Tag Archive: Current Events


Strength in Numbers

For the past three weeks, the world has sat and watched a true, modern-day peaceful revolution begin, expand and, in the end, force a change in Egypt’s long-standing and oppressive government. There were skirmishes throughout, but they were brought on by hired thugs paid by the establishment to break the protesters’ will.

But their will was not broken.

They stayed until the end and learned the one golden rule of citizenship:  The government, regardless of how it was created, is ultimately subject to the rule of the people. Millions of Egyptian citizens, having suffered under decades of oppressive rule by Hosni Mubarak, realized that they outnumbered the bureaucrats, the police and even the military. Also, they didn’t sink into mindless violence, destroying their own neighborhoods and business. They simply took to the streets and made their voices heard and, in doing so, changed much more than the leadership of their country.

This morning, I saw in the news that protesters in Iran are clashing with police in the streets of Tehran. The leaders of the so-called “Green Movement,” Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have been under house arrest since last week. They are positioning these marches as being supportive of the Egyptian people, a stance the Iranian government took as the crisis in Cairo was reaching its climax. Now the government is trying to crack down, going so far as to surround their homes and keeping them from joining the marches.

Of course, all despots in the Middle East should have been thinking about this as events were unfolding in Egypt, especially Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmandinejad. After the world-wide condemnation of his stealing the 2009 election and then the brutal methods used to crush the opposition and their calls for justice in the aftermath, I should think he would have already had a plan. Perhaps he did, but the hypocrisy of supporting the people of Egypt and Tunisia in their revolution and then restricting his own people from gathering in public to do the same can’t be missed and should certainly not be a surprise to anyone in the world now.

The point is this:  We citizens far outnumber the members of out government. We think of ourselves primarily as being dependent on them, but actually, they are equally dependent on us. This symbiosis is what gives us our strength. If we don’t work, our government doesn’t work. Iranian security forces can fire rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds, and they will stop some of the protests, but what the events of the past few weeks have proven is that, eventually, they will run out of tear gas and bullets and be overwhelmed, or perhaps they will do what the Egyptian military did and refuse to fire on peaceful, unarmed people.

What the Egyptian people did transcends their immediate goal of ousting Mubarak from office. They set an example for all the people of the Middle East, of the world for that matter. They showed that ordinary men and women can force the change. It requires sacrifice, it requires courage, but it can be done. And you don’t need another country to do it for you.

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

~ First Amendment of the United States Constitution

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner walked into the midst of a crowd of people outside a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, approached Representative Gabrielle Giffords, drew a semi-automatic pistol, and shot her in the head. Loughner then turned and proceeded to kill six people, including federal Judge John Roll and nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Thirteen others were injured.

westboro%20baptist%20church.jpgLater that same day, the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, issued a statement on their web site stating that they would be traveling to Tuscan to perform one of their now infamous protests at the funerals for the shooting victims. In bold type across the top of the posted flier, the “Christians” of WBC proclaim, “THANK GOD FOR THE SHOOTER-6 DEAD!” It goes on to say that God sent Loughner to kill these people because the U.S. government has been trying to silence them, that the government has been trying to keep them from proclaiming that we’re all doomed. But the most disturbing thing was their announcement about protesting at these funerals of innocent people killed for no other reason than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, I need to go on the record here and say that I personally believe, like most people with a reasonably well-wired cerebrum, that these people are complete nutcases and should be locked away in a home for the Christianically insane. In fact, I chuckle when I hear the term “Christian” applied to these inbred attention-seekers. What they’ve done is discarded the New Testament all together and gone Old (school) Testament on us. You know, those inspiring old stories about God wiping out cities, condoning the slaughter of children and the keeping of women as chattel? To these self-righteous wing nuts, they refer to those stories as “The good ‘ol days.” I am truly a pacifist, but the part of my brain that descends from a monkey would love to see a biker gang show up at one of WBC’s protests and beat the shit out of anyone holding a sign that says, “God Hates Fags” or “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.” That would bring me great satisfaction indeed.

But that’s me personally. As Americans, the WBC stands as an important lesson for all of us, and it has nothing to do with religion.

The good people of the WBC remind us that America is a great place to live because even the nut jobs have the right to express themselves, regardless of how distasteful their message may be to the rest of us. Read the text of the First Amendment above. It doesn’t say, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, unless most people think it’s ignorant, bigoted bullshit, then it’s okay.Every citizen gets that right, even the people we don’t think deserve it.

This is why it makes me uncomfortable when I hear the popular outcries for the government to put a stop to WBC’s protests. Again, I detest them for what they do, but they are Americans, and we cannot revoke their rights just because we all think what they’re doing is wrong. In reality, they are not breaking any laws. They follow local ordinances and apply for permits to peaceably assemble. They confine their imbecilic protests to the area permitted for their use. The members of the WBC are Americans, whether the rest of us are comfortable with admitting that or not, and therefore, their rights should be protected as verdantly as we would want ours protected.

That being said, I want to touch on the term “Free Speech.” It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. If history has taught us anything, it’s that speech is anything but “free.” As good parents teach their kids at an early age, every action you take in your life, everything that you say, everything that you do, has consequences. They may be good or bad, but they’ll be there waiting for you. Smart people know how to think about the consequences of their actions and respond accordingly.

From what I can tell, the WBC has very few friends. They feel they are on a sacred mission to…well, that’s the part that seems confusing. The natural conclusion would be to say they’re trying to save the rest of us from eternal damnation, but that doesn’t come through in their rhetoric. Rather, they seem to simply be trying to tell us we’re fucked. No matter what we do, God actually hates us. We’re incapable of living in His law, so we better get ready for an afterlife under the broiler. In this respect, the WBC is the equivalent of the scruffy, dirty caricature of the city bum wearing the sandwich board that says, “The end is nigh. Repent or be doomed.”

Their hateful diatribes will come back to haunt the WBC at some point. I’m not making any kind of prognostication here, just drawing from historical fact. If you keep pushing the right buttons long enough, somebody or something is going to come along and break your fingers. Speech is not free; a toll booth eventually turns up.

Something that is deemed a right demands responsibility, personal responsibility, to not abuse it, to take advantage of that right for the good of you and your fellow citizens. This is where WBC falls far short. However, it is not the place for the government to impede theirs rights, regardless of how badly they abuse it. It is our responsibility to set things right. And no, I’m not talking about putting on biker gang outfits and beating the shit out of them.

I’m talking about what ordinary citizens, outraged at WBC’s protests at military funerals, have already done. The mass organization of communities to form a human wall between WBC’s hateful demonstrations and the grieving families of dead soldiers is exemplary and, frankly, inspiring. It’s an example of ordinary American citizens using the same right the WBC abuses to do the right thing, not for themselves but for their fellow citizens. In fact, such an action was already planned for today by a group of people planning to block the shooting victim’s funerals while wearing giant “angel wings” so the WBC protesters would be unseen.

We don’t need the government to save us from the WBC. All legislative solutions do is draw more attention to these sub-human ass-bags, and that is what they are ultimately seeking, as proven in the Los Angeles Times report from last night saying that the WBC has called off their protests of John Roll and Christina Green’s funerals in exchange for airtime on two radio stations.

The WBC has the inalienable right to proselytize their decidedly fucked-up view of the Christian faith. We have the right not to listen. This, I think, the Framers would agree with one hundred percent.

 

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