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Protests didn't stir indignity

April 25, 2002|BY TIM ROWLAND

Oh, for the days when I could work up a good lather of righteous indignation. I watched all the protests in Washington, D.C., this weekend looking for an issue to get irate about. There was plenty to pick from: Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, globalization, corporate greed, oil drilling, U.S. policy in Columbia. But nothing stirred. My indignity has flatlined. If there's anything worse than a grumpy old man, it's an apathetic old man and I'm about 90 percent there.

The only thing I felt mildly annoyed with in all the demonstrations were the demonstrators themselves. The Washington Post characterized Sunday as "a placid day of protests." If you're going to be placid about it, what's the point?

The protesters "wrote in chalk on the asphalt, tossed Frisbees and engaged in street theater." Gee. Pretty soon these incorrigibles might do something totally nuts, like tip over a chair.

Is a little looting too much to ask?

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Frisbees.

Like that's going to bring about world peace. I was too young for the hippie movement, thank heaven, but I vaguely remember Watts and Kent State on the news, and after that the idea that drawing on the sidewalk like Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins" is going to bring Dick Cheney to his knees seems a bit remote. Frisbees.

These people couldn't get anything right. At one point they laid themselves down in front of a police car, but "its driver put the squad car in reverse and left." I can just picture the protesters gnashing their teeth and saying "Curses, foiled again."

They even seemed to anger their own ranks. At one point, a student protesting the School of the Americas grabbed the mike and yelled "They're pressing their riot cops on us and we're just here dancing?" But organizers quickly yanked the microphone back from him and quieted him down.

Good heavens, what is this, a protest or a high tea? Please, let the guy rant against the police, or burn his Social Security card, or get arrested, or SOMETHING for the amusement of us watching on TV. I mean, you're competing for my attention with live coverage of Round 2,094 of the NFL draft on ESPN2, so do try to bring something to the table here besides doodling on the crosswalk in pastels.

Maybe the causes are the problem. This School of the Americas is supposedly some secret government operation that trains "dictators and assassins" for duty in Central and South America.

Dictators and assassins. That must make for an interesting course load. "Yeah man, it's brutal. I got Oppression 101 at 8:30, Principles of Black Market Weapons Stockpiling at 10 and then a two-hour lab in Organic Piano Wire."

Hard to find a job once you're out of the service, though. Imagine walking into an interview at Staples and explaining to the man why you have a dictator major with a minor in assassination.

I guess trained assassins probably aren't what Madison, Jefferson and Co. had in mind as a role of government, but is it really protest material? And nothing against the "U'wa indigenous tribe from the war-torn region of Arauca," but protesters can stir the juices a lot better when their audiences can at least find the spot of the atrocity on a map.

Of course, corporate greed drew its fair share of scornful frowns. They might have drawn more if so many people didn't draw paychecks from said greedy corporations.

I used to get worked up about corporate greed; now I just sort of ambivalently live with it. Corporations are greedy. That's what they do. Might as well protest against a baboon for being ugly.

And don't even try to get me stirred about the Mideast. Finding the high ground there is like finding a cactus in a swamp. It's all nuts. Must be something in the sand.

In conclusion, if they stop making Ben and Jerry's, if they take Jon Miller off Sunday Night Baseball, or if woodchucks are given the vote, maybe I'll be stirred enough to pick up a placard. Meantime, I'm more interested in who Tampa Bay took with the 359th pick overall.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. You can phone him at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or e-mail him at timr@herald-mail.com.

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