Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi didn’t carry protest signs taunting, “F--- You!”
They had real issues to slay: legalized segregation, assassination attempts and the independence of India.
They weren’t moved to their great deeds by bombastic verbal taunts. Not even the sort of vitriol that is Donald Trump and his GOP presidential race.
America today has a loudmouth with a plentiful bank account running for the presidency. And too many people troll along behind, mindlessly joining his band. It’s a real problem that must be stopped.
In another 24 hours, it may all be less threatening. By end of the day Tuesday, the returns will be in and the number of votes necessary to grab the Republican nomination may recede further from Trump’s grasp.
But that soothing scenario felt far off Saturday, when thankfully, all hell did not break loose as Trump spoke in downtown Kansas City. Be grateful that arrests were kept to a handful, four people. Be grateful that no one was seriously injured.
Be grateful that the worst of it was shouting matches, people giving each other the bird and spewing F-bombs, verbally and from the signs that some protesters carried.
Yes, the police’s use of pepper spray is questionably excessive. It’s a crowd control tool that isn’t easily directed at just a few. And it was a bare few who deserved it.
But you don’t slug a horse with a cop mounted atop and not expect a reaction. And not just from the horse. Don’t expect police to be idle while they have a bomb threat to investigate inside a packed theater and thousands of people gathered within nearby blocks.
And don’t get agitated that police didn’t step between people getting mouthy with one another. Police wisely let the emotions vent, while ciphering out those who seemed to be aching for a brawl.
The most important of the protesters’ goals was accomplished and accomplished thoroughly outside and inside Trump’s rally at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. They countered Trump. They did not shut down his event.
Some of the language was anything but demure. But there were plenty of examples that were artistically crafted, or articulately beautiful in sentiment.
“Not In My City,” “Mr. Hate leave our state,” “We Make America Great,” “Deport Racists.”
Moreover, it was the faces in the crowd that spoke loudly. And they did it just by being present. Muslim women with their heads covered, people displaying the gay pride rainbow, children, and people in every variety of race and hue.
Their presence was a stark contrast to the crowd gathered across the street, to the west, which skewed older and white. The group on the east side was a representation of all of America. For more to be accomplished, for the two sides to meet in the middle, to talk through their perspectives benefiting both — that was not going to happen along Main Street.
Not that night.
People are often tempted to envision themselves akin to the civil rights leaders of yesteryear when in protest. There is a romantic allure to the premise.
It’s not that their efforts are not passionate, well-meaning and spirited. They know important movements are about making changes in systems, not merely rebuffing hate speech with shouts and put-downs flung across a street.
That’s why there is no sepia-toned video of King cussing out someone who disagreed with him. In public, he wouldn’t have considered such a rant, even for those who called him the slur long flung at black men. At least not later in his life, not after he accepted the tenets of nonviolence.
His cause was about more, about ultimately achieving economic justice for the poor and systemically downtrodden. King didn’t react primarily from emotion, hurt feelings.
And yet, that was the pain on display Saturday.
Tuesday offers the most effective and long-standing way for anyone older than 18 to counter Trump. It’s a deceptively quiet action. No cussing, no confrontation is necessary.