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The wrong kind of civics lesson

Carl Raggio’s well-written From the Other Side column of May 15, “'Overused’ protests dilute voices,” is flawed by what he does not say. He carefully bobs and weaves his way through the various issues. By decrying the citizen or noncitizen’s too frequent exercise of their free speech rights, he flies in the face of the very rights he appropriately proclaims are the mainstay of our democracy.

He fails to acknowledge that many who participated in the MacArthur Park demonstration were in fact American citizens and totally ignores the overreaction of the Los Angeles Police Department in violation of the civil rights of non-bottle-throwing participants. Perhaps he would have preferred that the police inquire of each individual whether he or she was a citizen in good standing, so that the night sticks and rubber bullets would be directed at noncitizens only. He uses the demonstration as a platform for letting us know where he stands on the immigration issue.

Raggio is totally dismissive of the actions of the Los Angeles Archdiocese in encouraging sanctuary for the undocumented immigrants. The cardinal’s stance on the issue is consistent with the Judeo-Christian belief that there is a higher law, which insists upon each of us helping our fellow man in distress.

Nonviolent civil disobedience has played an integral part in changing our society for the better. Our liberties were won by disrespecting the abusive use of man-made law and appealing to a higher law. It is ironic that the Revolution that won us our rights was an illegal action fought by citizens of another country, i.e., the English colonials, the French and an occasional German, to name a few. In the eyes of Parliament and the king, we were a nation of illegals and not entitled to full citizenship. Many have died in achieving and protecting the rights we “illegally” fought to win, and many are dying today as a result of the mistaken belief that our system can be force-fed to the rest of the world. As great as our system is, a “one size fits all” concept of democracy has proved to be a disaster.


Our system is so attractive that millions of individuals willingly risk their lives and personal freedom to get here. From a practical perspective, we find it convenient to ignore the savings that result when businesses abuse illegal immigrants by paying less than a living wage. We have created the problem by keeping our borders porous. We have allowed illegal immigrants to enter, do the work that the majority of Americans will not do, then told them they have no stake in this country. We begrudgingly acknowledge the value and contribution of their work, dismissing the profits and savings we enjoy, then turn around and tell them we do not want them living here, never mind having the opportunity to become citizens. We can’t have it both ways. Citizenship is not a zero-sum game; there is plenty to go around if individuals are willing to work hard and value what our country has to offer.

Raggio also soft-pedals the causes of the civil-rights movement of the ‘60s as resulting from “African-Americans (being) treated differently.” Boy is that an understatement. He ignores the anti-war movement of the ‘60s and early ‘70s completely. Agree or disagree with its objective and result, it had a profound effect on the course of American and Southeast Asian history.

His opinion regarding the most significant protest movement of our times, the anti-Iraq war movement, is noticeably missing.

The greatness of our country is based on the tolerance that the Bill of Rights requires of us all.


It not only grants rights, it demands individual responsibility. And that means that we must grimace and tolerate the volume of annoying and petty demonstrations and unpleasant, often vulgar expressions of free speech. I agree with him that the student protest against high gas prices falls in the petty category. It is disappointing that the Glendale students did not choose a worthier issue on which to take a stand, such as the war in Iraq, Darfur or perhaps even the immigration issue (“Demonstrating gas pains,” May 8).

I have enjoyed a number of Raggio’s columns in the Glendale News-Press and acknowledge his past contributions to the well-being of the city of Glendale, but I believe his column is sending the wrong civics lesson to young Americans who do not yet have a firm understanding of the rights we enjoy and how unique they are in the world.

Perhaps he should grab a picket sign and get out there and demonstrate against unnecessary demonstrations. He surely has the right to do so, and isn’t it great that he does?

?PATRICK S. GRANT is a Glendale resident.