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May 18, 2009
Protests: Conservatives Take Over the Temper Tantrums
few years back, Calvin College – which is located in my community of
Grand Rapids, Michigan – invited President George W. Bush to be its
commencement speaker. Upon the president’s acceptance of the invitation,
much of Calvin’s left-wing faculty went bananas.
Scores of them took out an ad in the local newspaper protesting the
notion that a Christian college would invite a president who had invaded
Iraq and done other things they didn’t like. When Bush arrived to give
the address, protesters lined the streets and refused to let the event
go off without everyone knowing how much they disapproved.
The protests were stupid. The professors acted like temperamental
toddlers. George W. Bush was the president of the United States, and he
was deserving of respect for that reason alone. If you didn’t agree with
his policies, then fine, you didn’t agree – but no one ever promised you
that every speaker ever booked for an event you might attend would agree
with you. If you can’t handle that fact, you are surely not ready for
the real world.
One would hope that if the situation were reversed – if a Democratic
president was asked to speak at a commencement – conservatives would
behave like grownups. Apparently, one would be disappointed.
President Obama’s Sunday commencement address at the University of Notre
Dame quickly turned into a hubbub, with conservative activists
protesting Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama on the premise that Notre
Dame, as a Catholic university, is opposed to abortion and embryonic
stem cell research, and therefore should not welcome a speaker who
disagrees – even if that speaker is the president of the United States.
Massive protests ensued. Conservative activists – including the
never-camera-shy Alan Keyes – were arrested, supposedly in defense of
the unborn. Even Norma McCorvey – the erstwhile Jane Roe who won the
infamous case that struck down all 50 states’ abortion laws in 1973 –
showed up to protest Obama’s appearance.
hate when conservatives act like spoiled-brat children. I expect it from
liberals. When conservatives do it, it makes my blood boil. These
protests are beyond stupid, and surely come from many of the same people
who argued during the Bush years that the president was entitled to
respect, and to a hearing, even from those who didn’t agree with his
point of view. Surely many of these same people chastised the left-wing
protesters who demonstrated their intolerance for allowing so much as
the public expression of a point of view different from their own.
But now that the tables have turned, conservatives are acting in the
There appear to be two lines of thought behind this, and they’re both
counterproductive. One is driven by a strain of conservative thinking
that finds it necessary to assail Obama on every conceivable front – no
matter how far-fetched. He’s a Muslim. His birth certificate is fake.
He’s a Manchurian candidate. You name it. If it’s about Obama, and it’s
bad, they believe it. And the worse it is, the more convinced they are.
And if you don’t believe it – any of it – you’re obviously trying
to turn the Republican Party into a bunch of wimps who are happy to bend
over and take it up the butt from our new, socialist overlords.
The other strain of thought here is the “Abortion is Different” strain.
Those in this crowd believe that because abortion is such a grievous
evil – which I agree it is, by the way – that no action taken in protest
of it can ever go too far. No one who supports abortion rights should
ever be allowed to speak. No woman seeking an abortion should escape
being assailed on the streets by protesters and “counselors.” None of
this persuades anyone, of course, but the goal is not to persuade or
change hearts. It’s to satisfy the anti-abortion person’s own sense of
moral uprightness. The baby will still be aborted, but you really
protested a lot, so aren’t you awesome!
Barack Obama is the president of the United States. You don’t like it,
and neither do I, but the voters made the choice and a truly patriotic
American would respect that choice. You can protest his policies all you
want. That’s what I do in this column most of the time. But he is the
president, and he’s going to be invited to speak all over the place, all
the time. And he should speak. It’s part of his job.
conservatives are going to act like the victims of some moral atrocity
every time someone gives the president time at the podium, no one will
take them seriously, and no one should.
far as I’m concerned, the president is welcome to speak at my
conservative evangelical church any time – and I suspect the church
leaders would concur. He would not likely find agreement with much of
what he says, but rather than have a conniption fit over his presence,
I’d like to think we would greet him warmly and respectfully, then work
to make the case to as many people as we can that our vision is the
That’s how grownups act. We could use a little more of that within the
ranks of conservatism these days.
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