I start this post by posing a question to think about… what ever happened to “peaceful” protest?
One of the fundamental principles we protect here in America is our freedom of speech, which is deeply rooted in our belief of representative government. We pride ourselves in structuring a system that ensures “the people” are heard by those with power. With that mentality we have opened our doors, and our ears, hoping to facilitate new ideas, opinions, and philosophies about how things should be run. However, what was once a venue for civil, educated debate has become nothing more than a severely polarized battleground. Let me give you an example…
Iowa is an agricultural state, and leads the nation in production of many of the staple commodities that consumers depend on around the world. However, there are some within our great state that don’t share my excitement for the continued growth of Iowa agriculture. Just the other day I was sitting in a public meeting of one of our state’s oversight commissions. One would expect such an experience to be long, dry, and somewhat boring, as is typically associated with most governmental dealings. In recent years this has become far from the truth.
About ten minutes into the meeting, I watched a large group obnoxiously file into the room, disrupting an ongoing presentation, and situate themselves amongst the staff and other members of the public. A few more minutes passed, and then it was showtime… the public comment period. One right after another, they marched up to the podium and for the next 45 minutes took turns shouting at the commissioners (some which were personal attacks) for allegedly “allowing factory farms to take over our state and poison our waters.” In addition to the strong-worded speeches, there were also the random (arguably unprofessional) outbursts from the crowd shouting words of encouragement to the remarks being made and the young lady wandering around the room photographing it all. Now you may wonder, was there an agriculture issue on the agenda in which these comments may have been relevant… no. Following the the close of the public comment period, the group quickly filed out, of course not without another verbal jab at the commissioners here and there, and the commission was able to carry on with the rest of their meeting. Now of all the important topics that were covered by the commission that day, you can probably guess what part of that meeting made the mid-day news.
As a member of the agriculture community I realize that there are many controversial issues that surround our industry. However, just because something is controversial doesn’t mean there can’t be room for healthy debate… when it is appropriate. I am a firm supporter of the freedom of speech, but I also am concerned that we have moved away from debating the issues to instead providing a stomping ground for everyone to just air their grievances.
The right answer is not always the one in the biggest, boldest letters, and the winner of a debate is not always the person that shouts their views the loudest. I believe there is and always should be room for peaceful protest, but the real question is… does anyone know what that is anymore?
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