Posts Tagged Robert Haas

breezespeaks | The Awful Truth

Current Protests Harken Back To Vietnam Era

Posted on November 21, 2011



There was a time when protesters were called un-American, dirty, drug addled hippies.  They were pepper sprayed and billy clubbed into submission.  They were scapegoated and demonized as troublemakers and rabble-rousers with nothing better to do than make life difficult for true Americans who would never question their government.  They were thrown in jail and railroaded in court.  They were treated like criminals.

Does the above sound familiar?  It should, because the current crop of Occupy protesters are being treated in the same fashion as previous protesters were in the Vietnam era.  History is repeating itself because we learned nothing from it the first time around.  Those with the temerity to question the powers that be are being clubbed and maced every day on the news, right before our eyes.

The Vietnam protesters were derided and ridiculed by the government and media – take note, those who consider the media totally liberal – just as todays protesters are facing the same taunts.  But remember, history has proven those previous protesters right in the long run, as the containment policies used to justify Vietnam have been shown to be folly, and the lives lost in that unjust war went for naught.

Todays protesters have been portrayed as drunks, druggies, lawbreakers, pigs, slothful leeches and idiots too stupid to know any better.  Police in riot gear have been shown pepper spraying passive protesters and using billy clubs on unarmed protesters.  But here’s a story you may not know.

Robert Haas, former poet laureate of the United States, and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, ventured out to see for himself just what was going on around his campus, and he got more than he bargained for.  He and his wife, Brenda, found themselves in a large group standing face to face with police in riot gear, billy clubs at the ready.  When his wife tried to engage one of the officers in a discussion about nonviolence, the officer reached out and shoved her to the ground.  Mr. Haas tried to come to her defense, but at that moment the police surged forward and began battering the protesters.  No warning was given.

Mr Haas was clubbed about the ribs and arms, and received minor injuries, but others weren’t so fortunate.  Fellow poet Geoffrey O’Brien suffered a broken rib, and another professor, Celeste Langan, was dragged by her hair when she presented herself for arrest.  Was use of force against these passive protesters justified?  Just how dangerous is a former Poet Laureate of the United States?  Or poets in general?

Our nation was founded on dissent, something people are prone to forget.  If we take away the rights of one group, even if we disagree with their cause, we hurt the rights of all individuals in our society.  Civil disobedience is a right of all Americans, and, in my opinion, a duty where injustice is concerned.  Watching protesters getting pepper sprayed and clubbed into submission should anger all Americans, not just the left.  We are witnessing a repeat of history every night on the six o’clock news.  When are we going to learn?

“Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Eventually, the use of force against the Vietnam era protesters resulted in deaths, most notably at Kent State.  Is that what it will take to stem the tide of abuse we have witnessed of late?  Among those injured so far we have poets, professors and Iraq war veterans, among others.  There goes the idea that the protesters are the scum of society, which the media has perpetuated.  These people are protesting for each and every American, and even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, you have to agree with their right to say it.

breezespeaks | The Awful Truth.

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