HIGHLANDS, N.C., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- (This new commentary feature, "Congressman Billybob Sez," written by lawyer John Armor, comments on political issues of the day.)
This here's the 326th Report ta the Folks Back Home from the (More er Less) Honorable Billybob, cyberCongressman from Western Carolina.
I's been in demonstrations. I's led demonstrations. I's talked with folks involved in other demonstrations what I don agree with.
But since this goes back ta the '60s, afore yer Congresscritter was a gleam in his assistant's eye, I'll turn this over ta ma able assistant, J. Armor, Esq.
"Ready!... Aim!... Sing!"
Near the end of Arlo Guthrie's 25-minute masterpiece, "Alice's Restaurant," he says to the audience:
"If you wanna end war 'n' things, you gotta sing loud. So sing out, the next time it comes around on the guitar ..."
He is, of course, poking fun at those who think mere words -- sung or otherwise -- can stop wars. No, this column is not about the Once and Future Minority Leader of the Senate, Li'l Tommy Daschle. It's about anti-war protesters, their leaders, and their lawyers. As a group they are a scurvy bunch -- obnoxious, bad-smelling and a burr under the national saddle but ultimately not dangerous either to the nation or the world.
Most of them are far to young to remember the '60s and far too historically illiterate to have read about them. So they are blissfully unaware of how well they are proving George Santayana's observation, "Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it." I, on the other hand, lived through the '60s and began my lifelong career of demonstrating for what's true, good and the American way, back then.
For those who are long of tooth, let's take a trip down memory lane. For those younger than that, observe and learn.
First of all, what is the nature of most of the anti-establishment demonstrators on any subject at any time? Most are teenage college sophomores, of whatever age and academic status. There is either a federal law or a law of nature that requires college sophomores to be dumb as a hoe handle. I know I was, though I like to think I was not quite as dumb as today's protesters.
So, stupidity is the first requirement. The other is the intent to stick a thumb in the eye of both society in general and Mom and Dad in particular. This is true even if, perhaps especially if, Mom and Dad are still paying the tuition so junior can cut college and participate in demonstrations.
I have taken part in over two dozen pro-government (or anti-Clinton, which I view as pro-government) demonstrations in the last six years. The folks I was with had an average age higher than 40, we dressed neatly, smelled nice, obeyed the law and did not block traffic or break the windows of Starbucks. That, plus the fact that the news media generally opposed the messages we were presenting, pretty well guaranteed that press coverage of our rallies was danged near zip. We were not your typical demonstrators.
Four of our events took place on the Mall in Washington. At two of them, I was the opening speaker. Demonstrators of the typical type were also there for their own rallies, beating their drums and chanting their anti-government mantras. I took time to talk, one-on-one, with about two dozen of the demonstrators on the other side. Here's a report on those folks.
Most are clueless, but well-intentioned. They offer excellent proof, if more be needed, of the truth of Alexander Pope's observation 350 years ago, that "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Most, however, are capable of education -- which is fortunate for the future of the nation. Most were, in fact, students in college, though three I spoke with just last month were very intelligent, relatively well-versed high school students -- from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, prep school to the spawn of the rich and famous -- so that was to be expected of them.
All claimed to be anti-war, though all were in tacitly in favor of mass murder as committed by favored dictators, against Americans, Jews, or their own captive populations. Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat were among their chosen coddled killers. All claimed to be anti-racist, though they were associated with the "Free Mumia" movement, in support of a black guy in Philadelphia who shot a white cop in the back, which would seem to the unjaundiced eye to be rather a racist action.
The main characteristics of the anti-war demonstrators were that slogans were a substitute for thinking and chants were a substitute for conversation. However, most of them when inveigled into personal conversations, showed ample signs that they will get a clue, will grow up, will become responsible parents and citizens and will in time be bedeviled by the behavior of their own children.
The leaders of such demonstrations, however, are a different kettle of fish. Let's begin with Ramsey Clark. Clark is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice, Tom Clark. I'm sure his father was proud when his son was sworn in as attorney general of the United States. I am equally certain old Tom is spinning in his grave like a NASA gyroscope at what his son has become.
Ramsey Clark is now a shill for assorted socialist, communist, Trotskyite groups (take your pick) that support various foreign dictators who claim to be socialists -- including Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Although the Baath Party says Iraq is socialist, in fact it is a classic dictatorship. Saddam possesses and uses the power to take anyone's property at will, and to have anyone who objects murdered on the spot.
Yet when Clark became the prime mover in the latest "Anti-War" and "Anti-Racism" Rally on the Mall in Washington, few news outlets mentioned his unsavory connections. C-SPAN even had him on for an interview as if he were an elder spokesman for the left.
