Those who weep for America today understand the loss of “liberty and justice for all”. What’s happening is a travesty, abhorred by our forefathers and guarded against to the best of their abilities. While I believe they would have pitched tents in our parks long ago, they would surely be defending them now. Their warnings are clear; it’s our torch to carry.
“A generous parent would have said, ‘if there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”
“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
– Thomas Paine
“If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the land that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
– Samuel Adams
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight!”
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
– Patrick Henry
“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the world that a free man, contending for his liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
“My anxious recollections, my sympathetic feeling, and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.”
“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
“The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail.”
– George Washington
“The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy.”
“Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.”
“It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.”
– Benjamin Franklin
“And I sincerely believe… that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our selection between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat in our drink, in our necessities and comforts, in our labors and in our amusements, for our callings and our creeds…our people.. must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread...”
“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
– Thomas Jefferson
APV supports the nonviolent Occupy movement and we appreciate everything you’re doing to help.
Trying to figure out what our leaders are attempting to accomplish from one week to the next is a daunting task that should, it seems to me, be much easier. Truthful accounts for the people to consider are not too much to ask. It is, after all, our country. But finding out the truth (even for our lawmakers) – about the Internet, Wikileaks, drone use and cluster bombs, or plans for regime changes, has become a harried dash through a maze of conflicting reports, where the “best guess” approach is all we have.
The current presidential debates have been no comforting indication that our leaders will have a grip on reality any time soon. I find myself watching them anyway, and sometimes they’re the only good comedy on.
The thing is, as long as our government is permitted to have secret laws, secret distribution of our money, and secret plans for global expansion that are so covert our Generals are shocked to learn about them, the “best guess” approach will probably include reports that seem incredible.
I know that one year ago I didn’t believe some of what is today’s common knowledge, including 26 TRILLION dollars in bank bailouts!
And by the way, with everything else that’s going on, just the thought of equipping our police forces with domestic drones gives me the creeps.
Anyway, these DemocracyNow! War and Peace Reports from yesterday cover several concerning issues of domestic and foreign policy, and the guest is Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon Magazine. Deciding who is “in the know” and who isn’t, is getting ridiculous, but I like these two sources because they report on pretty much everything and have a good track record. So, see what you think.
WikiLeaks Wins Major Australian Journalism Prize
One more thing … and this is really important. Congress is set to change the internet from what we have now to something very different. SOPA and PIPA are acts that threaten the structure of the web with the use of DNS filtering. Please do what you can to stop them from going through. Here’s a video about it and an urgent message from DailyKos with a link to where you can help.
And for the daunted, a little pep talk from Howard Zinn. We can do this!
Thanks from APV. We hope you get involved, and have a great week!
Wait! Here’s an update from APV member, Katherine Walker. I love this one. It’s short and it’s a great share!
Like a lot of people, I see the Occupy movement growing and naturally morphing into a more powerful entity, and I hope that their tactical choices nationwide will allow for a more powerful base, while still maintaining popular support.
That doesn’t always happen, as seen in Social Movements and Strategic Nonviolence, an opinion by G. William Domhoff, Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It’s a well sourced article based on lots of research and recent history, focusing mostly on the long-term negative effects that violent episodes and destruction of property cause, and the ultimate damage they do to popular support.
A lack of patience shown by those in the trenches, and an inability to see the big picture have failed some of the strongest movements, and are probably, at this point, a necessary consideration for Occupiers. Of course, there are varying opinions, but this one seems like a strong overview. It was written in 2005 before biased thoughts for or against the movement were possible.
A resolute and consistent peaceful effort will undoubtedly be more successful and more likely with popular support and an appreciation of the challenges of resistance Occupiers are facing, both inward and outward.
In a more recent opinion, activist and author Rebecca Solnit wrote Throwing Out the Master’s Tools and Building a Better House: Thoughts on the Importance of Nonviolence in the Occupy Revolution – a great article from beginning to end. In explaining her lack of tolerance for less than nonviolent activity, she speaks from experience differentiating between types of property destruction:
So when episodes of violence break out as part of our side in a demonstration, an uprising, a movement, I think of it as a sabotage, a corruption, a coercion, a misunderstanding, or a mistake, whether it’s a paid infiltrator or a clueless dude. Here I want to be clear that property damage is not necessarily violence. The firefighter breaks the door to get the people out of the building. But the husband breaks the dishes to demonstrate to his wife that he can and may also break her. It’s violence displaced onto the inanimate as a threat to the animate.
