Making your voice heard

Two decades ago, I took my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, on a prospective college tour.

One of the visits was to Kent State University.

When we parked our car, we noticed at the edge of the lot a bronze plaque. She asked me what the sign signifies.

I shared with her that, on May 4, 1970, students were protesting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. I told her the Ohio National Guard arrived and, somehow, at that peaceful protest, four unarmed students were killed and nine wounded by soldiers firing weapons into the crowd.

Simply said, she was dumbfounded that that happened.

I added to her my personal account of when I was a Central Michigan University student, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps building, Central Hall, was overtaken by hundreds of students protesting the same war.

At that time, the war killed well over 30,000 Americans serving in the military. It was a very vocal but peaceful action by students and faculty.

When I was a vice president with the Sisters of Mercy health care system, I recalled at a Board of Directors meeting the Sisters took a vote to sell the firm’s Coca-Cola stock as a protest against South Africa’s apartheid racial discrimination. The beverage company was a significant merchant in that country.

In recent years, I have seen a variety of protests, marches, and rallies across our nation. They have centered upon gun control and gun rights, abortion, political stands, immigration, wars, women’s rights, race, climate change, religion, LGBTQ issues, and a multitude of other topics, including the right to seek union representation.

For the most part, the gatherings were very vocal and peaceful.

However, in recent years, things have changed.

The gatherings have shifted from causes to an environment of hate and violence. I am truly not sure why that has occurred.

My most vivid recall with that shift was the August 2017 demonstration at the University of Virginia, when marchers descended upon campus with antisemitic and other racial remarks. The march centered upon the removal of a Confederate-era statue. Subsequently, during a peaceful street march, one student was killed and 19 injured when a protester’s vehicle plowed into the crowd.

In 2018, at a March for Our Lives gathering, 1.2 million people in Washington, D.C., voiced their concern over gun violence.

In 2020, George Floyd was apprehended and murdered by officers from the Minneapolis Police Department. Protests erupted across the nation, with numerous confrontations.

In recent weeks, predominantly on college and university campuses, there have been massive gatherings against the Gaza war, as well as against Hamas’s invasion upon an Israeli settlement.

Those protests have spilled over into Islamophobic, antisemitic, and related clashes and have disrupted campus education and related activities. Not to overlook having off-campus police and public safety representatives brought to the campus by college administrators and their boards of trustees.

Those protests and others have been mean, angry, hateful, and, at times, violent confrontations.

Where am I going with this?

It is more than just those historic and more recent protests.

America’s first well-known protest was the December 1773 Boston Tea Party demonstration by colonial political and merchant leaders. They were challenging British taxes on imported tea. Over 340 chests of tea were tossed into the harbor.

There is an urgent need for us as individuals and groups to fully recognize we will have different opinions on all sorts of topics.

We all have the right to voice our opinion in a respectful and calm fashion without going for the jugular. That is undertaking hate and violence.

Your mother would be proud of you for taking this approach!

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew up in Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.


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