Making your voice heard — in a respectful fashion

Two decades ago, I took my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, on a perspective college tour. One of the visits was to Kent State University.

When we parked our car, we noticed at the edge of the lot a bronze plaque. She asked me what the sign signifies. I shared with her on May 4, 1970, students were protesting America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. I told her Ohio National Guard representatives arrived and somehow at this peaceful protest four unarmed students were killed and nine wounded by soldiers firing weapons into the crowd.

Simply said she was dumbfounded this happened.

I added to her my personal account when I was a Central Michigan University student, the ROTC building, Central Hall, was overtaken by hundreds of students protesting the same war. At that time the war killed well over 30,000 Americans serving in the military. It was a very vocal but peaceful action by students and faculty.

When I was a vice president with the Sisters of Mercy Health Care system I recalled at a board of directors meeting the Sisters took a vote to sell their Coca-Cola stock as a protest against South Africa’s apartheid racial discrimination. The beverage company was a significant merchant in this country.

In recent years I have seen a variety of protests, marches, and rallies across our nation. These have centered upon gun control and rights, abortion, political stands, immigration, wars, women’s rights, race, climate change, religion, LBJTQ, and a multitude of other topics including the right to seek union representation.

For the most part the gatherings were very vocal and peaceful.

However, in recent years things have changed.

The gatherings have shifted from causes to an environment of hate and violence. I am truly not sure why this has occurred.

My most vivid recall with this shift was the August 2017 at the University of Virgina when marchers descended upon campus with anti-Semitic and other racial remarks. The march centered upon the removal of a Confederate era statue. Subsequently, during a peaceful street march one student was killed and 19 injured when a protester’s vehicle plowed into the crowd.

In 2018 with March for our Lives gathering, 1.2 million people in Washington, D.C, voiced their concern over gun violence.

In 2020 George Floyd was apprehended and murdered by Minneapolis police department representatives. Protests erupted across the nation with numerous confrontations.

In recent weeks, predominantly on college and university campuses, there have massive gatherings against the Israel and Gaza war, as well as Hamas invasion upon an Israeli settlement.

These have spilled over into Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and related clashes, as well as disrupting campus education and related activities. Not to overlook having off-campus police and public safety representatives brought to the campus by college administrators and their board of trustees.

These protests and others have been mean, angry, hateful, and at times violent confrontations.

Where am I going with this?

It is more than just these historic and more recent protests.

America’s first well known protest was the December 1773 Boston Tea Party by colonial pollical and merchant leaders. They were challenging British taxes on imported tea. Over 340 chests of tea were tossed into the harbor.

There is an urgent need for us as individuals and groups to fully recognize we will have different opinions on all sorts of topics.

We all have the right to voice our opinion in a respectful and calm fashion without “going for the jugular” – that is undertaking hate and violence.

Your mother would be proud of you for taking this approach!

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew up near the tip of the mitt and resides in suburban Detroit.


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