Quietly eradicating experimental GMO crops or pulling up mining claim stakes is generally like the firefighter. Breaking windows during a big demonstration is more like the husband. I saw the windows of a Starbucks and a Niketown broken in downtown Seattle after nonviolent direct action had shut the central city and the World Trade Organization ministerial down. I saw scared-looking workers and knew that the CEOs and shareholders were not going to face that turbulence and they sure were not going to be the ones to clean it up. Economically it meant nothing to them.
Solnit, a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine, concludes her article, which has been reprinted in countless publications, with this observation and request: “The powerful and effective movements of the past sixty years have used the strategy of people power. It works. It changes the world. It’s changing the world now. Join us. Or don’t join us. But please don’t try to have it both ways.”
The Occupy movement is still young, diverse, inclusive and unfolding into what we all hope will be a lasting and powerful voice for positive and moral changes to come. It will no doubt cross many of the bridges of movements past, and experience the inevitable trials inherent to struggles for liberty and justice throughout history.
In less than two months, they had already changed our national and political dialog with the support they garnered almost immediately. If we all just give them the benefit of the doubt, imagine what could be accomplished with a full complement of our support and encouragement.
I believe they will need more of our support every day – more praise and appreciation for the changes they’ve already brought about, more positive sharing and attention to their individual needs in our communities, more money donations, water, tents, blankets … whatever they need.
Phone calls to representatives and politicians, local, state and federal, with clear, insistent and unconditional demands for their support can make a big difference, and could sway or end the violent nature of the attacks against them. How they are treated during the coming holidays will reflect on us all. “The whole world is watching.”
Actually, it would help if they were on all our lists – the grocery list, the errands list, the to-do list, the gift list, as well as our wish lists. The Occupiers deserve the kind of support we show other Americans struggling with disasters. They’ve set out to peacefully absorb whatever unpleasantness comes their way, and they’re doing that for us. History is very clear about non-violent resistance. Its success rate in overcoming government overreach is undeniable. But it’s not for sissies – it takes great fortitude. They’re a peaceful blessing, earnest and unselfish, and we can all do something to help them.
Revolving around each other’s needs inclusively, providing for each other to provide for ourselves, that’s the revolution. Together, we can transform this early period, the “beginning of the beginning”, into the means for a peaceful recovery of the American values we cherish, and then pass them on to our children with reasonable expectations and the tools they need to guard against future abuses. Please join or adopt an Occupy group and help them as much as you can.
Pepper spray is not a vegetable.
I wanted to take a moment from pre Thanksgiving cleaning and cooking to express my personal thanks and gratitude to our many members and to the many people who have donated their time, ideas and yes, money to making the Alliance for Progressive Values’ first six months so successful.
Last winter as the ramifications of a tea party controlled House of Representatives in Washington, a series of Republican Governors “gone wild” around the country, and here in Virginia a General Assembly bent on rolling back the clock on women’s health began to sink in, we began to organize. Today, the tide may be turning. Progressives around the country are finding their voices and speaking out against the wrong headed ideologies and dishonest policies that have come to dominate our nation. This year in response to a broad and concerted conservative overreach that stretches from the federal budget to our bedrooms, people are waking up and realizing that no one is going to do this for us, that we have to do it ourselves.
APV is part of a growing movement of Americans who understand that we can’t pay for endless wars by robbing the elderly and the disabled of the money we owe them. That we can’t continue as a democracy when a small portion of the population controls the majority of its wealth. When the election system and the processes of government are awash in money and corporations write the laws that regulate them. The safety of the food we eat, the medicines we take, the air we breath, the water we drink shouldn’t be sacrificed against the profit margin on a quarterly earnings report. We’ve had enough and in the year(s) to come we plan on making our voices heard and standing up to the greedy and the corrupt. Americans have done it before and won, and we can do it again.
