Friday 23 April 2004

Bearing the Cross of Free Speech

Now it is fully understandable that the people of the United States, in this time of war and terror, would seek some sort of grip onto the reality that seems to have left us during the night of September 10th, 2001.

Amid the seas of American flags, banners praising the freedoms of our nation, and a bubbling new nationalism, one almost feels as if the tide of patriotism brought to the forefront of our nation after the immense tragedies on September 11th, 2001, is an endless positive front against those shady specters of terror that lurk just beyond the line of sight of the castle cannons.

However, there are scattered groups out there that feel as if this rush of patriotism is breeding something far darker than outside terrorism, if indeed that is a possibility. Those scattered groups feel that the rush to support President George W. Bush in his march to war in Afghanistan and then Iraq signals a shift in the policy of America’s citizenry – the will to question the motives and agendas of those who lead us. To believe that the government of these United States of America has not used the uneasy acquiescence of the people to its will for personal gain shows both a foolish naïveté and an ignorance of history.

It has become un-American to speak out against those leaders for which some have an unaffected scorn. Showing anything but full support for our president on any issue relating to the security of this country is met with cat-calls of “terrorist,” and “treason.” Online stores now stock bumper stickers that read “Does My Flag Offend You? Get Out!” while Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, among the top brash leaders of a movement determined to stomp out dissent speech, rail on those Americans who do not believe that President Bush is always correct in his motives.

Free speech, indeed, free dissent, is being stepped on by the most conservative and secretive administration since Richard Nixon took office. Protesters, a common sight – or maybe not – at Bush Administration speaking venues, are herded into “Free Speech Zones,” often enclosed areas up to a mile away from where the official they are protesting is speaking.

Protesters who carry signs often have them confiscated as “The stick with which the sign is attached could be used as a projectile weapon,” as one Miami riot officer said upon dispersing a crowd of protesters outside a building where Florida Governor Jeb Bush, President Bush’s brother, was speaking.

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