Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Protests Too Much

Remember the Saturday Night Live "version" of 60 Minutes' old, pre-Andy Rooney program-closer, "Point/Counterpoint?" The Jane Curtin/Dan Aykroyd takeoff on those Sunday night face-offs between political commentators Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick?

Sure you do. In today's politically parallel climate, you can hardly turn around without hearing someone call someone else an "ignorant sl--;" er, let's just say there are an awful lot of people trying to make a point in the stupidest ways imaginable.

From the shores of Old Europe - oh, don't make that face; it's petulant France with all the Iraqi business interests, not to mention Baby Doc Duvalier, not me. And what about "I'll say anything to get elected" Gerhard Schroder? Must have gone to the Gray Davis School of Politicking - to the banks of Lake Casitas (where woe betide anyone who isn't wearing a "Free the Steelhead" T-shirt), dissent has never looked uglier.

Wait, yes it has: On Saturday Night Live. But that was television, o ye of ideological differences, you. Did all those "Kids, don't try this at home" disclaimers go for naught?

Take last weekend's so-called peace rallies, "so-called" because, from where I sat, less than half the teeming throng was rallying for peace. There were people carrying "Free Palestine" (take it to the Gaza Strip, pal); "Decriminalize pot" (uh, dude; wrong rally); "Kill Bush" (there's a real peaceful message for you), and a variety of other decidedly stupid signs.

Who ever imagined Madonna would come across as the most "intelligent" protester: "I'm not anti-Bush," the pop music mogul told MTV; "just pro-peace."

What a coincidence, so am I! And I know a lot of other people who are pro-peace, too! In fact, I'd bet every sane person on the planet is pro-peace - perhaps even pro-love, pro-health, and pro-happiness, too!

Want to protest a war? Then protest a war, for Pete's sake. Don't believe a preemptive strike on Iraq is warranted? Then why didn't you say so? Calling those who do "imperialistic pigs" doesn't exactly get your point across.

Just as no one in his right mind would take to the streets with a "No peace!", "Disease rules!", or "Up with hate!" sign, no one in his right mind would respond to people who can't stay on message.

But all this is moot, anyway, because your average heart is made up long before your average mind, and it takes an awful lot of work, if not a cataclysmic event, to get the two to meet (much less get along.)

Case in point: A friend of mine hated anything that even smelled "conservative" - I was always sure to burn some "Eau du Berkeley" incense in the den if I knew she'd be coming by - until her brother was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In the 18 months since, however, not only has my friend, a working artist, deigned to meet with Rudy Giuliani, she's come to like him so much she's adding his portrait to her gallery of "stars" (Che Guevara, Molly Yard, et al) What's more, she's no longer ashamed of her other brother's job - FBI agent.

It shouldn't take a cataclysmic event to get people of opposing viewpoints to meet each other halfway. To paraphrase Rodney King, can't we all just play fair?