[Wildcat Online: opinions] [ad info]





Stand up for what's right


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

John A. Ward

By John A. Ward
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
December 1, 1999
Talk about this story

On Monday, the World Trade Organization began meeting in Seattle for global trade negotiations. The organization consisting of approximately 135 nations hoped to make headway on a set of fair trade policies. As the conference began, environmental and labor protesters began making a raucous in the streets of Seattle. This conference really seems to have created a fighting spirit in the protesters whose actions yesterday sent a message to the delegates about just how serious they are.

Yesterday, the protesters began to chain themselves together and lay across busy intersections that led to where the conference was being held in an attempt to make travel to the conference extremely difficult. Having no other choice, the Seattle police had to unleash their nightsticks and red pepper spray to disband the angry protesters. At one point, the protesting in the downtown Seattle area was said to look like a war zone with cops garbed in their riot helmets met the protesters.

I was beginning to get worried that the ever-powerful economy and the comfortable lifestyle of most Americans were making us so complacent and subdued that we were unwilling to fight for principles and worthwhile causes anymore. It was heartening to see the protesters in Seattle making such a bold statement and really standing strong.

It's been a while since we have protested in large numbers and caused the local authorities to take out their riot gear. We Americans need to be willing to fight harder than we have for what we believe. We need to be willing to take a beating when we feel we are fighting for a just cause. When our democratically elected government won't hear us then we must make them by being a vocal group.

Perhaps the WTO protests in Seattle are an indicator of a revival in American society of vocal, organized, grassroots opposition to government policy that is reminiscent of the 1960s. Only time will tell, but we should hope that it is. The more that "We the People" participate in all different types of ways (voting, contacting our representatives, protesting, marching) in our political process, the more that robust democracy is realized and attained.

I do not support the cause for which the environmentalists and labor unions are fighting for, but I do support their political involvement in the democratic process. Perhaps marches and rallies would have been more desirable than angry, near-riot protests, but something is better than nothing.

Sadly, there are some allegations that these protesters may have attempted to plant some type of explosives in the building where the conference is being held. This type of political action is not acceptable and is anathema to democracy because instead of injecting ideas into the political marketplace, it kills those who hold legitimate though different ideas.

It is uncertain whether these energetic protests will have any effects on the outcome of the WTO conference, but one thing is for certain: the delegates to this conference did hear their concerns and their objections. In our form of representative democracy (Republic), sometimes all you can ask is that they hear you.

Though simply being heard may not sound like much, I believe that when you are heard somewhere down the line, your statements will have some effect on someone, somewhere, somehow. No matter how small the effect of your statements on the political process, it is significant because the political process then somehow represents more interests and is more diversified.

Thus let us be willing, as these people in Seattle were, to stand up for our causes and our beliefs. Let us not be the silent masses whose interests are peripheral. We must exercise our democracy in as many ways as possible. We should not let a stellar economy and an easy life make us complacent, and we should not let a busier lifestyle be an excuse for political inactivity. We must decide now and everyday whether we are going to be a member of society who strengthens our democratic character or weakens it. For your sake and your country's sake, be a force that strengthens it.

[end content]
[ad info]