Protesters Are Heroes

In the June issue of California Freedom, Aaron Starr used his "From the Chair" column to argue that Libertarians should avoid being seen as protesters and complainers because "people like to associate themselves with winners" and "people who protest and complain do not have power." The piece had the rather offensive title "Winners or Whiners."

Does Aaron believe that Libertarian activists like Paul Ireland, who was arrested at a Los Angeles County Post Office for bravely refusing to give up his right to free speech at an anti-tax protest, are "whiners?" Or does he "merely" want to distance the party from such acts of courage? Besides Libertarians like Paul Ireland and Ron Crickenberger, a tireless crusader against the "War on Drugs" whose arrest in front of the Department of Justice was also held up as a negative example in Aaron's column, I would like to remind Aaron of a few other people who he is thoughtlessly branding as "whiners" and "complainers":

• Lech Walesa (protested for the right to form independent unions and played a key role in bringing down the Soviet Empire)
• Lady Godiva (rode a horse naked through town to protest taxes)
• Organizers of the Boston Tea Party (threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes)
• Mahatma Gandhi (practiced civil disobedience in protest of British occupation of India)
• Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (jailed for advocating equal rights)
• Emma Goldman (deported for promoting birth control)
• Andrei Sakharov (sent into internal exile and went on hunger strike to protest the Soviet regime)
• The nameless Chinese hero of the Tian 'anmen Uprising (stood down a line of Red Army tanks)
• Galileo (arrested for daring to publish a book suggesting that the earth revolves around the sun)
• The drag queens and other patrons of the Stonewall bar in Manhattan (rioted against police in response to anti-gay raids)

What do these individuals have in common? Simply this: At the time they chose to stand up for freedom, truth and justice, no one knew they would ultimately prevail and that history books would look back on them as winners. (Historical vindication of the Chinese patriot's action is yet to come, but I have no doubt that it will. In the eyes of much of the world, he has already won.) No doubt their actions would have made professional marketers highly uncomfortable. No doubt in many cases their opponents, and members of the public, tended to view them as "whiners" or "losers" promoting extremist causes which would never succeed.

In some ways this comes down to how much faith you have in the libertarian cause. Do you believe that freedom will ultimately prevail, and people like Paul Ireland and Ron Crickenberger will be remembered as the heroes they are? Or have you mentally "given up?" Are you assuming that our cause can only prevail if we turn our backs on the best and bravest among us; if we hide their noble acts like dirty secrets? Are these the actions of a winning team? Are winners obsessed with how their chances are viewed by others? No. Winners have confidence and faith in the future. Like Dr. King, like the Boston Tea Party patriots, we shall overcome!

Toward liberty, indeed!

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Starchild is Outreach Director of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, former San Francisco county chair, three-time candidate for public office, recipient of the Advocates for Self-Government "Lights of Liberty" award, former Libertarian Party of California Executive Committee at-large representative, and current member of the state Judicial Committee.