When a few of us joined together to found APV we did it in the profound belief that we were not alone and that in fact we represented the feelings, the hopes and the fears of many, many more Americans. That belief has been born out not just here in Richmond where frankly we’ve grown and prospered at a level that has far outstripped our initial expectations, but across the nation as well. When we started organizing around a kitchen table in March of this year there was no Occupy movement, the media was fixated on a narrative given it by the corporations and the radical right wing, a narrative that stressed that the poor must pay for the excess of the wealthy and that the only way out of our dire situation was to relinquish even more of our hard won freedoms. They have been working for a generation to erase the gains of the last century and this year we stood up and said NO.
We can be proud of what we’ve started but make no mistake we have a long uncertain road ahead of us, and we’ll lose sometimes and it will feel crushing. But the secret is to keep at it, our opponents know this and they are not resting so neither can we. We can’t match them in terms of money, and many of them are lit with a powerful zeal that we can only hope to match, but we have something I think they lack. We have a grounding of tested ideas that work, where they have ridged ideologies that don’t. We have a history of practical success where they have failure. The right has and continues to exist in a tautological universe where America is great because America is great. They believe in a teleologic history where things turn out a certain way because that’s how they were meant to turn out. Faith can be a powerful force, but it’s no substitute for hard work, solution based policies and common sense answers, and we have those in abundance.
In the last year, we’ve watched our nation begin to awaken from a decade of privation and deceit. While the right seems bent on a national suicide pact, a sort of 1890 or bust mentality in which they get a do over for the last dozen decades of progress they haven’t been able to thwart, the Democrats, bless their hearts, as we say in the South right before we start the criticism, have often acted as enablers and sometimes full blown partners in crime and part of our mission at APV is to drag them back to the side of their better angels and to show them that there is a winning formula in a progressive message. APV welcomes the flowering of the Occupy movement and we greet them with open arms. Their energy, their moral courage and their ability to focus the nation’s attention on issues the main steam, corporate media doesn’t want to cover has added immeasurable power to our cause. We look forward to seeing where they go next.
Three years ago we elected our first African American president, we seemed as a people to be standing up and shaking off the fear and cynicism of the Bush era and many of us expected to see great things from the new administration. That’s not what we got and the disappointment has been palpable. But too many of us went back to our lives and left the heavy lifting to others. We left a moderate Democrat to bargain with a radical right wing and then we wondered that the outcome was not to our liking. 2012 must be different and that’s one of the reasons APV was formed, to make sure this time that our message gets across. We want an economy that produces good jobs, expands the middle class and protects and empowers the poor while they strive to better themselves. We want a healthcare system on a par with the rest of the industrialized world, one that doesn’t bankrupt us when we are at our most vulnerable. We want our environment protected and we want clean, sustainable energy and we want it NOW. We want an end to wars of opportunity abroad and a security state at home. We want the reckless bankers and casino capitalist who sank our economy held responsible and not rewarded. We plan on being in this fight and oh yes, we plan on winning.
So as I sit down tomorrow to my dinner, I will pause and be grateful for the gifts of this last year. Through this organization I have met or gotten to know better so many incredible people; our wonderful board members Courtney Cranor, Ann Hardy, Jeanne Bishop, Claire Tuite, Rhonda Hening and our President Stephanie Rodriquez. Doug Dobey our Arts Director, the Tuite family and the wonderful people at Helen’s who make our monthly Salons possible (especially John Tuite and Clay Hostetler), and the great folks who bring you this blog, most notably our tireless editor Donna Kennedy. And I am thankful for our members, most of all. At a time when things seemed bleakest you stood up and put your self on the line while others merely kibitzed from the balcony. You give me so much hope. Thank You.
If you’ve been paying attention for the last few days, you might recognize that something miraculous is happening. In New York City, 30,000 protestors formed a sea of humanity and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on the night of November 17th. Many of them had been attacked by police earlier in the day, yet, that evening, with 30,000 marching across Brooklyn Bridge, there was not a single arrest.
At UC Davis, police officers armed and in riot gear again attacked students who were passively resisting. Later these same police officers were surrounded by thousands of UC students and were asked to leave. Together the protesters stood as one, and delivered their message: “We will allow you to leave peacefully now. You can leave.” They continued their chant, “You can leave.” The police officers began walking backwards, away from the students, their weapons drawn. They were clearly afraid. The students did not back down, repeating peaceably, yet forcefully, “You can leave”. The officers stepped backwards until they finally turned, and left without firing another shot. Later that night, on the UC Davis campus, Chancellor Katehi who had authorized this use of force demanded an escort to her car. She said that she was afraid. The way to her automobile was lined by thousands of students who, with a measure of discipline I would not have thought possible, did not say a word. Their disciplined silence was for the chancellor, a walk of shame.
