Monday, May 7, 2007

Books & Their Covers

Amongst the legions of peace activists who participated in yesterday's march, there were around 6 or 7 young people who wore bandannas over their faces and some even worse sunglasses. The police kept a very close eye on this group. Why? Solely because of the way they dressed.

When I was young, my parents taught me a maxim that I'm certain most every other parent teaches their children as well -- You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. In other words, you shouldn't allow superficial observations to color your ultimate judgment of a person or situation. Yet this is precisely what the police were/are doing.

Not jumping to quick conclusions seems to be a hard task for all of us. We take a quick glance at a particular circumstance and immediately formulate an opinion. There's nothing wrong with this UNLESS we allow our partial formulation to solidify into a hardcore final analysis. By doing this, we often cast aside pertinent information and further observation that might very well change our overall attitude about our snap judgment.

I've met many, many people who I initially disliked. The first time I encountered one of my best friends from Salem, he was berating a candidate that I served as campaign manager for. He ranted, raved and fumed about what he thought was wrong with the focus of the campaign message.

If I had allowed my knee jerk reaction to govern my final view of this man, I never would have gotten to know him. I never would have discovered his wry sense of humor, his devotion to his wife and children, his commitment to education (he's a history prof at Willamette University) or his dedication to public service. In essence, someone who has turned out to be one of my dearest friends would have remained a stranger to me!

As our march and rally wound down yesterday, I went up to thank each of these youth for their participation. With bandannas removed, I saw youthful faces not unlike countless other faces in the crowd. These young people were no more a threat to "public order" than any other attendee there.

Still, I will admit to the world that there was a time not so long ago when I made the same mistake as the police. Maybe it's a generational thing. As an organizer with Oregon PeaceWorks, I worked with a lot of the so-called street youth in Salem.

I was initially put off by all these young people with weirdly colored hair, dog collars around their necks, ball bearings stapled in their tongues and piercings and body jewelry adorning almost every inch of their bodies. Fortunately, I was able to cast off my "older guy" prejudices and work with these kids on a daily basis. In time, I realized how silly my snap judgments were. Their piercings were nothing more revolutionary than the long hair of my youth.

In this same vein, bandannas covering one's face both is a social and political statement. No more, no less. It certainly doesn't mean that such individuals are prone to violence anymore than anyone else is.

I'm glad these young people came to help us in this protest and I will welcome them with open arms at any future such event. I also hope that local law enforcement personnel will try to remember the lesson they too learned so many years ago as children -- Don't judge a book by its cover.

1 comment:

  1. "Don't judge a book by its cover"

    --this is not only good advice, but it reminds me of a line from the Tao Te Ching: "The sage is concerned with the fruit, and not the flower"...

    Sorry to hear your exercise of free speech is being met with such hostility!


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