Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Time Magazine this week announced that it was still a publication. They did so by issuing their annual pronouncement of their “Person of the Year” as “The Protester”. My initial reaction was “Time Magazine still exists?” And then I proceeded to not care very much. After all, the award is said to have originated when Time failed to put Charles Lindbergh on their cover after the first transatlantic flight. Their pronouncement of him being “Man of the Year” corrected that error, and now provides them a lengthy feature to fill an issue when most newsmakers are trying to achieve downtime for the holidays.
The list of other recent inspiring awardees include “You”, and “Earth”. But this year’s award is actually a repeat of their 1966 award, provided to “The Baby Boomers”. The text itself is a celebration of the protest movement of the sixties, and laments that for decades “ ‘Massive and effective street protest’ was a global oxymoron until – suddenly and shockingly – starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.”
Exactly one year ago eh? I guess Time Magazine completely missed the protests of the TEA Party. Or perhaps, they disqualify the TEA Party’s street protests as not being “massive and effective”. After all, they only spontaneously created hundreds of chapters across the country, mobilized thousands at protests in local areas and a march on Washington, battled not only the policies of the President who initially drew their ire, but the members of the Republican party whom they thought were providing aid and comfort to a system that they found fundamentally broken.
They provided the energy and message for one of the largest shifts of power during an election in the country’s history, and did so not just by voting out Democrats, but also by taking on and removing members of the Republican Party that most within the movement eventually aligned with to achieve their purposes. In the process, they were referred to as an “angry mob”, were decried as racists, and otherwise painted as fringe from many if not most media outlets.
Months into the Occupy movement, the central unifying force seems to be an apologetic media corps still trying to define the movement on behalf of the protestors who are still unable to articulate their actual positions, let alone map out a “massive and effective” strategy to implement change. Protestors in California continue to try and block ports to show solidarity with the dock workers. Those workers who are doing quite well and actually seem to want to go to work every day and get paid are not amused. Nonetheless, the Occupy protestors who don’t seem to have or want work, believe they know best.
Closer to home, the Georgia Green Party is planning to protest the annual Wild Hog Supper, a dinner held the night before the General Assembly is called into session where legislators and other Georgia elected officials meet at Underground Atlanta’s depot for a Barbecue with everyday Georgians. Ticket proceed benefit the Georgia Food Bank Association, but the Green Party wishes to use the dinner as an occasion to protest “an odious celebration of privileged excess and access”.
The right of the Americans to peaceably assemble and air their grievances is a tradition that is older than this country itself. It is the cornerstone of the very beliefs that our country is founded upon. Over romanticizing protest for the sake of protest, without looking to the coherence of message nor the validity or practicality of suggested policy changes or actions is nothing more than celebrating emotion without direction.
Among the first actions of the protestors who gathered to occupy Atlanta’s Woodruff Park was to deny a true protesting pioneer and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom John Lewis the right to address their group. These protestors who are being celebrated for being makers of history are so ignorant of their own that they deserve nothing more than brutal mocking. The ribbons for participation continue to be bestowed upon them by those sympathetic to their cause who are willing to overlook any sense of actual strategy and instead applaud just showing up.
In a world that no longer wishes to acknowledge individual achievement, it seems fitting for a publication to provide awards not based on merit, but by nebulous feelings of who should have won. Time magazine has reduced an award once reserved for the biggest newsmaker of the year, and reduced it to a certificate of participation.