Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Symbolic action, and a contest
We all know the story of Cindy Sheehan. Her son Casey was killed in Iraq last year. After attending an audience that Bush gave for parents of soldiers killed in action, Sheehan came away dissatisfied has joined the anti-war protest movement. She is camped outside of Bush's ranch in Crawford for the duration of his five-week vacation hoping to get a chance to ask him some questions. Bush refuses to meet with her.

You might agree with what she's doing or oppose it. That's a matter of individual opinion. What's indisputable is that the Crawford protest has been becoming something of a circus. Crawford's original encampment was a couple on the side of the road, near the turn off to Bush's ranch. Over the last two weeks, other anti-war protesters have come to join her. Counter-protesters have set up on the opposite side of the road. A stream of the merely-curious pass through every day. Porta-poties have been brought in. The local police have been stretched to the limit trying to control traffic and enforce private property rights. Naturally, the press has shown up. As of yesterday, there were about 300 people on Sheehan 's side, 100 counter-protesters, and an indeterminate number of police, reporters, and spectators.

One section of the protestor's camp is called Arlington West. There they have erected rows of small crosses, in the style of a military cemetery, with the names of all the American military dead in the Iraq War so far. It's said to be a very tasteful and moving display. Some of the counter-protesters have crossed the road to place flags and flowers among the crosses. Mourning and respect for the dead are not partisan properties.

Many of Bush's neighbors are, understandably, tired of the whole business which has interrupted their lives with noise, traffic snarls, and trespassers. While they are not completely agreed on who to blame, they are all tired of it. One group has petitioned the town assembly to pass an ordinance banning protests along Prairie Chapel Road. This would in effect move all protests into the town proper, seven miles away. There's no word on how the residents of the town proper feel about that suggestion.

Other residents have been more demonstrative and taken things outside legal channels.
Anti-war protesters outside President Bush's ranch here were startled Sunday by gunshots fired by a Texas rancher frustrated by the group's presence.

"Well, I'm getting ready for dove season," Larry Mattlage, 62, told reporters of the shots fired around 10 a.m. (noon EDT). Asked if there was an underlying message to the shots, which he fired harmlessly into the air, Mattlage told a reporter, "Figure it out for yourself."

Get it? He wants to shoot "doves." Oh, that wacky Texas sense of humor.

Last night, Larry Northern, of nearby Waco decided to express his opinion by driving over the crosses and flags of the Arlington West display.
About an hour ago, we got a phone call from our friends up at Camp Casey saying that the line of gravemarkers along the road (Arlington West) had been run over. People there said that as they were talking to a few members of the press, a pick-up truck came down the road and stopped at the fork by the edge of the tents. The driver then jumped out and attached a pipe to the undercarriage with a chain and began to "swerve into the line of crosses," said Tammara Rosenleaf from Montana. "Then we heard the pipe being dragged over the gravemarkers and the pick-up's wheels crushing them."

Out of the 800 crosses, 500 were knocked down and 100 are irreperable. However, the driver was arrested by the local authorities. This is a prime example of how the Crawford sheriff's department has helped to protect us and our freedom of speech over the past week and a half. A big thank you to them!

From the description of him stopping to prepare a device to mow down the crosses, it's clear this was not just another drunk who swerved into someone's mailbox. Northern made a special trip to destroy the memorial. And, please note, Waco is not Crawford. Northern cannot claim to be a neighbor frustrated by a media circus invading his home. He is someone from another town who decided to journey to Crawford to express take that action. In that way he is just like Cindy Sheehan, a citizen expressing a political opinion through actions outside the president's ranch. But while Sheehan expresses her opinion by sitting in a tent giving interviews, Northern expressed his opinion by using his pickup to grind the American flag into the earth.

I'm going to make a few assumptions about Larry Northern's political beliefs based on his actions. I'm going to assume that Northern is pro-Bush and pro-war, or at least anti-anti-war. That stand usually is united with xenophobia and nationalistic chauvinism that the holder believes is the same as patriotism. If this is the case, WHAT IS THIS ZIT HEAD DOING DRIVING OVER THE AMERICAN FLAG? It's the flag, dammit. The police who arrested Northern identified him because there were still shredded flags hanging from the undercarriage of his truck. The flag desecration amendment is usually an article of faith among these people. Does Northern imagine that the flag is worthy of protection only when he agrees with the sentiments of those using the flag?

Now, I could be wrong in assigning those views to Northern. He might be nothing more than a small town bully who saw an opportunity to terrorize some out-of-towners. In any case, as this story goes forward there are three arguments that we will inevitably hear from those who will feel compelled to identify with and defend Northern. Neither he nor they will be entitled to honestly use these arguments.
  • One: Northern is a local who got frustrated and acted out, like Larry Mattlage with his shotgun. No, he's not. Northern is not a Crawford local. He is from Waco, which is twenty miles southeast of Crawford. Sheehan's protest site is seven miles northwest of Crawford.
  • Two: Northern is a patriot who got frustrated and acted out. No, he's not. No one on the right is allowed to destroy American flags and crosses, wholesale, and claim patiotism as a defense. That's just how the rules work.
  • Three: Northern and Sheehan's protests are equivalent. No, they're not. Anyone who tries to present this as her free speech versus his is being disingenuous. The issue is vandalism. Though some damage to property must be occuring with the crowds that have joined Sheehan; it's not intentional. Vandalism was not their purpose in going to Crawford. Northern made a special trip to Crawford and improvised special equipment for the specific purpose of vandalizing the protest camp.

We know that in a very short while Malkin, O'Rielly, Coulter, and the freepers will have beatified Northern, so I'm offering fabulous prizes to the first readers who can find examples of each three of these arguments in use, to first to find all three, and to anyone who can find all three being used by the same person. Special honorable mentions go to anyone who finds any other particularly outrageous defenses of Northern's action.

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