This I Believe

Krista - West Brookfield, Massachusetts
Entered on May 12, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: citizenship
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Hey Hey, Ho Ho! Over-Protesting Has Got to Go!

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution grants the American people the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” As Americans, it is our right to protest laws, wars, and governmental decisions, with few restrictions. Just because we have the right to protest, however, does not mean we should don witty t-shirts and wave caustic signs at the slightest hint of controversy. Before one protests, one must have evaluated the issue with accurate and complete information and wholeheartedly believe in the issue. Without thorough information and a personal conviction, protests are meaningless gatherings.

Protests can be exciting events, with intoxicating chants, posters, and demonstrations. They bring the prospect of hope for change and celebrate the principle of “government for the people, by the people.” Wanting to be included in such a close gathering is human nature. We must restrain our knee-jerk reactions, though, because participating in the protest without a strong personal opinion does not add to the movement. Participating in the movement without information on the controversial topic is only ignorant—one cannot stand up for one’s beliefs if one does not understand the issue. Recently, students at my school organized a sit-in to protest an administrator’s leave of absence. The students were upset that they were not provided with details to his absence and demanded his return. With legal restrictions on the information that could be released at that time I believed that to condemn the rest of the administration would be wrong. I did not have enough information to participate and adamantly refused to enter the area in which the protest was held. A few weeks later, however, when the school attorney released the causes of the leave, I joined the organized campaign for his return; I needed the whole story before rushing into a haphazard and poorly planned riot.

My Marxist cousin is an ardent crusader for abortion rights. She attends pro-choice marches with signs reading, “It’s a choice, not a child!” and “I (heart) killing babies.” She has strong convictions that abortion rights are essential to American society. Although she often invites me to march and protest with her, I must decline the offer because I do not strongly believe in abortion rights. I cannot participate in a protest without already having solid and complete information to support my assertions. Although I disagree with the South Dakota legislation that effectively overturns Roe v. Wade, I do not have strong enough convictions to protest the measure.

Protesting can be an exhilarating and effective way for Americans to voice their opinions of key issues, but when they protest at the slightest provocation, they detract from its effectiveness. Before protesting, people should affirm that they wholeheartedly believe in their cause, have all necessary information, and are passionate about the outcome.