As thousands marched peacefully to the Brooklyn Bridge, Mark Read lit up the side of the NYC Verizon building with a series of messages. One looked a little like the bat signal, and read ’99%’, another read simply, ‘Do Not Be Afraid’
At the time, I wondered, be afraid of what? Or whom?
The marchers? The police? The mayor?
Another question occurred to me – is the message directed to the marchers or the police, the mayor or wall street traders? The obvious answer seems to be the activists who bear responsibility for the moment, but in the last few days, it seems that the powers that be are fearful too.
Most media reports don’t use that word ‘responsibility’ in connection with the activists; or, if they use it, the term is applied derisively. Yet, it’s hard to argue with the conviction of those willing to suffer baton blows and winter chill. They are messengers and suffer the metaphoric and non-metaphoric pain of any messenger bringing unwanted news. But the occupiers are not the crisis, really, they are merely telling us we are in crisis. Many are like Bronx resident, Carlos Rivera, who lost his job and is about to lose his family’s home: “I’m sitting down on the Brooklyn Bridge today because it’s not fair that our taxpayer dollars bailed out big banks like my mortgage holder, Bank of America, but they refuse home-saving loan modifications for struggling families like mine.”
There’s a sense of innate fairness that has been violated; a sense of deep injustice, of harm. The machinery of capitalism itself is broken, has metastasized and become a runaway engine of casino capitalism with no regard or obligations to main street or the world. Our own Democracy is broken as well. Our Congressional chambers is a millionaire’s club, and each member is caught in a campaign fund rat race of their own. Even committee chairs are doled out based on the level of money that can be raised from lobbyists with little chalkboard numbers jotted down to let you know how much you need to raise, like some kind of perverse congressional version of the unctuous real estate agents in Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s a corrupt system and everyone knows it. This corruption has led to stonewalling on everything from a real jobs program to reenacting Glass-Steagall, from a financial transaction tax or a millionaire’s tax to passing global warming legislation. So it is not just one crisis, but many: a financial crisis, a political crisis and a spiritual/environmental crisis. All the while, the essence of the crisis is distorted or hidden by a curtain of kabuki theater played out by politicians. At such times, the situation seems hopeless, but just as most of us were giving up, something happened. A relatively small group of protestors decided that their lives would not be given over to despair. They would do something.
They decided not to be afraid.
Mario Savio famously said that there are at least two ways in which sit-ins and civil disobedience can occur. One, when a law exists which is unacceptable to a group of people and they must violate that law again and again until it’s rescinded and repealed. The classic example here is the Civil Rights struggle against the Jim Crowe laws. But Mario noted another way in which sit-ins and Civil Disobedience can occur. He said that “sometimes the grievances of people extend to more than just the law, extend to a whole mode of arbitrary power, a whole mode of arbitrary exercise of arbitrary power.”
He brilliantly summarized what amounts to an extended metaphor for our society. He argued that the Berkeley Board of Regents view themselves more as ‘Board of Directors’ than as equal humans participating in a Democratic discussion affecting school and community welfare…. “what we have here. We have an autocracy which runs this university. […] I ask you to consider, if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the Board of Directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then the faculty are a bunch of employees and we’re the raw material! But were’ not. We’re human beings!”
He went on to declare famously, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all”
That is the second cause for civil disobedience. To reassert your authority and your responsibility as humans by stopping a process, a machine that would treat you as nothing more than a commodity. We are not machines, after all, nor are we products, nor are we merely consumers. We are citizens, first. We are humans.
Gandhi always hated the term passive resistance. The English translation came nowhere close to what he wanted to invoke, and so he resolutely used his own term Satyagraha – it’s a wonderful compound word from the Sanskrit that means loosely, Soul Force, or Truth force.
You can break it into three parts:
“Sat” — which implies openness, honesty, and fairness, in short, truth. Encapsulated in the term are a couple of unifying concepts: each person’s opinions and beliefs represent part of the truth—not all of it. People must share and communicate their truths cooperatively, that means, in turn, that they can not categorize themselves or others in an alienating way.
