Protest As American As Apple Pie

In December of 1773 a group of Bostonians, upset about the British imposing a higher tax on tea and fueled by whisky and beer dressed as native Americans and boarded several ships in Boston Harbor that were bringing tea to Boston. They then dumped the tea into Boston Harbor in protest of the tea tax in what became known as the Boston Tea Party.

Of course, the British saw the Boston Tea Party differently. They saw it as vandalism and perhaps insurrection. In response the British government over reacted and imposed a blockade of Boston harbor, effectively strangling the economy of Massachusetts. In addition, the British sent in more troops to maintain order and punish those who dumped the tea into Boston Harbor. These “Intolerable Acts” helped inflame passions and led to the revolution that began in 1775. Instead of over reacting, had the British responded to the underlying grievance of the colonists, many who thought that those who dumped the tea into Boston harbor were a bunch of drunken hooligans; perhaps the course of history might have been different. 

But what went unnoticed by so many was a much quieter and far more effective protest against the tax on tea. That protest was that Americans began drinking a new beverage called coffee which was being imported from plantations in the Caribbean and processed in the colonies. After the Intolerable Acts were imposed by Great Britain on Massachusetts, drinking tea was unpatriotic so Americans began drinking coffee. Now, 244 years after the Boston tea party, Americans are still coffee drinkers more than tea drinkers. 

In December 1955, a tired seamstress in Montgomery Alabama refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, as was the law and custom in the south. Rosa Parks was arrested and thrown in jail for her act of insubordination. Her act caught the attention of a young preacher in who organized a boycott and protest of the bus service in Montgomery. That young preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. was thrust on to the national stage as a spokesman for the cause of civil rights. His house was fire bombed by the KKK, but he persisted despite attempts to silence him. That protest by African Americans against the Montgomery Transit Company almost drove the company bankrupt and a year later, the transit company settled and the Jim Crow system in the south began to crack. 

In 1967, I was a college student at Kent State University and an Air Force ROTC cadet when students began protesting a war in Vietnam. At first, the protests were nothing more than silent vigils outside the student union for peace in Vietnam. The protesters were called “communists” and cowards. They were heckled and garbage was thrown at them. But as the war dragged on with no end in sight and more Americans were being killed fighting an enemy we didn’t understand; more people began protesting the war in Vietnam. 

Fast forward to the 21st century and when a few NFL players decide to protest police shootings of unarmed black men by kneeling silently during the playing of the national anthem before the game. Some people act like it is an act of insurrection, just as the British did 244 years ago when colonists dumped tea in the Boston harbor. Even the President called for those athletes to be fired and one NFL owner threatened to bench any players who “took a knee” during the national anthem. 

But such actions are having the opposite effect. Instead of addressing the underlying issue of the protest, the President and some NFL owners are fanning the flames of protest. But peaceful protest is protected in the constitution. Even protesting by burning the American flag has been ruled as protected free speech by the Supreme Court. 

This country was literally founded on protests. Progress has been made because a few brave people decided to protest injustice, unfair taxation or a senseless war. We should realize that living in a nation where freedom of speech and expression is enshrined in our constitution may sometimes make us uncomfortable. But that is the price of freedom and progress. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said “the arc of history eventually bends toward justice”. The President as well as those who are saying that the protesting athletes should be benched or fired are the ones who are “anti-American” and on the wrong side of history.  

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 10:15 AM, 12.01.2017