Today I am sharing my favorite quote regarding the argument, “but he’s the President now, so we need to stop with the dissent and unite behind him.” I see it quoted in part here & there on Facebook and Twitter, usually with a pretty image, often paraphrased. Me, I like my historical data as intact as I can find it. Here ya go:
“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.”
“Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.”
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” Theodore Roosevelt
The masses can be wrong. But so can elected leaders. Declaring the power in charge right by virtue of it being in charge make zero sense. None. It’s a circular argument. Logic breaks. If crimes against persons & property occur in the course of a protest, those acts are illegal regardless of motive. Their occurrence in no way invalidates dissent as a concept.
I keep seeing the argument that vocal–violent–public protest against duly elected officials is not “a right guaranteed in the Constitution.” No, it is protected by the First Amendment covering free assembly and free speech. It is protected there for a reason. Breaking up dissenting mobs and declaring them criminals was an act of tyranny the Founding Fathers knew firsthand. They recognized the necessity of public protest, and considered its occurrence a failure of the government.
Sure, dissent isn’t cooperative, helpful, courteous, or peaceful. It isn’t comfortable. It is what happens when working within the system fails. It’s what happens when too many people are treated discourteously, unhelpfully, or violated by the system. More importantly: the system is people. When enough people are mistreated badly enough by other people, that’s when the system breaks.
No one who engages in dissent does so lightly. Acting on principle means becoming a target for those who have the power to do the greatest harm. No one who has something left to lose does that on a lark or for entertainment value.
Don’t rock the boat? The rocking starts when the boat is already sinking and people’s feet are getting wet. Yes, it would be nice if we all pulled together to get the boat to shore where it can be repaired, but telling all the people screaming “we’re about to drown!” to shut up and sit down doesn’t help. They’re the ones wielding buckets and trying to save the day.
You know what would help? Pick up a bucket and start scooping. Or at least stand between those doing the work and the people who want the damned boat to sink so they can collect the insurance.
OK. Rant over.
quotation pulled from TheodoreRoosevelt.org
Postscript 1: I don’t get into politics much online because a) others do it better, and b) the internet isn’t a forum for discussion, it’s a gladiatorial pit and c) I must guard against burning out my physical engine with constant revving.
So I do little and say less. But I do not sit idle or look away. And that requires occasionally standing up in my own space and declaring my position.
Note I said my position, not my opinion. I have zero tolerance for the dismissal of thoughtful statements with “I suppose you’re entitled to your opinion. I don’t agree, but I don’t want to argue.” It’s surpassed only by “your facts are not my facts” as a way to hit every Big Red Emotional Dissonance Button on my board. Which is where (c) up there comes in.
Postscript 2: comments off because of everything in Postcript 1.(But I left likes turned on in case anyone feels like leaving an affirming little star. Because I am a sucker for affirmation, yes I am.)