For everything there is a season and Pittsburgh is in the midst of its G-20 protest season.
As I have made abundantly clear, I am not big on street demonstrations, even while I recognize the right of people to peaceably assemble, with emphasis on the word peaceably. In that regard, the protesters have been on their best behavior so far -- and they deserve credit for that.
I also loved the the peace dance performed by flash mobs from Point Park University, but that seemed less like a demonstration that an act of exuberance. Check it out on the PG's Web site. If you aren't charmed, you may be dead.
But none of that changes my mind about the usefulness of protests.
During the Great Darkness (the Bush years) I was once asked by friends to picket George W. when he visited Sewickley. No thanks, not my thing. I wouldn't be caught dead on a street corner with a banner. I would not be caught dead at a tea party either, unless tea was actually served.
But what I have not done well is explain why I have this antipathy. As it happens, Barack Obama has done it for me. Ah, you conservative Reg-ulators knew he would.
In his meeting with Post-Gazette publisher and editor-in-chief John Block and executive editor David Shribman and others at the White House last week, the president said a surprising thing for someone believed by his critics to be some sort of radical.
When asked if he might have been in the streets with a sign in his younger days, he said: "Probably not."
"I was always a big believer in - when I was doing organizing before I went to law school - that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people's lives is what really makes a difference; and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally is not really going to make much of a difference."
I think that is a great truth. It's one thing to picket a company, say, that is treating its workers badly - I can understand that and might approve of it. It's quite another to protest diffuse causes, even if they are loosely aligned (climate change might impact jobs and the economy, which in turn might impact war and peace).
Unless the focus is precise, there seems little point. I am of the persuasion that is better to swat one big fly than try to wave a stick at a swarm of bees.
Protesting one of the myriad causes associated with the G-20 makes as much sense to me as disliking the weather and picketing a meeting of meteorologists.