Next there is “Ahimsa”, or the refusal to inflict injury on others—the now famous non-violent part of Gandhi’s formulation. The notion of nonviolence is politically smart, in other words, looks better from the perspective of civil society, but it is also important in relation to the truth-speaking aspect of Satyagraha. If you are violent, you shut off channels of communication. As any good parent would understand, Ahimsa models the behavior by which you wish to live with others—again communicating, in a physical sense, how you wish the world to be.
Finally, there is “Tapasya”, a willingness for self-sacrifice, perhaps the hardest for Westerners to embrace. The person who is causing the disorder or civil disobedience must be willing to shoulder the resultant consequences. They must bear “any sacrifice that is occasioned by the struggle” rather than pushing such sacrifice or suffering onto their opponent. There must also be a face-saving “way out,” for the opponents. The goal, as Gandhi noted, is not to silence your opponent, a ‘victory’ in the traditional sense, but rather to allow the opponent to understand the truth as you understand it.
“Only those who realize that there is something in man which is superior to the brute nature in him, and that the latter always yields to it, can effectively use passive resistance. This force is to violence and, therefore, to all tyranny, all injustice, what light is to darkness. In politics, its use is based upon the immutable maxim that government of the people is possible only so long as they consent either consciously or unconsciously to be governed.”
One of the surprising things about the Occupy movement is how closely they adhere to the tenants of Satyagraha, whether or not many of them realize it. Not perfectly, of course, but their inclusive General Assemblies with their determination to maintain consensus or modified consensus allowing as many people to speak as necessary, is, in fact, an impressive embracing of ‘Sat.’ Their acknowledgement of non-violence as a tactical goal as well as an ethical position, and their willingness to sacrifice physical comfort, sleeping in the bitter November chill and snow, to talk with the police who beat and pepper spray them, to keep all lines of communication open even as they are harmed physically and ridiculed, is an inspirational instance of ‘Tapasya.’ They are our conscience, as Scott Price, Public Policy Director of Alliance for Progressive Values has said, “They stand as a moral lens that focuses on what is wrong, not on what must be done… They are the conscience of the nation.”
‘Another World Is Possible.’ Mark Read showed that message in light against the side of the Verizon building as well. One almost wants to add, another world, not made of greed and fear—the two emotions that any good economists will tell you drive our financial machinery — but of justice, equality and love, the underlying force of Satyagraha. This is manifested in many ways through many cultures. It was embraced in the civil rights movement as they marched through Birmingham, disrupting the order of the day and accepting the consequences—water hoses and vicious police dogs — non-violently. This embrace of sacrifice, the Tapasya portion of Satyagraha, eventually changed the conscience of our nation.
On the evening of November 17, over 30,000 activists marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, holding LED candles in a wonderful display of solidarity and light. It didn’t get much play in the press, but one sensed in their calm determination that almost anything was possible, that the loss of Liberty Square, the multiple arrests and violence by the police were as nothing compared to where they were headed. One of the chants Occupiers used hails back to the civil rights period:
We’ve come too far
We won’t turn around
We’ll flood the streets with justice
We are freedom bound.
The streets that evening were flooded with justice, and light, and something else you’ll rarely hear the press talk about these days. They were flooded with love.
Difficult to convey in physical terms, but you can see manifestations of that love in the care that was taken of the homeless, the acceptance of the drunks and addicts, of the marginalized and indigents that the NYPD, as a matter of course, had directed toward Liberty Square. It was in the willingness of those who occupied to accept the punishing terms of physical discomfort and societal ridicule. An 87-year-old activist who marched with Occupy that evening expressed her gratitude for this phenomena saying, “They’re spirit, their dedication, their love, it’s like food, it’s like energy.” One Oakland Poet of the Occupy movement put it this way:
Hope still lives here in America
She has always lived here with us
And now she is back before our eyes
Marching head high, fist higher
And whispering to you, to the millions amongst her,
When speaking to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek said that any space where people gathered together with openness and love, there too was the Holy Spirit. He may have been speaking metaphorically, of course, but, as a kind of footnote, nearly those exact words, ‘Do not be afraid’ were also used by Jesus to calm the disciples when the Holy Spirit descended on them.
They were told to go forth and bear the message that the world must change.
