My Protest Against Ignorance


Published: October 11, 2007

On Sept. 29, I attended the protest rally to pull out of Iraq in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C.  Unlike the majority of the attendees, I was against withdrawal from Iraq.

I attended the rally because I wanted to hear what the protesters had to say on the issue. Even though I disagreed with them, I attended the protest because I feel that it is the obligation of a civil and intelligent person to know the whole story, not just one side of it.  Protests in general should make a statement about all sides of an issue.  Many people think protests are insignificant and don’t make an impact on those in power.  These people are right, but only to a certain degree. Protests may not directly impact the people we most wish to have an impact on, but they are significant because they increase the public’s awareness that there are, in fact, people out there who take a stand against current events.

As we watched the protest rally progress to the Capitol building, my friend, Benjamin Goldberg, and I were surprised to find out that the rally was not only about withdrawal from Iraq, but it was also about all the Middle East conflicts in general.  Among the “Bring Our Troops Home” signs, I spotted “Free Palestine” and “Stop War with Iran” signs.  As a person with pro-Israeli views, I felt it was my moral obligation to stand up for what I believed in.  What good is a belief if you keep it to yourself? That’s why Ben and I ran to the nearest flag store in sight and purchased two large Israeli flags and a couple of smaller ones.

Presuming that the freedom of speech and right to assemble applied to all Americans, Ben and I stood at the edge of the protest holding the Israeli flag high in the air. This was the first time I had ever counter-protested any issue at a rally, and the reaction Ben and I received was not the reaction I thought we would receive from “pro-peace” people.  As three Israelis joined our counter-protest, we were met with verbal abuse and threats from the Left.  I was surprised at this backlash; I had a stereotypical image of what a person with liberal views acts like.

One of the most important things this protest taught me was not to allow myself to succumb to stereotypical ideas. The liberals I encountered were more aggressive and violent than most of the conservative people I know. I have come to understand that Liberalism in practice does not mean peace and love for all, but rather it means fight for peace and love for us.  The contradiction of fighting for peace has tormented my mind since that day.  The hypocrisy of such a slogan made me embarrassed to be an American, because I came to understand that some of the Europeans that I have encountered had a point about American double standards. It’s true that there were instances during the protest when a person would pursue to speak with us in a civil manner to understand our side of the story; however, that was a rare occurrence.

As “Long live the Intifada!” was blasted through megaphones in our ears, someone had the audacity to steal the Israeli flag out of our hands.  Our attention diverted, we were unable to catch up with the culprit.  For a moment, I felt our flag would meet the same fate the American flag met earlier in the rally when it was burned with cigarette lighters. I was utterly disgusted when the protesters committed this crime. They were exercising the very freedom the flag represented; the very one they were burning to ashes.  I was surprised yet again when an idealistic liberal brought back our flag unharmed. It was then that a Nietzsche quote came to my mind, “Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

By now it seemed that the situation was out of control, and the police officers were particularly unfazed as the angry mob began to surround us. I was thrown back as the same girl who had stolen the Israeli flag had grabbed hold of my hair and proceeded to grab at the small Israeli flags sticking out of it.  As the crowd cheered her on, I came to the realization that acts of passion such as this, which did away with reason and all rationale, were well respected by the protestors.  I was unnerved by the similarity between these protesters and the radical Palestinians back home. When I began to verbally attack the hypocrisy of the situation, the protestors accused me of being an instigator; they said I was only there to provoke. This was an ironic accusation since the protesters themselves were there to provoke the people sitting inside the Capitol building and the people sitting within their homes, who disagreed with the protest’s cause.

After a police officer escorted me off the premises, I looked back at the protest with no regrets.  It may have seemed to the protesters that Ben, the three Israelis and I had barely made a difference, but I don’t feel that this is true. How can a belief have any morale, if it is not met with opposition?  The arrogance of ignorance imprisons its willing victims, but there is always a small chance that one victim yearns for liberation. I believe that victim is worth fighting for.

Why did the fathers of our constitution find it so necessary to add the right to assemble?  I know that such a right provides the people with the ability to voice their opinions on issues. This is a right that has been acknowledged as a privilege and yet neglected throughout history.  It is a right we, as a people, should exercise from time to time so as to remind those in power that we have not lost our voices.  Words have the power to create, as they have the power to destroy.  It is us who choose that which we wish to impose upon the world. I hope that each of our impositions will receive the respect they deserve.  Then again, I have always been very idealistic…