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Post Column: Abrasive protests can rub you the wrong way

“Look, for the last time, I’m not here to make fun of you!” I said, trying to look as honest as possible. It was harder than I remembered; I never know what to do with my eyebrows. “I don’t see why you’re being so difficult about this.”

The man with the loudspeaker, Nathan, shook his head. Behind him, a large sign saying “HELL IS REAL” was propped up against the wall; his fellow evangelist was waving a similar sign around with no small amount of enthusiasm. “Sorry, kid, but we’re not looking for more members right now. Also, I don’t think you have what it takes to do what we do.”

I threw up my hands in frustration. When the judge told me I needed to work with a “local community organization,” I figured these guys would be my best bet — all they ever seemed to do was stand around outside buildings and yell nonsense at people, and since that was usually how I spent my Friday nights anyway, it seemed like a good fit. I certainly hadn’t expected this much resistance; seriously, who would have thought that a bunch of religious zealots would be so non-inclusive?

“I don’t ‘have what it takes?’” I echoed. “Do you even know who you’re talking to? Do you even know who I am?”

“Actually, yeah,” Nathan said. “I recognize your face from the news. Weren’t you that guy who broke into PetSmart and —”

“I am the world champion of annoying people, that’s who I am! Give me that loudspeaker!” I yelled, snatching the loudspeaker away before he could stop me. I focused my gaze on a passing freshman. “Hey, you! Those glasses make you look like Steve Urkel’s nerdier cousin! Did your mom remember to pack your lunch? Is that a mirror in your pocket, because I can see myself in your —”

“Give. Me. That,” Nathan hissed, swiping the loudspeaker away. “First of all, I think you mixed up your heckles with your pick-up lines near the end there. Second of all, we’re not here to annoy people, we’re here to save the souls of these students!”

“Is there a difference?” I was genuinely confused. “I thought you guys were here to make college students feel bad about their lives. I mean, we kind of already have DARS for that, but I guess the signs are cool, maybe?”

Nathan sighed. “Well yes, that’s what we’re here to do, but it’s for a good cause. We’re trying to convert students away from the sin and debauchery infesting this campus.”

It may have just been the eight bottles of Heineken talking, but something about Nathan’s story didn’t sit right with me. “Wait a minute, we’re standing outside Baker Center at 3 p.m. on a Monday.  All the sinners and debaucher ... ers aren’t even here right now, they’re at home sleeping off their hangovers!” “Like quitters,” I added to myself silently. “If you’re really trying to help people spiritually, aren’t there more, like, constructive ways to do it? Don’t get me wrong, I love spewing hate at people, but I don’t think anyone’s buying the ‘loving missionary’ angle.”

“It doesn’t matter whether they ‘buy it,’ what matters is that we try,” Nathan said firmly. “We are all that stands between these students and the fires of Hell. And as long as we keep preaching, I’m confident that someday soon you students will come to realize that.”

I looked across the street, where a large whiteboard had been set up facing us.

The words “BOBCATS DON’T HATE” had been written boldly in marker, accompanied by dozens of smaller signatures. A group of students passed by us, chatting amicably and rolling their eyes at Nathan’s sign. “Yeah, man,” I called back as I fell in with their group, “Good luck with that.”

Ryan McAndrews is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Do you think protests are effective? Email Ryan at rm287608@ohiou.edu.

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