Having someone you love serve in the military and perish at the hands
of faceless cowards is something very few of us can grasp. Having that
tragedy occur and then witness people in your neighborhood, church or
campus act out these events is even more unbelievable.
I can't imagine the pain. Neither can certain war protesters whose efforts transcend beyond the fine lines of peaceful protest and enter into the territory of disrespect.
On March 19, there were 17 anti-war advocates stood in front of Hendricks Chapel holding signs such as "Bong Hits for Peace" and "War is a failure of government," according to an article published in The Daily Orange March 20. The event was followed by another protest that took place the same day, one during which 22 people were arrested for disorderly conduct while they blocked off traffic in downtown Syracuse. Both protests included people laying down in the streets pretending to be dead soldiers.
"I think its fine," said Marshall Henry, a member of the Student Peace Action Network and an organizer of one of the protests. "A lot of students have been accused of being apathetic around campus; that most students don't care. It really shows the students' dedication, whether you believe it or not, to be out there on the quad laying out there on the ground. It's just a great way to show it."
Henry said he did not plan the dead soldier act.
Carmen Craft, a participant at both protests, has a boyfriend currently fighting in Iraq.
"I feel she's entitled to say whatever she wants because she has a loved one currently serving right now," Henry said. "I don't believe she has lost anyone close to her in the war, but she's certainly connected to it. I'm sure her boyfriend has served with people who have died."
Despite how a number of the protestors were participating for warranted reasons, there has to be a more effective way to display your dedication than taking such an extreme measure. Perhaps signs and chants in an appropriate place would have been effective and less offensive.
I also have had loved ones serve overseas and still feel it is not a
free pass to act in such a manner. Had my family members been
casualties of the war, I would not want to see a "street theater," as
Henry so accurately put it, showing how they lost their lives.
The situation is complicated. The war is so complex that feelings and personal experiences come in varying intensities and with different viewpoints.
Despite this complication, there has to be a boundary between the expression of one's feelings and the disregard of others'.
"Certainly there are limits to freedom of speech," said Peter Bell, SU professor of law. "Such as, if you occupy someone's building or space, you have trespassed, and they can take you out and can obviously arrest you. There are a lot of little certain types of limits built in there. The way it works out is, yeah, you have the right to freedom of speech, but there are ways where (protesters) can shoot themselves in the foot by behaving in ways that discourage support for whatever it is they're trying to get accomplished."
Case in point - on Easter Sunday, six anti-war protesters entered a church in Chicago, disrupting a mass by yelling, chanting and squirting fake blood on themselves and other parishioners, according to a report by FOX News.
The protesters were charged with multiple felonies, including felony trespass. Some people may say this was too harsh of a penalty, like Karen Conti, a professor of law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as she stated on The O'Reilly Factor the following Monday night.
While I can partially see where Conti is coming from, I have no problem with categorizing this far-left insanity as a felony.
If such acts, like the one Conti addresses, were not considered felonies, the right to worship can be thrown almost out the window. People have, and should, continue to have such an important right, especially on such an important religious holiday as Easter.
And although the protest that took place here on campus is nowhere near as extreme as this, it still reminds us that respect should be evident in forms of protest. And this respect for individual rights is something that should extend from worshipers on Easter Sunday, to family members of the armed services and to those who have lost loved ones in wars.