Archive for the ‘Protest’ Category

Service of Set in Stone: Make Changes but Leave Statues Alone

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Photo: Patch.com

I disagree with the downing of statues. A piece of history and art is gone. But what has the destruction done to change the lives of injured parties?

I maintain that most citizens haven’t a clue about the people depicted in the statues much less anything about their lives.

John McDonogh Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I hadn’t heard of John McDonogh until this weekend when his statue landed in the Mississippi River. A successful entrepreneur, some highlights about him in addition to his being a slaveholder according to Wikipedia : “He had devised a manumission scheme whereby the people he held as enslaved could ‘buy’ their own freedom, which took them some 15 years. In his will he provided large grants for the public education of children of poor whites and freed people of color in New Orleans and Baltimore.” He also supported the American Colonization Society, which organized transportation for freed people of color to Liberia.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants the bronze statue of Christopher Columbus by Jeronimo Suñol in Manhattan to remain in place. “He said he supports the iconic Manhattan monument because it has come to represent the assimilation of Italian-American people,” Jon Campbell of usatoday.com reported. “Protesters, who have also targeted Confederate monuments across the country, say Columbus’ exploration shouldn’t be idolized because it led to the massacre and forced migration of Native Americans,” Campbell wrote.

While the New York Governor isn’t keen on pulling down statues, he actually DID SOMETHING to face up to police brutality: he signed a bill banning police choke holds and other modifications while implementing executive orders demanding changes with teeth for towns throughout the state. If local administrations want state money they must comply.

Jay Leno Photo: pinterest.com

History isn’t our strong suit. Like me most Americans couldn’t identify the 19th and early 20th century people represented in most statuary so they could hardly be offended by it. Remember Jay Leno’s “JayWalking” segments in which he’d ask questions of the public like “who is this?” showing a photo of Barack Obama when he ran for President–the respondent didn’t know–or “Where is Bangkok?” Answer: “a hotel” or “What was the disaster of 1986?” Answer “Pearl Harbor.”

Is there a single public figure who hasn’t infuriated one or another group? If we take down one statue shouldn’t we take them all down and make it a law that no statues be allowed in public places in future?

Don’t most prominent figures have a few redeeming virtues and accomplishments along with what we find repugnant about them today? Is removing a figure of someone whose behavior, in hindsight, is considered atrocious supposed to change what happened or substantially help the offended?

Photo: inc.com

Service of Crowds

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Photo: ny.curbed.com

New Yorkers were used to crowds. Before the pandemic hundreds of us would routinely enter a concert, game or theater at once, while others would similarly board rush hour subways, commuter trains and buses daily.

I don’t like crowds so if possible I’ve been strategic to avoid them. When I depended on a subway to get to the office I’d leave early or late and always missed rush hour at day’s end by working until well after 6:00 pm. Even if at a protest, I’d go alone and plant myself at the crowd’s edge so I could leave promptly.

In line for discount theater tickets @ TKTS Photo: en.wikipedia.com

In addition to a feeling of loss of control created by walking among a mass of people, these days there’s the potential danger of exposure to virus-infected droplets if marchers, ignoring social distancing, wear masks or not. That’s why I was alarmed when I couldn’t cross 50th Street and Second Avenue on my way home on Tuesday afternoon. Vehicular traffic and bicycles were stopped at the street as if at the starting line of a race, backed up for blocks making a giant parking lot.

We–me at a distance from them and other pedestrians standing appropriately apart–watched an enthusiastic throng of mostly youngsters protesting against police brutality and racism who only by the virus and their proximity to one another posed any danger. There was nothing to do but wait or come face to face with marchers by struggling past a tight line of them to reach the other side of the street. Finally there was a slight break and we raced through it to continue downtown on fairly empty streets.

Washington State June 2020 protest Photo: en.wikipedia.com

I empathize with the marcher’s goal of solidarity but NYC isn’t theirs alone. It’s mine too. I didn’t like feeling trapped. This morning on WOR 710 radio Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., Professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, warned in an interview that the marchers must take care not to block ambulances from reaching the hospital which he said has happened.

The Democratic National Committee, which moved its convention from July to end August, is exploring some kind of virtual convention. In “If Democrats Hold a Big Convention, Will Anybody Come?” in The New York Times Reid J. Epstein wrote: “Interviews with 59 members of the Democratic National Committee and superdelegates who will formally nominate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in August found that the vast majority of them don’t want to risk their own health or the health of others by traveling to Milwaukee and congregating inside the convention facilities.”

With the uncertainty around the spread of Covid-19–we’re now hearing that the heat of summer may have no impact on lessening it as hoped–I wondered if anyone has asked the some 50,000 Republicans, of which 2,550 are delegates, that the president expects to attend the August convention if they still plan to stand shoulder-to-shoulder for hours under one roof?

Do you hope as I do that there will not be an uptick in Covid-19 cases as a result of the marches in spite of dire predictions by many in the medical community? That would be a big relief to both parties and all Americans.

Republican 2016 convention. Photo: politico.com

 

Service of a US Inauguration: Traditional Passing of the Baton or is it Different This Year?

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Marching band 1

I’ve been weighing for a while what I heard about Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I drive by often so my ears perked up when the college was in the news a few weeks ago—and not about the results of one of its well-regarded polls.

After applying previously with no success, the college’s 30 year old band was chosen this year to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate the inauguration. The application was submitted in the spring of 2016, long before the election. Even so, some in the Marist College community squawked loudly.

David Yellen, the college’s president, wrote them a memo. An excerpt: “Some critics of the President-Elect, pointing to his controversial or inflammatory statements and policy proposals, view Marist’s participation in his inauguration as either a political statement in support of Mr. Trump, or an ethical lapse for not speaking out against him.”

Noting the college hosted a campaign event for Bernie Sanders, which also didn’t constitute an endorsement, he wrote: “I believe [these concerns] are based on a misunderstanding of the role of a college in a free society….A college community….holding a wide range of political views cannot itself be a political actor by staking a claim to any one position.” He wrote that the college will support students whether or not they participate.

Yellen’s point that–“…participating in the ritual of the United States’ peaceful transition of power [does not] constitute a political statement”–was also made by two other Marching band 2university presidents whose communities objected to their participation in the parade. On insidehighered.com, Scott Jaschik observed that this year is different from others, where before “students and their institutions have boasted about being selected to march in the parade.”

The colleges, some of whose constituents also objected, are Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais Ill. and Talladega College, Talladega, Ala. No Washington DC-based high school band nor Howard University will participate this year. “Several other colleges and universities will also be participating, but are not drawing criticism.” reported Jaschik.

According to him, Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College, a traditionally black institution, wrote: “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

Those who were in favor of marching made hay.  According to Paul Resnikoff, in “All-Black Talladega Marching Band Raises $320,000 to Play Trump Inauguration,” they made more than enough to pay all expenses to attend via a Gofundme page.

Marching band 3More than 900 people signed a petition urging Olivet Nazarene to withdraw. “Sadly, President-elect Trump has consistently articulated and advocated policies that undermine the Christian commitments of communities like Olivet,” the petition began, noting sexism, alliances with white supremacists, hostility towards immigrants and refugees as “just a few positions incompatible with Christian teachings in general and the Nazarene message of holiness in particular.” The college president, John Bowling, made the same point as the other two presidents. The parade is “a civic ceremony that provides the students with the opportunity to visit Washington and observe the process of transition firsthand.”

If you were in one of the college bands, would you attend this inauguration? Do you think that the protestors have good reason or don’t they understand the point of the inauguration according to the college presidents? Are you planning to watch the ceremony on TV?

Marching band 4

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