Protesting Does Not Make You Scum
On Thursday, January 29th, 2015, protesters at a Senate Armed Services hearing were shouting slogans to the former United State Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was at the hearing. According to reports, “They held up signs calling Kissinger a criminal and chanted “arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes” — citing some of his more controversial decisions during the Nixon and Ford administrations.” In response, Senator John McCain was quoted as saying “You know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested.” He then said “Get out of here you low-life scum.” Moreover, he was also quoted as saying ““I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place…” (Yahoo, 2015). Moreover, he went on to apologize to Kissinger for the events that transpired at the hearing. McCain’s statements are quite problematic, as they suggest that political leaders are beyond criticism. This seems to be the case for McCain in this instance, since his apology towards Kissinger was for the protesters’ actions “towards a man who served his country with the greatest distinction[,]” according to McCain. Thus, he doesn’t focus on what Kissinger did as Secretary of State, but rather, seems to suggest that the fact that he held that post is enough to merit esteem. Kissinger’s policies were (and are) viewed by many as as hawkish and dangerous, as they led to the loss of many lives. Now, if the reports are true that some “physically threatened” Kissinger, then those actions should of course be condemned. Individuals should not be physically threatened by anyone. Thus, it is important that we speak out against such actions. However, that is quite different than protesting Kissinger for his role as a U.S. leader during the Vietnam war. Citizens have every right to protest individuals that they believe are war criminals, without threatening them. Instead of calling people “scum” for protesting someone that they believe is a war criminal, we should value the fact that citizens have a conscious on issues that matter to human lives. But, as political leaders, they might not be comfortable with the fact that some humans do not easily forget when war crimes take place. The United States leadership cannot assume that in the history of the U.S., there have not been U.S. foreign policy that has taken innocent lives for not justifiable reason. In fact, there are sadly too many cases of such behavior. Therefore, while McCain can use any language he likes to dismiss protesters, they, as individuals, have a right to speak out against Kissinger and any other U.S. or foreign leadership that they feel have violated human rights. Again, this in no way makes protesters scum, or bad people, but rather, individuals who are voicing their frustrations (again, without doing so by physical threats) with an individual who was related to policies that causes so much death, pain, and suffering for victims and their families should themselves have the full support to do so.