Why Protest? Because Jefferson Said We Should

 

. . . The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.” — Thomas Jefferson.

By Joe Registrato, Contributing Editor

Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, had a lot to say about protesting, the kind of protesting we’re seeing now in the days since Donald Trump was elected to be our next president.

Jefferson was in favor of it. So am I.

There are several items I plan to discuss, because I’m not happy about some of the stuff going on and as usual, I don’t plan to keep quiet about it.

Item Number One: The vice president-elect goes to a Broadway show that is based upon some things that happened in early American history, and he is personally addressed by a member of the cast, whose message was this: “We sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights… We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Now the show is a big hit and hundreds of people are applauding and loving this interaction because, even if you took the obvious political message out of the thing, the whole deal is kind of like theater within theater, if you will.

So this is fairly good news, if you ask me, because it is a dialog, a real-time communication between some famous actors, the audience, and the vice president of the United States himself, the man a heartbeat away from the top job. And it’s damn sure going to be on the front page of The New York Times! To me, this is an opportunity, that’s OPPORTUNITY in capital letters, for the President to score a big hit, a public relations home run of sorts, with his critics. All he had to say was, “We hear you loud and clear, we are listening, and look, we are attending your great Broadway show about Alexander Hamilton. We understand your trepidation, your nervousness, and we are going to do everything we can to dispel those worries, show you that we are going to be the administration of all the people.”

Now if I were in Donald Trump’s shoes or advising the President, which I can assure you is a place I will never be considering his politics and mine, that would have been the message I would want to send. See Donald, you don’t have to be defensive. You Won. This is a perfect opportunity to show them they’re all wrong.

So does Donald take this softball that is tossed to him and hit a home run? Noooooooooooo, he does not. Donald’s very predictable answer, almost too predictable at this point, is to say, via his favorite means of communicating, Twitter: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen…..Apologize.”

There are several points I would like to make about the President’s tweet. First, the President sounds like a petulant 7th grader, which is almost unavoidable, but also shows he has learned nothing about what a great many people think of him. I would like to go on record at this point with an official announcement. If at some time in the future, some historical reference is made about Donald Trump being America’s first “7th grader President,” or words to that effect, I get at least partial credit for coining the term. Second, the Tweet sets up an “us against them” scenario. What happened to the President for all the people? And third, the most worrisome part to me, the Commander in Chief of the greatest military force in the world, which must obey his every command, has just ordered a bunch of Americans to “apologize” for saying something he didn’t like. This sounds a lot like an angry dictator commanding the crowd to “Be quiet.” And if we don’t be quiet? Can the firing squad be far behind?

Item Number Two: The critics beat Mike Evans into submission. He will no longer protest the election of Donald Trump by refusing to stand for the national anthem at Tampa Bay Buc games.

Evans took so much heat for this, including heat from elected officials who vowed to boycott Buccaneer football games because of it, he’s given up.

According to a Tom Jones column in the Tampa Bay Times, Evans is still upset about Trump, but he “vowed to stand for the national anthem from now on.”

I hope the people who shouted Mike Evans down, who criticized him for exercising a right shared by all Americans, are all happy about your great victory. You have obtained silence.

Let me just point out for the record that thousands of Americans have given up their lives to protect the constitution of the United States, which protects Evans’ right to speak out, express himself in any way he wants to, including burning the flag of the United States if he wants to, not standing up for the national anthem if wants to, or saying anything at all about what he thinks is right and wrong with America. These Americans who were killed, and thousands of others wounded and put in harm’s way to protect that constitution did so because they believed the rights are so important they should never be infringed upon. I’m talking about men and women who died in all the wars we have fought as a nation, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, The War in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of people have died protecting your right to protest. The heat you have put on Mike Evans is a slap in the fact to all those Americans who put their lives on the line, including, I am proud to say, my own.

I wish I could get all those people who convinced Mike Evans to stop his protest could go with me to the Veteran’s Hospital up on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard or the Veteran’s Medical Clinic on Fletcher Ave. when I go to get checkups or have blood drawn. I’d like to introduce you to some of the veterans that go there to have their prosthesis adjusted because they got their arms or legs blown off protecting that constitution you so blithely trample on. Because that’s what you’re doing when you tell Mike Evans he shouldn’t protest like every American ought to be able to. You’re trampling on that constitution that these veterans gave up limbs for.

It saddens me and it scares me that this is America in 2016. An America so ignorant and so full of self-righteousness that it can’t see Mike Evans’ point of view, an America so narrow minded that it can’t tolerate another person’s views, an America so unconcerned about the Constitution that it is willing to allow the rights guaranteed to all of us to be eroded by the opinion of a few loud mouths.

Specific Number three: Protests are continuing throughout the country, including in the Tampa Bay Area. Why? The man has been elected. Shouldn’t we get over it?

This was my reaction at first. I’m seeing it differently.

Every time I see a Mike Evans getting beaten down, I’m going to stand up and shout. Every time I hear the President or one of his henchmen tell somebody to “be quiet,” I’m going to stand up and shout. Every time, every time, every time. It’s what should be required of every single American.

Here’s another line you should remember from Thomas Jefferson: “What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment . . . inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose.”

So if we’re going to give each other grief about all this protesting, at least let it be a free and open grief, if for no other reason, than to keep happy the soul of Thomas Jefferson.

Editor’s Note: Joe Registrato’s After The Morning After column is Joe’s way of saluting and remembering Tom McEwen, the late, great Sports Editor of The Tampa Tribune, whose Morning After column was a staple of the original Tribune for more than 30 years.

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Joseph J. Registrato is a journalist and lawyer. He was a news reporter, assistant city editor, city editor and assistant managing editor of The Tampa Tribune from 1971 to 1987.   After graduation from Stetson College of Law, he was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1989, and was an assistant state attorney with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office from 1989 through 1991. He was in the private practice of law for more than twenty years in the areas of family law, criminal defense and appellate practice. He is now an assistant public defender at the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s Office of Julianne Holt. He is a U. S. Marine Corps veteran and served in the conflict in the Republic of Vietnam in 1968-1969. Registrato is a contributing editor of AliveTampaBay.com.

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