Why Picket?

For those in doubt I offer five justifications for picketing



Last week I went picketing, again. I say “again” because my picketing and protesting began, no fooling, at the Alamo during the Vietnam War. Last week the venue had shifted. The protest, in a duly authorized “Free Speech Zone,” was at Loyola Marymount University. The Democratic candidates for the presidency had come to posture, preen, and even debate a little.

So why picket? Pickett’s Charge, at the Battle of Gettysburg, comes to mind. Some call its farthest advance the high-water mark of the Confederacy. Still, it failed. General George Pickett blamed Robert E. Lee for issuing the disastrous order to advance.

My LMU picket, of course, was wholly voluntary. It didn’t end in disaster. But did it achieve anything? The jury’s out on that, and I’m not sure that it will bother to return.

Alasdair MacIntyre has famously expressed his doubts about protest. In After Virtue he writes:   “The self-assertive shrillness of protest arises because the facts of incommensurability [of values] ensure that protestors can never win an argument; the indignant self-righteousness arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure equally that the protestor can never lose an argument either.”

Never one to pull his punches, to that he adds: “Protest is characteristically addressed to those who already share the protestors’ premises. The effects of incommensurability ensure that the protestors rarely have anyone else to talk to but themselves.”

Well, sometimes. Still, I plead “not guilty” and, gentle readers, please return your own verdict. Here are some relevant particulars. My sign was a leftover from a science project. The left panel read “CHOOSE” and the right panel read “LIFE.” The larger middle panel read “AMERICAN SOLIDARITY PARTY.” There wasn’t even a temptation to indulge in a protest chant, because I was the party’s only representative. (At this point, we are only the “rivulet” of the future.”) So I wasn’t shrill. And every bystander valued at least his or her life and the lives of those they care about. Something to build on, isn’t it?

So who did I talk to? Here’s a partial list: three security guards, one Trump loyalist, several Democrats, charter school proponents, two photographers, a reporter for a Latino TV station, an interviewer for a Los Angeles publication, and an LMU student who’d just finished a philosophy (hurrah!) course.

Now for my closing statement. It takes the form of five reasons to picket. I ask you to consider them!

First, politics is public and picketing recognizes that it is ever so.

Second, we live in an established disorder and picketing helps identify it.

Third, picketing serves both to light a candle and curse (mildly) the darkness.

Fourth, a minimalist point, picketing is far better than talking back to the TV.

Fifth, if one walks briskly, picketing is good exercise.

To be sure, there is a time for everything. That includes protesting and picketing. So there’ll be no more of that vigorous and peripatetic activity until…next year. Get ready for the March for Life. Work on your sign.


Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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