There isn’t much left to be said when it comes to the incident that occurred last week during what was billed as a roundtable discussion regarding the opening of schools in Connecticut.
Video of the protests that ended the event earlier than expected, showing angry residents confronting Gov. Ned Lamont outside Highland School as he and his security team made their way to his car, received a tremendous amount of attention across the state and painted the protestors and, by extension, the town in a bad light.
To reiterate, the issue is not that parents and residents turned out to make their voices heard regarding a controversial issue that has sparked debate all across the country. We live in a nation where everyone’s opinion should be heard, especially when it involves the well-being of children.
Parents have the right to be concerned about how everything done over the last 18 months will impact their children, including the daily requirement that students wear masks. But being concerned, frustrated, even angry, doesn’t give one license to act any way they’d like.
Disrupting the event, failing to provide officials a chance to address issues raised, and then aggressively confronting Lamont and others outside the school, all while some shouted obscenities, should not be excused. It also almost assuredly does more harm to the stated cause than good.
But what happened in Cheshire is a symptom of a much larger problem. After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen proceedings interrupted by angry protestors convinced of the absolute rightness of their cause. In fact, it seems situations like this are popping up with far too much frequency.
Most talk of the need to lower the temperature on our current state of discourse. In the abstract, we recognize that a populace constantly inflamed about one issue or another, and convinced that the other side of the debate is not just wrong but immoral, leads nowhere good. However, if things are to change, it has to start with we, the people.
Many condemned the actions of last week’s protestors. Some applauded them, or worked to explain why the protest, while not ideal, was necessary nonetheless. But one wonders what the reactions would have been if the cause had been different. If the state had decided not to mandate masks, and angry residents turned out to protest that state decision in the exact same way, would the roles now be reversed?
History would seem to indicate as such, and that is a part of the problem. We can’t continue to excuse inappropriate behavior in some while condemning it in others, solely based on whether we share the beliefs of those involved. If you believe the actions of last week’s protestors were appropriate, then you should be ready to defend such behavior when the cause for which protestors are fighting runs counter to your own beliefs. The opposite is true for those condemning last week’s incident: Such denunciations will ring hollow if not applied equally.
It’s not surprising that tensions remain high. We have now lived almost two years under the constant cloud of a pandemic. Decisions over masks and vaccines are sparking anger and distrust. Everyone seems to be on their last nerve.
That’s why we need to hold ourselves accountable.
No, we don’t expect that discourse in America will always resemble the opening round of a university debate competition. Passion is welcomed and should be expected, especially when the topic revolves around sons and daughters. But there are plenty of ways to get one’s point across that doesn’t involve displays like what we witnessed last week.
Involvement and activism is fine. It should be welcomed. But if we don’t demand civility from all involved, we can expect more of what we’ve been witnessing this past year.