There is a new surge in town. That surge is a surge in protests starting with protests in August in Kennebunkport, Maine and Newark, New Jersey and ending with the October 27 UFPJ protests that will occur across the country. Will the protests cause the Bush Administration to change its pro-war policies? Probably not. But less we either think that our protests are in vain or grow weary of demonstrating, imagine our country without dissent.
For example, without the right to dissent, the 26 amendments to The Constitution could be reduced down to one: you have the right to conform.
Without the right to dissent, instead of listening and thinking for ourselves, we would only need to listen.
Without the right to dissent, the President could become a secular pope who would be regarded as being infallible.
Without the right to dissent, "the land of the free and the home of the brave" will become the land of the subdued and the home of the cowering.
Without the right to dissent, we will be told to sacrifice our morals on the altar of Patriotism and crucify our integrity on the cross of Nationalism.
Without the right to dissent, the pledge of allegiance could become a "Sieg Heil" and the hand over the heart a Nazi salute.
The right to dissent is our canary in the mine.
Having the right to dissent doesn’t mean that we should always exercise it, but it gives us options--especially when our leaders fail. Having the right to dissent means we can imitate the Old Testament prophets who often stood alone as they told evil kings to repent. These prophets were vindicated when God’s judgment fell upon those kings.
But perhaps the best way to show the importance of dissent is to look at what it has been accomplished. Because of dissent, the Vietnam War was shortened significantly. And unless the Vietnam War was shortened, this author, who grew up as a great indoorsman, would have been sent over and would probably have become a casualty. Because of dissent, other lives were saved. And perhaps if there was the same dissent at the beginning of the Vietnam War as there was before the beginning of the Iraq War, millions of lives could have been saved.
Because of dissent, the media and even some in government are starting to hold President Bush accountable for his wartime decisions. Because our dissent has persisted, the blank check that the media and Congress once wrote to President Bush is now beginning to be cancelled.
Because of dissent, great advances were made in the Civil Rights of all, not just a few. And even when Civil Rights activists were greeted with official and unofficial violence and abuse, they were not distracted from their righteous goals by responding in kind. Rather, they chose the higher moral way. As a result, they moved the heart of this country. Finally, without their dissent, what would have become of those who suffered either as victims of bigotry or lovers of hate?
The group that has been most influenced by dissent is not the government but society in general. We could call this collateral healing. Past dissent has boosted the civility of our society and present dissent can do the same provided that our dissent persists and is civil. For if we imitate the violence and hatred of the people we are protesting, we cease to resist them, we join them.
Even if our present government fails to respond to our dissent, if our actions move our society to become more civil and caring, we are setting the stage for the future. That future could consist of a society electing a government that has the same values as its voters. That could happen only if we persist in dissenting peacefully.