Monday, August 21, 2006

Into the Archives: The Unanswered Question on Advertised Persecution

Working for the federal government this summer seems to have drained all of the residual creativity that my first year of law school so generously left behind. Go figure. I was looking at old posts today (pre-Sheldon, Chris M.G., et al. - was there ever really such a time?) and noticed that this one never recieved any comments; most likely a sign that it was just a crappy post. But I liked it, and the question still bothers me, so I thought maybe LYMA v. 2.0 could take a crack at it:

Since most of you aren't in New York, you probably have never heard of Falun Dafa. Now I'm sure they are nice people, and from what I understand, they have a good cause. But they seem to have taken over Manhattan sidewalks with their "demonstrations." At the core, these groups usually consist of five or six normal looking people sitting peacefully in meditation. That's fine, and if that were all, I'd have no problem. But surrounding these folks are usually ten or so other people charged with acting out the Chinese government's current methods of torturing the followers of this practice. To compliment this troupe of budding actors, Falun Dafa has chosen to litter the area with incredibly graphic pictures of the flesh wounds and body burns generously handed out by Chinese authorities. This afternoon, while I was walking to lunch thinking about the pleasures of acquatic pesticides and how they may or may not kill lobsters, I was confronted with one of these disturbing reinactments. Needless to say, the whole thing just wierded me out. If meditation is your thing and you want converts, hey, tell me about meditation, but I'm not sure anyone ever joined a movement based on pity alone.

So this led me to another thought. A lot of groups point at persecution as a sign of the rightness of their cause. The early Christians did it; Jews do it; Mormons do it; Republicans do it; African-Americans do it. The list could go on. But the idea that persecution lends credibility to your movement is just a false one. I imagine that the Klan could claim a good bit of "persecution" these days, and I'm pretty sure their movement isn't too credible.

My question is this: If past persecution remains in the past, why bring it up? Why should LDS people even worry about the fact that there was an "extermination order" in Missouri, or that the United States government sent troops in 1857 to occupy Utah? I see a big difference between remembering the past so it doesn't repeat itself and remembering the past so we can all feel sorry for how bad we had it. I'm sure the Falun Daufa people are attempting (in an incredibly roundabout way) to enact change within China as much as they are looking for converts, but how do you guys think this applies in other circumstances?

11 Comments:

At 8/22/2006 01:26:00 AM,

I ruined your schtick by posting on the other previously uncommented on string... but I figure I'll repost a similar response here:

1) Is Falun Dafa the same organization as the Falun Gong? Seems like it is.

2) NAMBLA is persecuted too... I'll let you decide whether that strengthens or weakens your argument.

 
At 8/22/2006 01:45:00 AM,

Maybe past persecution only lends credibility to a group’s movement when the movement itself has been later vindicated. The KKK might not be the best example of a movement that can claim "persecution" because they're freaks, and history has proven it.

We give credibility to the respective movements of African Americans, Jews, Christians, and even Mormons as a result of their suffering because history has shown that it was in fact persecution and not some form of enforcing the law.

This of course raises the philosophical question, "Can you ever really trust what you read in history books?" Who writes history, and isn't there always two sides to any story?

The problem with Falun Dafa might be that no one really knows what to believe. My bet is that China is guilty of some pretty horrible stuff, but who really knows for sure.

The sad fact is that unless they result to the drastic forms of demonstrations they currently employ, no one would take notice. Just like it takes our illustrious GW grad Rocky Anderson joining in Anti-bush protests for the Deseret News to even take notice that the protests exist when Bush is in town.

While the characterization that Whites in general can not and do not understand persecution prevails in US, I think that most of us are not so far removed from one form of persecution or another to feel sympathy for any group that invokes the word. As I give it careful consideration, even the freaks might get my attention if they feigned persecution in an effort to lend support to their cause. I just can't stand the idea of someone being persecuted and I would at the very least hear what they had to say.

A better example I might offer would be to consider the plight of the Muslim extremists. (Pause for sirens going off on government computers) They claim persecution with every act of terrorism. Does this lend credibility to their movement?

They certainly don't have the visual aids that Falun Dafa has. Our government is presumably much better at preventing photographs of torture.

 
At 8/22/2006 01:53:00 AM,

Funny enough, Marc and I were posting at the same time and I missed the opportunity to comment on the "plight" of the North American Man/Boy Love Association ("NAMBLA"). I frankly am embarrassed to say that I googled "NAMBLA" to see what it was. I'm also happy to report that SLC does not fall anywhere on the top 10 list in google trends for such a search.

I feel that NAMBLA would fall under the "freaks" category of my previous comment. I gave it due pause, and have accordingly written off their claims of persecution. May they all go to jail.