Our Ridiculous Media
(h/t Lisa Vincenti )
As we on the left are beguiled by the power and energy of the OWS movement et al, we must not forget that there is an alternate reality inhabited by much of the nation with a whole different narrative.
“Rather than permit America to consider any responsibility for the gross immoralities of our foreign aggression, the GOP’s demand for reparations plays to our exceptionalist conceit by implicitly suggesting that — facts be damned! — the war was Good and Just. And not just moderately good and just, but so Good and Just that we deserve to be paid for our trouble. Along the way, this self-righteous posture implies that we shouldn’t change anything about the (highly profitable) Military-Industrial Complex that led us into the war in the first place.”
By John Marshall, November 15, 2011. (Update below w. Jack Johnson)
Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? You know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y’know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.
Party Guest: There is this devastating satirical piece on that in the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating.
Isaac Davis: Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.
Party Guest: But biting satire is better than physical force.
Isaac Davis: No, physical force is better with Nazis. It’s hard to satirize a guy with shiny boots.
– “Manhattan” (1979)
When “Manhattan” came out, the controversy over Nazis marching in Skokie, Illinois was barely over a year old. According to the rule, “comedy is tragedy plus time,” not enough time had passed to satirize contemporary Nazis who wanted to march in a community of Holocaust survivors, which is why “Manhattan” has two characters discussing satire rather than portraying it.
One year later, a movie did satirize guys with shiny boots – “The Blues Brothers.” Jake and Elwood are driving the Bluesmobile and find their path in a Skokie-like town blocked by Nazis holding a demonstration. Their exchange is less clever than “Manhattan’s” but “gets right to the point”.
Elwood: Illinois Nazis.
Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis.
They not only disrupt the demonstration, their disruption turns the American Nazis – satirized even further by Henry Gibson, from terrifying new archetypes into classic comic villains.
Yet neither “Manhattan” nor “The Blues Brothers” disputed the right of the Nazis to free speech.
That was indicative of the debate at the time, in which free speech was defended by the ACLU and discussed throughout society and the media.
I was in high school and competing in the American Legion Constitution Public Speaking Contest (my first open mike, if you will). I remember a conservative student holding spellbound a whole Legion hall of World War Two vets with his argument that if we didn’t protect the right of Nazis to speak, one day we might the lose the same for the American Legion.
The U.S. Supreme Court, even its most right-wing, has seen the First Amendment as an immovable rock that you don’t fuck with (see, I can only say things like that because of the First Amendment).
When Jerry Falwell objected to being depicted sitting naked in an outhouse in the pages of Hustler and sued, the Court sided with Larry Flynt. That was a landmark decision for humor, which has benefited everybody from MAD magazine to the Colbert Report.
The test of the First Amendment is not whether it protects the speech that you like, but whether it protects the speech that you don’t like. I don’t particularly like the 2 Live Crew, but they’ve done more for my rights than most politicians.
Challenges to the First Amendment don’t usually occur on a daily basis over a period of months. The Skokie march was a huge issue, but it wasn’t replicated in dozens of other cities. The flag burning controversy didn’t come about as a result of hundreds of flag burnings a week. Past First Amendment controversies allowed us to feel that the First Amendment was basically strong, but needed tending here and there, from time to time.
Now the First Amendment is being weakened on a daily basis, not by its citizens, but by its authorities.
OWS protesters are being deprived of their right to protest and being physically attacked when they assert that right. In dozens of cities police are arresting people, not telling them the charges, macing them, beating them, shooting them with rubber bullets.
My own wife got caught in the riot after the Union Square march (her video of the young girls who got maced has gotten thousands of hits on YouTube).
My hope is that a year from now this episode will be seen as the end of an era when attempts to turn America into a police state failed. Then we can have funny movies (“Police Academy Zuccotti Park”) about how we all lost our minds and turned our civil liberties over to cops with nightsticks.
But that will take a larger national discussion than the one we’re having.
The country that at one time rationally weighed the pros and cons of Nazis marching on a community of Holocaust survivors will have to debate – openly, freely and without fear – whether we want our law enforcement officers to take away our First Amendment freedoms as they see fit.
Because 32 years after “Manhattan,” it’s still no easier satirizing guys with shiny boots.
The above post by John Marshall came in before the early morning eviction of OWS, NY City, which is still in a state of flux. “Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings signed an early-morning order temporarily barring cops from keeping protesters and tents out of Zuccotti Park.
