Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My 1st Amendment Rights

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? - Mohandas Gandhi

One of the more frightening aspects of what happened at the Rand Paul debate and the other events where the teabaggers have allowed their true colors to show through physical assaults and verbal harassment is their sincere belief that they are defending the Constitution and the First Amendment specifically. Unfortunately, the First Amendment rights they are defending are only their rights and those who agree with them. Where are these defenders of freedom on the issue of the Islamic Center in New York or on the separation of Church and State?

It appears that the only rights they are willing to defend are the rights of the rich and the corporate elite to circumvent democracy through unlimited money, pollute, and ship jobs overseas. What these incidents clearly display to anyone willing to acknowledge it is that the outrage is not about the deficits, the overreach of government, or the immigration issue. It is clearly about “us” versus “them” and just like during the Vietnam War and the turmoil of the 60’s these folks have no qualms about using intimidation and physical coercion to try and stop the movement of time. If these folks are willing to stomp on a white female imagine what they are willing to do to minorities, Muslims, and the rest of “them”.

My question is how can a group of middle-aged and older white people be new? According to the false meme there were millions of middle-aged white Americans who were not voting or participating in the political process until now. This silent majority was only roused by the budget deficits and the socialist agenda of the Obama administration. So are we to believe that these are not the same cultural warriors from the past? These are the same folks who have always believed that they are the only interpreters and the arbitrator of what is right for America. Much the same as all fanatical groups throughout history they falsely believe that they have received some divine or supernatural insight and only those like them are able to receive it or be part of the group. This is not so bad if you are one of the enlightened ones, but it can be dangerous for those who don’t quite measure up because of race, gender, or religion.

What should be frightening to all Americans is not that there were two thugs who were willing to assault this woman. What is more troubling is that the crowd surrounding them was willing to allow it to happen. While they may not have actually had their foot on her head they did not find a problem with it happening. The crowd included women who were willing to stand by and watch this being done to another woman without questioning it or trying to intervene. How does the saying go the only thing evil requires is for good people to do nothing.

I am not one given to hyperbole or yelling fire in a crowded theater but as one who has lived through the turbulence and violence of a nation struggling with change it seems as though we are entering a similar period of polarization. It is strange how the same themes continue to appear in America. Back then it was also about patriotism and tribalism. You were either with us or you were with them. The wing-nuts have for decades disguised their intolerance and bigotry behind the flag and the Constitution. They have continually recreated themselves under different names and behind different issues, but their core mission has not changed. Their mission back then and today continues to be trying to roll back the clocks and to try to halt the inevitably of change.

The hope for the future of this democracy does not lie with the older generations. Every generation has to decide what values they stand for and are willing to fight for. For many of those of recent generations there has not been much they have considered worth fighting for. My hope is that with this rise in corporations undermining democracy through propagandists and unlimited campaign spending, with the rise of intolerance and bigotry towards Latinos and Muslims, and with the selling of the American middle-class to nations overseas that this generation will rise up and once again reclaim democracy for all Americans. Hopefully their love affair with “Wall Street” and the Gordon Gekko wannabes will realize that greed and short-term gratification is hollow.

Maybe this economic situation will wake up the true patriots just as the war and racism did during the 60’s. You see during the 60’s the true patriots were not the ones that supported the war or supported racism and bigotry. The true patriots were the ones who stood up and said we will not accept the status quo and that we reject your vision of America. Many of us are too old for this fight and the truth is it is not our fight. The future belongs to the young, not the old. The time has come for our youth to put down the game controllers, smart phones, and other distractions that are reducing personage to an image or a message on a screen and become engaged. It is your future that is being stolen.

"Man is more disposed to domination than freedom; and a structure of dominion not only gladdens the eye of the master who rears and protects it, but even its servants are uplifted by the thought that they are members of a whole, which rises high above the life and strength of single generations." - Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt

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