The other day I read something fascinatingly waggish and oh, so very Seattle in its irony. The source of my amusement came from an opinion piece: “Stop protesting Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation” (Seattle Times, January 13, 2017).
First, a preface: I have affection for the SAAM. The museum is in the precinct I patrolled during my over two-decades-long career. I enjoyed the beautiful building and speaking with many wonderful patrons. I also agree with the writer of the piece, Glenn Nelson, that people should stop protesting SAAM renovations, although I acknowledge (and announce) their right to do so. Renovations are overdue, appropriate, and will enhance Seattle’s cultural resources.
But where exactly does Mr. Nelson, obviously a liberal/progressive, acquire his moral authority to ask others to stop protesting anything? Has Mr. Nelson forgotten in what city he lives? Seattle has planted, cultivated, and harvested its current protest (crop) culture for many years. Oh, before continuing, I should modify my contention for clarity: Its liberal/progressive protest culture.
Years ago, I remember protesters descending on SPD’s East Precinct to protest…wait for it… the U.S. Navy bombing uninhabited islands for training in… again, wait for it… Puerto Rico!!! I can’t count the number of protests I’ve worked: APEC, WTO, and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade; Critical Mass, anarchists, and Black Lives Matter, and no such list would be complete (though this one is far from complete) without Occupy Wall Street’s 99%ers. During the last years of my career, leftist demonstrations were a monthly and many times weekly occurrence.
Mr. Nelson, who dutifully introduces himself in his first sentence, “as a person of color,” provides his liberal/progressive bona fides and curriculum vitae throughout the article. He cites his Asian American heritage, green space, the ADA, diversity, inclusion, and Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative.
It seems that his fellow Seattleites’ objections are not worthy of protest because, according to Mr. Nelson, he has determined that “The ‘encroachment’ on green space [and impact on neighborhood traffic] is too negligible to be considered a source for opposition.” Just like so many liberals, Mr. Nelson finds no problem dismissing other people’s concerns when they fail to fall in line with his preferred narrative–his desires. Remember, Mr. Nelson did not simply write that he disagrees with the protesters; he declares they, “stop protesting….”
Now, I do not wish to make light of Mr. Nelson’s heart-felt plea on behalf of himself and people he loves and cares about. He obviously believes his perspective is correct. But it seems there’s a lesson here for Seattle’s liberal/progressive activists with their emerald green penchant for protest: opposing points of view are not always, in every way, and every circumstance wrong, and certainly not racist or otherwise evil just because they’re put forth by the “another side” of an argument. Opposing political perspectives, ideologies, and issues are simply that: positions held by people who simply oppose your view. They are due the same respect you feel you deserve, not slander, libel, and demonization.