A Lesson in Intolerance
By Jennifer Zeiter
Last Saturday, I attended the women’s march at Main Beach as an independent professional working woman, fiscally conservative with predominately liberal social views.
I’ve voted across party lines and voted for Obama in his first term, but not his second.
Although billed as a “women’s rights” march, my suspicion was it was more likely an anti-President Trump protest. I intended to show my support for the president and to conduct a social experiment about tolerance for opposing viewpoints among my gender. I knew I’d be in the minority and expected “boos” over my signs, which read “Thank you President Trump, I’m proud to be an American Again” and “Women for Trump.” I also carried an American flag.
Candidate Trump was no angel, and he gets no kudos from me for some of his words and actions directed at some women, but overall I am proud of his plans to put America and its people first again, including decreasing a bloated government, renegotiating trade deals, and restoring strength to our broken foreign policy. These are much bigger issues, and it’s the package that counts, warts and all.
As I marched the sidewalk for two hours carrying my signs and my flag, I was shoved, pushed, heckled, spit on and body blocked. I was called a fascist, a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, an idiot, ignorant, a traitor and other degrading, gender specific obscenities. Women yelled at me, told me I didn’t belong here. When my friend came to pick me up, he too was spit on by a female teen.
All the while these “peaceful” protestors, many presumably fellow residents of Laguna, would break into chants of “love trumps hate.”
I laughed because their actions and words were not of love, but of hate and intolerance. Not all, but most. There were many angry women who would not tolerate any other views but their own. The far majority of the signs were more about bashing our president, then about equal rights, or even women’s rights.
Hate is a learned behavior. People are not born racist or intolerant. It is learned, starting with their parents, then friends, life experiences and, nowadays, social media. What could have been a truly teachable lesson about exercising 1st Amendment rights and expressing views while also respecting the views of others, turned instead into a lesson for those children in attendance about how to hate, shut down opposing viewpoints, be intolerant, hurl obscenities, and denigrate those with whom you do not agree.
Given the recent racist hate incident involving local teenagers and the outpouring of support for the boy and his family, I wondered how many of the people at the march were expressing love and support on social media one day and on Saturday spewed hatred and intolerance?
I said very little during my march, mostly listened. When the crowds would chant “love trumps hate,” I, one voice among hundreds, would chant “make America great.” The syncopation was perfect for both.
Although I experienced many ugly incidents, I don’t take personal offense as these people don’t even know me. I expected opposition, but was shocked at the obscenity laced vitriol and intolerance of opposing views.
The one incident that bothered me most was the man in his early 60s in a black fleece pull-over with an Apple logo, who tore the flag from my hands and pushed it to the ground.
My Army Ranger son spilled blood and his military brothers died defending this country so that he could have the “right” to dishonor the American flag in the exercise of his 1st Amendment rights. I abhor his actions, but respect it as a constitutional “right.” More astonishing was a group of women next to him who said, “we outnumber you and we will tell police that you assaulted him.” In other words, they would willingly lie and twist facts to punish my views.
I stand by every word. Next time I’ll bring a video recorder.
Kudos to the police, who kept me safe, especially the women officers. They were exemplary, a calming force, and diffused the mob mentality of normally “good” people. And there were a few women, less than 10, who engaged in civil discussions and applauded my courage. One said “she has a right to be here, too.” And one child’s sign said, “We are all friends.” Beautiful. Though few and far between, that leaves me hopeful that meaningful discussions can be had among people with opposing viewpoints, without shouting obscenities, denigration, and shoving.
I have to be hopeful, because the alternative path leads to a second social civil war.
Perhaps this is why our forefathers carefully crafted the electoral college, so that the viewpoints of the citizens of all the 50 states can be heard, not just those of several populous states. The very thing many “peaceful” protestors accuse our president of doing, preaching hate, is the exact same thing that was displayed last Saturday towards a woman marching alone with a different point of view.
We are all better than that. At least let’s try.
Lawyer Jennifer Zeiter has lived in Laguna Beach six years.