On the Corner

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by Robert Docter – 

I wonder if it’s possible to be too respectable—too much in need of social approval.

I wonder if becoming too respectable requires the abandonment of some values.

If it is possible to be too respectable, I wonder what word defines that behavior.

Could that word be needy—suggesting a feeling of inferiority, a lack of emotional support? Or could it be vacuous—empty, without contents? Or could it be weak—irresolute, spiritless?

I wonder about the cost of being needy, or vacuous, or weak.

I wonder if one’s need to be admired and liked by a broad expanse of the population makes the achievement of unpopular goals unlikely.

I wonder if it’s possible to avoid being too respectable if one is so highly respected, with so much admiration and adulation, that the loss of frequent praise and commendation would be seen as too great to bear.

I wonder if it’s possible for an organization to become too respectable.

I wonder about the kinds of issues or principles that might cause someone to sacrifice some respectability.
During three days in early October in 1908, The Salvation Army dominated headlines in all Los Angeles newspapers.

Los Angeles Herald, October 3, 1908

The story concerns the arrest of Mrs. Major E. W. Campbell, co-commander of “the corps.” The charge was “attempting to speak on the streets within the proscribed district.” The arrest took place at 4th and Broadway—and the “district” was downtown Los Angeles. The prisoners declined bail and four women and six men spent the night in jail. The article concludes with the statement: “A crowd numbering from 1,500 to 2,000 persons witnessed the event, and, as usual, jeered and hooted at the police.

Los Angeles Herald, October 5, 1908
Twenty-five Arrested for Parading Streets

Here we read that Major E. W. Campbell led his wife and 23 others, including a large band, through the streets and were arrested for parading without a permit by Sgt. Kriege and a squad of officers at the corner of 5th and Hill Streets in downtown Los Angeles. Once again, the crowd supported the Army.

Los Angeles Daily Times, October 6, 1908
The Law Supreme

In an editorial in the Times the Army is severely criticized for breaking the law. “The law is supreme in this country, and it must regulate the doings of all,” we read. “The law has forbidden certain practices on the streets of Los Angeles (parading and speaking downtown) and The Salvation Army has acted very unwisely in running counter to the law.
“The local officer should be disciplined by those in higher authority. The city authorities have enacted an excellent ordinance for the suppression of street nuisances and peace disturbers, and they should have the earnest moral support of every patriotic citizen in enforcing it to the letter.”

Our tactics have changed as our organization has matured, but has our voice in the cause of social justice dimmed to such a point that we have become too respectable?

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