Opinion: Downtown fixture says all major changes in laws the result of protest, but destruction dilutes messages

Alice and Burt Saidel
Alice and Burt Saidel

(NOTE: This guest column appeared on the Dayton Daily News’ Ideas and Voices page Sunday, June 14, 2020. Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson asked a diverse group of people with ties to the Dayton area about the impact of protests. Columns from other participants are linked throughout this piece.)

My heart is too full to speak.

Whomever said that adage first, I do not know. I say it often but in this case, at this time, in this situation, truly, my heart is truly too full not to speak.

 

Another unspeakable torture and murder of a black man by a white person, a police officer, has polarized the nation.

It followed the pursuit and shooting of another black youth who was murdered by truck-driving pursuers. The altercation that ensued was handled in the manner that affrights our senses, a murder by a bullet. There are others and that litany need not be listed but must be felt.

The result — pent-up anger and protest. All completely justified. All justified and necessary. The message of that is this nation can no longer permit, or fail to change, these cursed racial responses that make us look the other way at obvious injurious actions.

I know men, of mature ages and civic and professional standing, who have been profiled by officers, hotel clerks, sales persons and myriads of others because their skin, their social passport, is of color. I know from those who are my friends how they feel when this happens. Some also admit that they feel that way even in the possibility of such a meeting.

I condemn these actions and the inbred, or learned, feelings that have created them. As a Jew, a proud Jew, such discrimination has existed for centuries. To my experience, nearly all of this person-to-person prejudice is gone.

We have come far but have not totally escaped anti-Semitism. Unfortunately there are increasing, here and abroad, overt attacks of anti-Semitism. Synagogues have been damaged, people have been injured or even killed.

There is a glaring difference. I can leave my home, or my office, without the shadow of racial hatred and suspicion following me. My friends of color admit to those feelings and fears are resident in their personae. I am inspired and guided by the phrase of Schiller’s poetic ode that is immortalized in Beethoven’s Choral Ninth symphony.

"Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt." All men become brothers where thy soft wings enfold. My every third breath sends that message into my soul.

Now, I announce that I do have a deep-seated prejudice. I have rejected violence, property destruction, injury to life or limb as valid protest. There is no message in those heinous acts that decry goals to reconcile, correct, ameliorate, any hateful situation or matter.

The protests that have occurred throughout the nation and nearly around the globe are the more uplifting chapter in this story of pain and suffering. Protesting is not only the right of all of us, citizens of a free country, it can become our duty.

I have heard from wise persons for more than a generation that, in the U.S., all major changes in our laws and mores have been the result of protest.

The Boston Tea Party is a wonderful case in point. I heartily support these peaceful exercises. During the activity here in Dayton, all I observed from my vantage point of a downtown resident, was peaceful and passionate. I did miss the riot aspects which occurred to my utter disappointment.

What is obvious is that there are elements that use protests as a screen for performing those destructive acts. What are the sources of such hateful programs? I have suspicions. I know that they are not within the party politic of this great nation. They are stirrers up of strife. Cabals that hate governments, societies, religions dedicated to peace and understanding

We hear many words of protest. Pleas for justice. Prayers for surcease from the sorrows of racial injustice, of all injustices. Many of them come from our caring and wonderful civic leaders in words and acts that inspire. Many are from those in the streets.

Their words with special sincere elegance, stem from the experience, the suffering, the pain. In those voices, songs, prayers there is not a single sound of broken glass. Breaking windows, destroying cars by blows or fire, spraying paint on buildings, these are acts of hate. To protest hate, to counteract hate, to heal the results of hate, are what these protesters, under protection of the law, with the support and sympathy of the populace, gather in Dayton and around the country. Why should they destroy their needed, their welcome messages, with acts of hate?

It makes no sense. It has no justification. It dilutes and even destroys the much needed and welcome messages longing for tolerance, understanding and peace. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” That phrase has the sound of music. Can you hear any breaking glass in it?

Dr. Burton Saidel, a retired dentist and downtown resident, is a fixture in Dayton’s art scene.

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