Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Shame On (Insert Company Here)

I don't imagine there's anyone left in the Salt Lake Valley that hasn't driven by a business with one of those "Shame on..." banners out front. In the past six months, I must have passed a dozen such businesses, always with the same professionally printed banners and a few random people standing around them looking angry. They're up at the Capitol Building, they're downtown, my coworker (not the pregnant one) saw one out in Midvale today.

Now, I would be the last person to deny our right to protest, but in this case I don't think they're doing themselves any credit. Whatever union or organization is putting up these banners doesn't seem to understand that the more businesses they protest, the more they just look like whiners. If you have a banner outside of the Capitol, you might think something bad is going down. But if you see similar banners all over town protesting all sorts of businesses, you get the feeling the folks just want attention...everywhere they can possibly get it.

And credibility falls.

There's another factor, too. I think that ever since the 60's, most people blow protestors off as looney-tune eccentrics. We're used to all the old footage of hippies dancing around, yelling and throwing flowers, and nowadays all the protestors look like they never emerged from that era, or they just look crazy. I thought Ralph Nader was a feasible candidate for President until I saw the kid on six-foot stilts campaigning for him in a green suit and top hat. Whether it's far left-wing or far right-wing, I think most people are weirded out by anyone who wants to go march around with signs and yell all day.

There are plenty of valid causes out there. I remember getting out of school so my teachers could go protest at the capitol. And I think that immigration is an issue that deserves attention--there are valid voices on both sides of that one. I think pretty much everyone agrees that the civil rights protests of the 60's were a good thing.

It's just those odd protests that throw me. A few years ago I was working at the Federal Building, a virtual haven for eccentric demonstrations, when I walked into my boss's office. He and a couple of my fellow feds were staring out the front window down at the plaza in front of the building, where a dozen or so people had gathered to protest something. We had no idea what, since none of them had any signs. What they did have was a huge Oriental dragon costume, the kind with a huge head and a twenty-foot ruffled tail that takes half a dozen people to operate. This tall skinny white guy in a button up shirt and slacks was holding the head and leading the dragon around in this erratic pattern, while two more guys sat on the cement Indian-style slapping bongos off-time. Where did this brainstorm come from?

"OK, so we've got a couple of bongos and a huge Chinese Dragon costume I picked up in Chinatown...what can we do with that?"

We continued to watch for a while, out of the sheer oddity of it, then got bored and went back to work. I'm guessing everyone else did, too.