a construct of man and its sole purpose is to serve those who live within its policies. Here in America we have watched our government grow to immense proportions while simultaneously ignoring the calls of the people to show restraint financially, diplomacy internationally, and responsibility internally. Social unrest has become the new trend. The material of choice for blanket of liberty will be the hope of millions and the death of many.