I was told that things like political persecution, detainment without
trial, and beating of prisoners were things that happened in other countries, that they
would never happen in America. I was told that we fought the American
Revolution and wrote the Constitution specifically to ensure such things would
never again happen in America.
But today I see the ugly face of repression rising in America. And it
is brought to you by the United States Government.
I am not proud to be an American today. I understand well why people
in many other countries hate America. I love America, but I despise what it
is rapidly becoming.
Something must be done about this.
There are many things that move me to write this, but what moved to me
write this right now is that a member of a registered political party
singled out for harassment,
first by American Airlines and then by
the United States National Guard because of the opinions she holds.
Nancy Oden, one of the U.S. Green Party's top officials, was traveling
to a Green Party national meeting from her hometown airport in Bangor, Maine.
She had published a statement that calls for Universal Health Care,
limitations on free trade, and a stop to the bombing of Afghanistan.
When she got to the American Airlines ticket counter she was told that there
was a record in AA's computer indicating that she should be searched anytime she
tried to fly.
During the search, she tried to help the security agent with a stuck zipper.
The agent grabbed her arm and she pulled it away. The National Guard instructed
the airline not to let her fly. The airline told all the other airlines not
to let her fly. She was unable to attend the Green Party meeting.
So an official of a registered political party in the supposedly democratic
United States was prevented from participating in the political process because
her name had been recorded in a computer as someone who should be treated with
I fear what America has become.
Also upsetting to me is the recent decision of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to
allow eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations as well as opening of their
mail. Read the ACLU press release
From the Washington Post article
U.S. Will Monitor Calls to Lawyers:
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft approved the eavesdropping rule on an
emergency basis last week, without the usual waiting period for public
comment. It went into effect immediately, permitting the government to
monitor conversations and intercept mail between people in custody and
their attorneys for up to a year at a time.
The right to a vigorous legal defense is one of the cornerstones of our
democracy. It is one of the bulwarks that comes between official repression and
those who are repressed, underprivileged, despised, outcast, or working for legitimate
political change. You can read about the guarantee of legal representation in
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein
the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously
ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him;
to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to
have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
I don't have a URL to link you to (
mail me one), but I read that among the hundreds of
"suspects" and "material witnesses" rounded up in the days after September 11,
many were held without charge and some were beaten by their jailers.
Also some were held without being given access to attorneys or their
families. I thought
that could not happen here...
The recently signed
USA PATRIOT act is an assault on our civil liberties the likes of which
have not been seen in decades.
Electronic Frontier Foundation's Analysis of USA PATRIOT Act, which largely
discusses the law's impact on online activities - did you know that the
government can now spy on the key words you search for at search engines like
AltaVista? Because computer cracking is now considered terrorism,
for exploitz can result in your lengthy imprisonment.
The truth is the first victim of war.
Shortly after the September 11th attacks, President Bush said something to the
effect that the reason the U.S. was attacked was because the terrorists hated
our freedom, and that we must fight the terrorists in order to preserve it.
But Osama bin Laden does not care either way about our freedom. He has made
it very clear why he hates the U.S., and none of this has been acknowledged by
any official statements that I have heard. What bin Laden objects to are the
stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the land of the holy city of Mecca,
U.S. support for Israel's repression of the Palestinians, and the continued
U.S. bombing of Iraq. More than anything, he feels that the presence of U.S.
troops in the Islamic Holy Land is a sacrilege.
Whatever your position is on bin Laden's objections to the U.S., you must
agree that it is wrong for our President to lie to us. Get informed, and work
to understand the complexities behind the enmity between the Islamic and
Western world. It's not as simple as our government would have us believe.
You might be interested to know what the Pentagon is doing to improve the
United States' image in the Islamic world. Well, I'll tell you. It has taken
out a $400,000 contract with Madison Avenue public relations firm
Group in an effort to help it "orient to the challenge of communication to
a wide range of groups around the world". In addition, former advertising
executive Charlotte Beers has been apointed to the post of Undersecretary of
State for Public Diplomacy, a position she qualifies for because of her previous
work promoting such products as Head & Shoulders shampoo.
Read about it in
Well, its comforting to know that we'll be winning friends in Central Asia by
showing professionally produced TV commercials depicting friendly Americans
in between the news reports
of mutilated and starving Afghani children.
What You Can Do
If you, like myself, feel that something is wrong with America these days,
or with whatever country you find yourself in, speak out about it.
In this troubled times, speaking openly to inform others of injustice or
to protest may result in a backlash against you from government officials
or others. Please read
this speech on the
importance of speaking your mind. Have courage - it is only by having
the courage to speak and to work against injustice that we can prevent it
from getting a lot worse.
Among the ways you can speak out
- Participate in online communities
- Send email to people you know
- Write web pages like this one and post the URL around
- Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers
- Staple leaflets to bulletin boards in your community
- Pass out leaflets in public places
- Call in to talk radio shows
participate in what we have left of the democratic process. Our
government has at least the appearance of having been elected, and the easiest
way to make a change is to vote out the ones who have brought this upon us.
- Volunteer for political candidates you believe in
- Get a bunch of voter registration cards and stand in a public place to
- Donate money to political candidates and parties who respect civil liberties
- Write letters to your elected representatives. While you can send email,
Congress gets so much spam that they pretty much ignore email these days.
Instead, you can find your Congressperson's postal address at
www.congress.org - write them a paper
Use encryption to protect your privacy. Please read my
page Why You Should Use
Encryption as well as my letter
Rights with Encryption.
You can get encryption software for free - you can use either
Pretty Good Privacy or
The GNU Privacy Guard. Both offer
excellent, military strength protection of your data, and the source code to
each is freely available so that programmers are able to inspect it for
security defects and back doors.
Teach the people you correspond with to use encryption.
Teach people who work for political change to use encryption. If you don't
think political candidates and their staff need to use encryption, you're
too young to remember Nixon's Plumbers getting caught
breaking into the
Watergate Hotel to wiretap the Democratic National Committe.
Join organizations that work to protect civil liberties.
Among these are:
One might think, and one certainly hopes, that the ultimate safeguard against
these threats to our civil liberties lies with the
Supreme Court of the United States.
But I am not so certain myself. The Supreme Court has ruled against the
dictates of law and the Constitution during other troubled periods in our
And we should remember that the current President received a minority of the
popular vote and was only declared to have a majority of the Electoral Vote
after an obviously politically motivated ruling by the Supreme Court, a
decision that has few pretenses of being based on the rule of law.
Even had all the ballots been counted, enough Black Florida citizens were prevented
from going to the polls that the election would clearly have gone for Gore had
they been allowed to exercise their right to vote.
As said in the dissenting opinion by Justices Stevens, Ginsberg and
Bush v. Gore (note - this is an Adobe Acrobat document):
What must underlie petitioners' (nb. - George W. Bush')
entire federal assault on the Florida
election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and
capacity of the state judges who would make critical decisions if the vote
count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit.
The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend
credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the
land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial
system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal
the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One
thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete
certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election,
the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in
the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
We must work together to restore the rule of law in our country - or we
shall surely suffer for it. If you do not agree that Fascism can arise in the
United States, take heed of the fact that Adolf Hitler was elected as the
leader of his country too.
November 12, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Michael D. Crawford.
Permission is granted
to reproduce this document provided it is copied verbatim, in its
entirety and that this copyright statement is preserved. Permission is also granted to make foreign language translations, provided that they are faithful to the original, and that this copyright statement is preserved.
The original of this document is at
please check there periodically for updates.