 
At 8/22/2006 08:11:00 AM,

marc:
Falun Dafa and Falun Gong are the same thing.

taylor:
If the group's cause is vindicated and justified, then why the need to bring up persecution at all? For example, there is no longer an attempt to exterminate mormons in missouri, yet we LOVE to bring up the extermination order as an example of how bad we had it. Why? What's the point? I doubt many states these days are leaning towards choosing to exterminate mormons.

 
At 8/22/2006 09:13:00 AM,

Taylor said, "They certainly don't have the visual aids that Falun Dafa has. Our government is presumably much better at preventing photographs of torture."

HA!

 
At 8/22/2006 09:21:00 AM,

I think that your "persecution discourse" as a means of proving the veracity of a cause is very similar to the "hero discourse" (rhetoric?) that we employ in other contexts to justify causes. The "persecution" discourse you have described generally is used by minority groups. Now look at a majority group, e.g. the US, who uses "hero discourse" to justify causes. I often hear people talk about loved ones who have died in Iraq/Afghanistan who say "we can't pull out NOW, because that would mean that my loved one's sacrifice would be in VAIN." This type of discourse is being used by the MAJORITY to justify a cause, rather than the minority. When a minority element dies for a cause at the hands of the majority, we call that person a "martyr"... vice versa, the victor is the "hero." Essentially, the mythology that we create as a society to cope with mass death/tragedy is that the tragedy MUST BE JUST/RIGHT, else why coult it have been allowed to happen?

 
At 8/22/2006 11:10:00 AM,

I guess I view persecution as an essential element of vindication. Without persecution, a movement can never be vindicated. We stop talking about persecution once the movement is completely vindicated.

It's like the process of Catholic Sainthood. It takes a long time for a man or woman to become a saint, and there is a number of requirements that have to be met. Only when enough advocates arise for a particular person and enough evidence is presented to bolster their cause, does the Catholic church deem someone a saint. As far as I know, you don't stop becoming a saint once that has happened.

So it is with the movement vindication process. Persecution or adversity is part of the evidence advocates use to vindicate a movement. The Mormons, Jews, etc. have a long way to go to gain vindication for their movements in my opinion. Mormons, for example, are still persecuted at home and abroad. When an interfaith council in DC restricted their membership to every faith, but Mormons, it caused a lot of people to proclaim, "this is the same crap we've delt with since our inception." Luckily for us it was the Jews who came to our defense and said, "If you aren't going to let the Mormons in, we don't want to be part of your group either."

Now an example going the other way: No one tries to gain support against the British by vocally remembering the horrible persecution before the Revolutionary War. Why? Because the US's cause has been vindicated and there is no need to fight for it further.

 
At 8/22/2006 11:18:00 AM,

actually, taylor, there is a "fast track" process for catholic sainthood. pope john paul 2 is on the fast track process. he's been dead what, a year, and is expected to be sainted pretty soon. not much persecution there...

as for your revolutionary war/vindication example, I think that you are dead wrong. Every fourth of july is a demonstration of the same type of "persecution discourse." We tell the story of the "poor, poor colonists" who were being "unfairly taxed" and we had to fight the "oppressive tyrranical yoke" of King George. We tell it in the popular media with movies like the Patriot, or with pop history books like 1776. the "persecution discourse" of the American revolution still lives, so by your reasoning, perhaps the American revolution has NOT been vindicated??? indeed, in light of the situation in Iraq, and the general rollbacks of democratization throughout the globe (think: Venezuela, Russia??), maybe the US democracy experiment hasn't been totally vindicated???

 
At 8/22/2006 11:20:00 AM,

"without persecution, a movement can never be vindicated"... there can be some irony in there, actually... think about that statement from a MAJORITY perspective, instead of the minority. if the majority persecutes and destroys the minority, and the minority can't complain about the majority's movement, then the majority's movement has been vindicated through persecution!!!

 
At 8/22/2006 02:06:00 PM,

I don't really buy the idea that persecution has anything to do with the validity of a cause, I don't like to back up my arguments with real data, but I would imagine that some great causes succeed pretty quickly, without much opposition and realatively unimportant causes face strong opposition, I'll let you think of examples.

Also, I think that there should be a persecution statute of limitations, If you haven't felt the effects (not super removed, vague effects either) of persecution in your own life then no citing it for anything other than for a history lesson. I for example was raised in the upper middle class east bench of Salt Lake City and have never faced much more than an odd look or rude comment because of my religious beliefs, therefore I don't need to be citing the extermination order to prove anything about myself.

Of course some persecution does have a lasting efect (slavery, the holocaust) but let's keep it in perspective.

I don't know anything about Falun Dafa, but if these atrocities are currently going on, isn't it a good idea to let people know about it?

 
At 8/27/2006 01:22:00 AM,

If the federal government hadn't come to Utah in 1857 and the LDS church had not forsaken polygamy for statehood, where would it be today? Might I respectfully suggest, a small town in southern Utah. As Utah is now 11 percent hispanic, maybe the fast track to sainthood is a more pertinent issue. 

Posted by Bill

 

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