But within hours, she was off the case as court administrators prepared to randomly choose a new judge — and excluded Billings’ name from the list of candidates.” (emphasis mine)
But the post is now more meaningful than it was yesterday. Hopefully, this turn of events will give rise to more discussion among the people – “openly, freely and without fear”.
If you’re still looking for details amid the media “non-coverage”, here’s Digby’s early morning take on it with video.
Good post from John Marshall, thanks Donna for highlighting it here. One of the things that Occupy Richmond did last night was exercise their ’1st Amendment Rights’ before City Council, waiting patiently for two hours in order to speak. As Occupy members stood before the council to address their concerns over the recent eviction at Kanawha Plaza and the suppression of their right to peaceably assemble, Mayor Dwight Jones walked out, refusing to listen to the speakers’ grievances. This is not how it’s supposed to work. Municipal officials only have the authority to the extent that we grant them authority. So, too, with Judicial, Legislative or Executive branch figures at the Federal level. Authority resides within ‘we, the people’ to the extent that ‘authorities’ ignore, walk out or suppress our rights–that is the extent to which they are no longer legitimate authorities. Mayor Jones or Mayor Bloomberg hold power only temporarily. They have apparently forgotten where ultimate authority resides.
By Jack Johnson, Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 4:15am
It’s always hard to overestimate the witlessness of city officials, but last night, The Richmond City Police, and Richmond City Mayor, Dwight Jones, exceeded all expectations.
Here’s a quick rundown of events. Occupy Richmond made it clear in a general assembly that there were three places that were favored for occupation—or re-occupation—after their encampment at Kanawha Plaza was destroyed in the dead of night by city officials on October 30th. Those three places were Monroe Park, Festival Park and Monument Avenue.
Shortly after a General Assembly last week it was announced that Occupy Richmond would make their encampment in Monroe Park after gathering for an excellent documentary film presentation on Occupy Richmond entitled “All Night, All Day”. The turnout tripled the numbers for the original Occupation at Kanawha Plaza. About 350 activists took to the streets after the showing. But these occupiers were split into three groups. One group went by Monroe Park and the other two groups converged on Festival Park. The folks that marched by Monroe Park (but not IN Monroe Park) were harassed for wearing bandanas across their faces, and 2 were arrested for this petty offense (they will be arraigned at 9 am tomorrow in Manchester Court at Hull and 10th, if you want to show your support).
The others, undeterred, marched onto Festival Park.
Now, the nice thing about Festival Park, if you happened to be set on occupying Richmond, is that it doesn’t follow the so-called sunset provision of Monroe Park. You can assembly legally there until 3:00 in the morning.
Hundreds of officers showed up at Monroe Park, but the activists did not stay there, but rather marched onto Festival Park. The police eventually caught on and within an hour or so, another sortie of state and city police lined the park, apparently waiting to carry out mass arrests. At around One o’clock in the morning, after a rousing round of the Star Spangled Banner and Woody Guthrie’s This Land, the Occupiers simply walked out of the park and headed toward the Canal Walk, moving by –but not into — Kanawha Plaza. Our fine city officials, with apparently limitless tax money at their disposal took it upon themselves to assume the marchers would descend onto Kanawha Plaza–and encamp there illegally once again. So, at about 2:00 in the morning there were another 100+ Richmond Police Officers and Virginia State Police and dozens of vehicles cooling their heels in front of Kanawha Plaza, waiting to make arrests…. But the Occupiers were nowhere in sight.
The Occupy Richmond crew were at The Canal Walk which just happens to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—and is perfectly legal.
So let’s tally this up. Richmond Police and State Police burn probably close to $20,000 in sparse City resources chasing the Occupy Marchers through the city, staking out where they THINK they might unlawfully assemble until well past 3 in the morning. Meanwhile, of course, Occupy Richmond is perfectly legal and is not going away.
Cost to the city for useless police activity to squelch free speech and the right of assembly? Nearly $20,000 (and probably more when you count the cost of circling helicopter and airplane)
Cost to Occupy Richmond activists for an evening stroll on Public Streets? 0
Expression on Mayor Dwight Jones’ face when he realizes his effort to destroy free speech and assembly with a ludicrous show of force has failed miserably?
Note: GA tomorrow at 1:30 PM in Monroe Park.