"I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic, and we should stand up and say, 'We are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.'"
Was that a tea party protester seeking to rile up white men and incite them to violence?
No, that was Hillary Clinton in 2003. The administration she was criticizing was that of George W. Bush.
She was right then. Protest can be patriotic, and no one should be thought less of an American because that person opposes the policies of a particular administration.
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But now that the (left) shoe is on the other foot, we hear nothing about protest being patriotic. Instead, we hear from the left that it is dangerous and might lead to another Timothy McVeigh blowing up a federal building or trying to assassinate a president.
The left invented the modern protest movement. I recall covering some of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the late '60s and early '70s. Conservatives were on the side of American troops in Vietnam. They criticized the critics of presidents Johnson and Nixon. Conservatives believed it was unpatriotic to criticize a president fighting communists. Many conservatives supported Nixon almost to the very end in the Watergate scandal. Some said it was unpatriotic to belittle the president of the United States and that the media and Nixon's enemies were conspiring to "get him."
No one suggested at the time that the protests might lead to an attempt on a president's life.
People like William Ayers, Tom Hayden, Eldridge Cleaver, Sam Brown and Jane Fonda, and groups like SNCC, were seen by the mainstream media and liberal cultural commentators as exercising free speech and assembly, even when that assembly sometimes turned violent. Fonda's trip to Hanoi was treated by some on the left as legitimate protest.
Many on the left explained that protests -- even when they became violent -- were the result of pent-up emotions brought on by an "illegitimate" war about which the demonstrators could do nothing and so they had to protest in sometimes the most extreme ways. Now when the right becomes angry about what it sees as the systematic dismantling of the country through higher taxes, misspending (by both parties) and tone deafness, it is supposed to be setting the stage for the next Timothy McVeigh and is somehow illegitimate and outside constitutional boundaries.
If you don't like President Obama's policies, you are a racist who is setting him up for assassination by a neo-Nazi who is waiting in the (right) wings for sufficient inspiration. You should be lying down and taking it, because Obama wants only the best for all Americans.
If you don't like what courts are doing -- legitimizing behavior that used to be called sinful before that word fell into disrepute -- you are a fundamentalist wacko who wants to impose your religion on the country.
If you think the Founders wanted to restrict the power of the federal government and that your taxes on hard work and initiative are too high, you are a greedy, uncaring person who disregards the poor and needy. If you think many of the poor and needy made wrong decisions about their lives which contributed to their poverty, and that by making right decisions they could better their circumstances, this proves you are insensitive, judgmental and a religious nut.
In this way of thinking, everything done by government when it is headed by leftists (though not by conservatives) is noble, righteous and good. If you disagree with any of it, you are opposing God, though of course to the left there is no real God. Government is God.
The left conveniently forgets people like the 1960s black-power apostle H. Rap Brown, who said, "Violence is American as cherry pie." No it isn't, but peaceful protest is.
Contact Thomas, a syndicated columnist, at email@example.com.