When did we decide that events such as a peaceful sit-in on a university campus, or a Black Friday shopping frenzy require pepper spraying the participants? Have we reached such a level of anarchy that our citizens require routine dousing with a concoction of chiles, propellant, and ethanol (booze)?
With the reintroduction of peaceful and not-so-peaceful demonstrations around the world, we have an opportunity to see what has been absent for many years, the people taking action to affect change. Those in power are nervous, of course, because across the globe, governments are tumbling under the vibration of the protesters’ voices. The United States of America appears a bit nervous, so contrary to the promise of the First Amendment to our Constitution, she has chosen to try to quell these voices with what was described on Bill O’Reilly’s program, “a food product,” which by the way, if one were to eat a chile relleno and a glass of wine, would be about right.
I suppose I understand, if not agree, why places like UC Davis pull out cans of gaseous condiments to sour the protesters’ day. They are afraid that change is coming, and it is arriving without the consent of the powers-that-be. Scary, yes? Ask King George III of Britain during the American Revolution; King George VI of England during the uprising in India in the 1940s, which led to its independence from Britain; the segregationists of the 1950s, including state leaders when the Civil Rights Movement really took hold; President Richard Nixon during the demonstrations against the war; President Zine El Abidine ben Ali of Tunisia, and no fewer than 16 other countries’ leaders who saw uprisings in the Arab-North African Region during the Arab Spring; and all the other leaders who saw change come at the hands of a nation’s people.
The people, when they are focused, can be a powerful force. Those in leadership, instead of actually listening, attempt to quell these vibrant voices. The problem is that with each event like the one at UC Davis, they lose credibility, and appear desperate to maintain control.
On the other hand, we have events like the pepper spraying by a woman of those around her at Wal-Mart on Black Friday 2011. I have to say this out loud or my head will explode: Perhaps the shoppers deserved it. I know. I know. Those readers who have clothing tags strewn all over their beds, and brand new televisions for $125 dollars will rail at what I have just written.
“Why shouldn’t we be allowed to be ungracious and wild-eyed in our attempts to get great deals before everyone else?!? Why shouldn’t we exercise our American freedom to jeopardize others’ safety to satisfy our greed?”
Well, the First Amendment grants many freedoms, but none of them includes injuring others to get a great deal; or perhaps I just don’t understand our Constitution fully. The woman who pepper sprayed other patrons of the store was clearly in the wrong, as are the people who shot other purchasers with firearms; however, because I believe that everything is for a reason, perhaps this is a wake-up call to all of us who experience this type of compulsive purchasing mania. If one wants to compete with others, take up a sport, play backgammon, or try out for American Idol, for goodness sake!
Pepper spray has its place. A group of hoodlums beat an innocent citizen, then discovered by the police, and the officers whip out their chile dust to protect the gentle person. That makes complete sense. Looters begin attacking privately owned shops after a horrific loss by their football team, and again, the police reach into their holsters for their canisters of irritant. This, too, is utterly reasonable to me.
Ultimately, we must look at our intentions as a people. What will we say is the appropriate use of control agents such as pepper spray, rubber bullets, and water cannons against our populace? It seems proper to use these methods to bring people back to their senses when they have clearly lost their minds in shopping or lamenting a sports loss. It appears wholly inexcusable and counter to everything we know as a nation to silence the voices of our citizens when they are speaking peacefully, but in large numbers, to our governmental leaders.