The Tragedy Of Modern Demonstrations [Opinion]

Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

Each and every day in cities scattered across this country, Americans exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. By-and-large, these demonstrations are predominantly small and quiet affairs, attracting little public curiosity and limited local media coverage.

However, in today’s deeply polarized cultural climate, we’ve seen a drastic departure from the captivating and overwhelmingly poignant mass demonstrations of generations past. Recently, we’ve seen a valued American tradition, a patriotic service dedicated to the promotion of equality and progress, descend into an almost unrecognizable form of unmitigated chaos.

Seemingly gone are the days when pacifism and ideological unity served as the vehicle to draw a dormant populace’s attention to societal injustices. Vanishing too are the days when the collective mission of demonstrators was to bring about a greater level awareness through conscientious action.

In recent years, we’ve startling witnessed the proliferation of en masse gatherings that barely resemble the demonstrations of old which were conducive to fostering open dialogue. These increasingly frequent so-called demonstrations are instead marked by political animus, fervent intolerance, and intense hatred.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen civil discourse devolve from locking arms in solidarity, to bludgeoning opponents with makeshift cudgels. We’ve seen impassioned speeches transform into derogatory verbal exchanges which rapidly escalate into the almost contagious outbreak of physical assault. We’ve seen the normally docile public square morph into a veritable urban battlefield.

Physical violence in Charlottesville.
Violence erupts between 'Unite the Right' demonstrators and counter-protesters in Charlottesville. [Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

The rampant hate-fueled contentiousness of today sees white nationalists stream through the otherwise quiet streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us” and “white lives matter”, as was reported by NBC News. So chaotic was the clash between “Unite the Right” demonstrators and counter-protesters that Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. So senselessly violent was the demonstration that it left scores hospitalized and one young woman dead.

First responders aid the injured in Charlottesville.
First responders provide aid to the injured at the 'Unite the Right' demonstration. [Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

Unfortunately, the tragedy in Virginia is but one example of this dangerous emerging trend. This overtly inhospitable shift has become a frighteningly routine occurrence in locales stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Previous reporting from media outlets such as NPR have directed a bright light on the moral decay of expanding segments of American society, a degenerative process guaranteed to invite disaster. Today, we witness the swelling prevalence of hostility, routinely seeing a varying array of individuals take to the streets not to advance the public discourse, but to court violent confrontation with those possessing dissimilar views.

These widespread events are not exhibitions of patriotism motivated by sentiments of moral righteousness, but are veritable acts of terrorism propelled by unashamed hatred.

[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]