Lynne Stewart, a lawyer for the time being, was one of the first "spokesmen" at that rally. She claimed that the Bush administration was trying to "prevent legal representation of people charged with terrorism." She neglected to mention that she was charged with the crime of helping the sheikh imprisoned for his leadership of the 1993 bombing attack on the World Trade Center. The authorities have her on tape, bragging about smuggling out messages for the sheik to assist future murder plots against Americans by Islamofascists.
Though she has yet to be tried, in my view as a lawyer any lawyer who is convicted of such an activity should be disbarred and jailed for a long, long time. And that has nothing to do with preventing honest lawyers (yes, Virginia, there are honest lawyers) from providing representation to anyone charged with any crime at any time.
So, in general, the leaders of these demonstrations tend to be hard-core opponents of the government and the Constitution of the United States. Their ultimate goal is the demise of both our government and our Constitution. They count on the ignorance and gullibility of those "college sophomores" to turn out without question, or thought. The rank and file demonstrators become "useful fools" in Lenin's classic phrase.
Lawyers for these groups regularly file suit against the regulations of these demonstrations. (My friends simply abide by those regulations.) The claimed purpose of these law suits is to "allow the demonstrators to carry out their First Amendment rights." The real purpose is something more sinister.
The real purpose of these demonstrations is not to convey a message. For all the chants about being "the voice of the people," the leaders know full well that "the people" disagree with them. Their purpose is to force people to pay attention to them because their minions break laws, break windows, and provoke the authorities into "acts of violence," all with the goal of appearing on television and seeming more important than they are.
One of the worst examples of this I've seen was one of the anti-globalization demonstrators in Seattle this year who brought his young child with him. He pushed to the front of the rampaging protesters facing the police and thrust his child out in front. Then he wrote proudly and hypocritically on the Internet that the "police targeted my child with tear gas." He was willing to use his own child as a stage prop and endanger the child's life for a photo opportunity. I know this story both from written descriptions and from photos.
Unlike most demonstrators, this man is unlikely to grow up to be a good parent. Some people should simply not be allowed to reproduce. But the laws of the United States do not, alas, permit that as a public policy choice.
An opposite example occurred this Halloween, when friends of mine in the D.C. Chapter of Free Republic decided to demonstrate, in costume, against the assembled foolishness at a fund-raiser in the D.C. home of Sen. Hillary Clinton. When seven of my friends showed up on the nearest legal sidewalk, six cop cars immediately arrived. The officers asked my friends if they "intended to get arrested," or "intended to go onto private property." As soon as they replied that they were all from Free Republic and intended no such things, five of the cop cars went on their way.
The authorities in D.C., both local and federal, know us well. They know we are polite, law-abiding, and seek only to state our messages. Which is why, as mentioned earlier, the press tends not to cover us. Deliberately law-abiding demonstrators don't get much ink or air-time. While we're on that subject, in a segment edited out before the broadcast of the recent Barbara Walters interview of Al Gore and his daughter, Al Gore made these claims: He said the demonstrators outside the vice president's home in D.C. during the 2000 election dispute were "bused in by the Republican National Committee," and were using "obscene" chants "all night long."
He is dead wrong on all three points. We had nothing to do with the RNC. We came in our own cars. We chanted, "Get out of Cheney's house." And we did so during "normal office hours." I know. I was there. I drove up from North Carolina in my Jeep to do that.
(In case you're wondering what I demonstrated about back in the '60s, once it was in favor of coeducation at Yale; the other was a generalized mob scene outside a motel in Norwalk, Conn., where we believed the Beatles were staying during their first U.S. tour. I was, however, AWOL from both the anti-war demonstrations and the Sexual Revolution.)
When you get right down to it, anti-war demonstrations are little different from stuffing phone booths or swallowing goldfish, except that more people are involved and they tend to take place in the street. Their "meaning" is no more than anti-establishment, "feel good" group gropes. Neither politics nor results are the real point for the deluded participants.
As Tom Lehrer sang in "The Folk Song Army:"
"Remember the war against Franco?
"That's the place where all of us belong.
"He may have won all the battles,
"But we had all the good songs."
The last stanza of Lehrer's song is an excellent summary on the whole subject:
"We are the Folk Song Army,
"Guitars are the weapons we bring,
"To the fight against poverty, war and injustice,
"Ready!... Aim!... Sing!"
(About the Author: Congressman Billybob is fictitious, but prolific, on the Internet -- the invention of John Armor, who writes books and practices law in the U.S. Supreme Court. Comments and criticisms are welcome at CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net).