Bill Larsen: An open letter to the protesters
As an old “Lefty” who has taken to the streets for 50 years protesting social inequity, I thank you for your caring and your effort.
In publicly demonstrating for racial justice, you are participating in the great Democratic Experiment undertaken by our Founders so many years ago (but tragically left unfinished). I applaud your patriotism.
In this spirit, I ask you to consider a few suggestions from an old comrade who would like to see our movement strengthened and our numbers increased. First, I urge you to find ways to better advertise future demonstrations so that all who wish to participate have the opportunity to do so. This has frequently not been the case, and I know many folks (including myself) who would have joined your ranks if we had prior notice.
My sense is that it is through Facebook — or perhaps other social media outlets — that you communicate, but please understand there are many who do not use Facebook so you need to find a broader method to advertise upcoming actions. Having more people in our ranks makes it harder for the right-wingers to label our cause as a fringe movement.
The issue of obtaining a permit for demonstrations relates to this point. As long as the governmental powers are willing to issue permits, it is definitely in our favor to obtain them and communicate with local police before events. Doing so not only establishes credibility in the eyes of the public, it provides a communication system alerting interested parties who can then join the demonstration. It also alerts local police who would then (hopefully) not be as overwhelmed as the Nevada City police were during the Aug. 9 affair.
If, in the future, local authorities begin refusing to issue permits, that might be a time to organize extra-legal demonstrations. But that isn’t the situation at this point, and working with the prevailing authorities is also a form of activism that can educate the public and amplify our call for racial equality.
This may seem like an odd request, but I encourage you to incorporate American flags into your demonstrations. On Aug. 9, it was a disgusting irony that those waving the flag were the very ones denigrating our Constitution and trying to block the expression of free speech. But it is you, the advocates for racial justice, who truly carry the flag in your attempts to fulfill the American Dream. Never forget that — even with its undeniable history of racial suppression — our country represents an evolutionary effort to establish a social order that provides every citizen “certain inalienable rights” in the exercise of his/her life and freedom. Her failure to complete this in the first 250 years of her existence is simply a call for the rest of us to pick up the struggle and carry it forward.
Please don’t give up on America. Your country needs you more than ever. She is your true heritage, and you (those willing to fight for the fulfillment of her destiny) her greatest hope. Let your focus not be on tearing America down, but on completing the Dream that so many before us have striven to attain under the most heinous of circumstances. This is your country, your flag, your dream, don’t let the misinformed, the naysayers and the outright fascists ever convince you otherwise.
My last suggestion is simply an observation made over time.
There is no doubt that our struggle demands heavy doses of outrage and perseverance. But let’s not forget that it also demands patience. We are not only a young nation, we are — in cosmological terms — a young people, a young planet. At birth, we found the goal of instituting a full democracy incomplete, and, even with our best efforts, it will remain undone when we leave mother earth. In terms of maintaining a reasonable perspective, our mental health demands that we have the humility to realize that it may not be our job to compete the process, but it certainly is our job to continue the effort.
Once again, I applaud you for doing so.
Bill Larsen lives in Nevada City.
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