Sunday, June 16, 2002
This Isn't Germany Folks
I was reading Wil Wheaton's entry today, and he posted a link to this first hand account of a student who was arrested for turning his back on Bush as he gave a commencement ceremony speech at an Ohio University.
I went and read the entire post, which is no small feat seeing as I have a slow reading comprehension level (I read about as fast as a person can talk out loud, which is about half to a third of the speed most normal people can read). What the article reads like, and what Wil posted, seem to be blowing things very much out of proportion.
First off, before I begin, I need to make one quick statement: I support The President of the United States. I do not, however, like the President. I did not vote for the President. I will not in any way say that I am comfortable with the idea of a Cabinet appointment for a head of Homeland Security. It definitely reeks of Orwellian tones. I'm not a big fan of his recent policies. But he's the Pres. I'd take a bullet for him. I don't care if it's Bush, Clinton, Ford, Nixon, Carter. It's my country's elected leader, and I will defend the title.
That being said, I need to pick a few bones with what Wil mentioned, and the article. I've posted the major points of Wil's blog here in italics. Please check out Wil's site for the rest.
Metafilter was the first to share this story from the democratic underground. It seems that Bush was speaking at Ohio State University's graduation. The students were told that they were expected to provide a "thunderous" ovation and if they disrupted the ceremonies in any way, they'd be arrested.
At first read, this sounded scary to me, too, so I read the kid's first hand account. The account starts out with a quick explanation that some students who were graduating were going to take part in an organized protest called Turn Your Back on Bush. Who organized it, and why, is undefined. So now this whole thing is thrown into an entirely different light. At first I thought maybe the faculty said that everyone will clap loudly, and everyone who disrupts the ceremony will be arrested because they were dictating an authoritarian tone from the onset. But as it turns out, they were reacting to the fact that they knew that the very students they were addressing were already planning to disrupt the ceremony. While what the faculty said was undeniably wrong, I'm already leaning to their side.
That's right. At a public college, the students would be arrested and expelled if they expressed their unhappiness with George W. Bush.
Actually, they were told they'd be arrested and expelled. Probably just a scare tactic to try and get them to not actually do it. And if you read the first hand account, you'll see at the end that the person in question was neither arrested nor expelled. Besides, the kids should have known that the ceremony was merely a ceremony. They had actually graduated the minute their teachers turned in their final grades.
Let's get something straight, because I'm really tired of being told to "move to Afghanistan" because I'm "anti-American": If we allow the Bush Administration to goose-step all over our civil rights, and we sit back quietly while Ashcroft dances all over the constitution, we no longer have a country worth fighting for. Things like this transcend political ideology, IMHO. It doesn't matter if it's the Democrats or the Republicans who are currently in charge.
I have to agree with just about everything here. Disagreeing is what makes America America. We need people to keep an eye on management, and I'm glad there's people willing to do it. I for one am too tired and too weary. I'm also not really all that against what's being proposed, though. Granted, I don't really know what's being proposed. But I'm pretty sure it's nothing like Nazi-ism. I don't think Bush is advocating a white-only race which will consume all of Europe and hatefully eradicate the Jews. Once you throw "goose-step" out there, it starts to invalidate any arguments you might have that someone's being too conservative. Because Bush is nothing like Hitler. I mean, first off, he can't even paint. But seriously, let's not do the Hitler comparison. It's tired and played out, and not at all even remotely factual.
The thing that is so amazing about the USA is that I can (as of June 15, 2002) stand here, and loudly proclaim, "I DO NOT SUPPORT GEORGE W. BUSH, OR HIS POLICIES!!," without fear of reprisal. When graduating students are subject to ARREST for an action like turning their backs on a person who they don't respect, we have a very serious problem.
Actually, let's clarify some things here.
First off, this "person who they don't respect" isn't just any person. This isn't some faceless instance where we can throw anyone into the variable of the "person" in this equation. It's the President of the United States of America. This is very very important to note. Not because the Prez should be worshiped like a king, or because he has more rights than thou, or because he's the son of the former Director of the CIA. This is important because of one reason: the Secret Service doesn't allow anyone to fuck with the President. Let's take respect for the title off the table. I don't care if you respect him. Let's just say you're walking somewhere near 1600 Pensyllvania Ave and you happen to think aloud to yourself, "I hate the President. I wish he were dead!" chances are you'd be tailed, and before you got home, someone at the Secret Service would have a 200 page dossier on you which covered everything from who you voted for last election to what you like to read at night before you go to bed. It's a dumb thing to do when you're near the Pres. Let's say you said the same thing, only this time you were within eyesight of the Pres. You would probably be led off by a Secret Service agent, and then there'd be the whole lengthy interrogation process, etc.
Now think of what turning your back on the President says to the Secret Service: "I hate the President....." Now pretend that it's your sworn oath to the President of the United States of America to protect him from bodily harm, and you see a sea of dumb, stupid college students turn their back on the President. What would you do? This isn't about free speech. This isn't about the First Amendment. This has nothing to do with the right to peacefully protest. It's about the physical protection of the President. Say what you want when you're at your rallies. You fuck with the Pres in person, you get what you deserved.
Which brings me to my second point about this nonsense. Why would anyone go to college for four years and spend $80,000 just to end it all with a foolish display? Is that what they studied for all those years? Is that what they paid all of that money for? To turn their backs on their commencement speaker? Did they stand at the doors of that institution of higher learning four years ago and say to themselves, "When this is all said and done, I'm going to turn my back on the President!" Is this the kind of intellect our Universities are supplying? Commencement is about closure. It's about celebrating your personal education accomplishment. Commencement is not a political activist forum. There's a time and a place for political dissidance. This was not either of them. I don't feel very sorry for any of them, honestly. They elected to ruin their graduation ceremony, and they got exactly what they bargained for. Why should I feel any sympathy for them?
I hope that everyone can take off their various political mantles for a moment, and see this for what it is: the unconstitutional silencing of dissidents.
Hang on just one quick second here. This wasn't an unconstitutional silencing of dissidents. This was the Secret Service protecting their guy. Quick quiz. At what point does peaceful protest become dangerous to the President? Where do you want the line drawn? If they shouldn't be arrested for turning their backs on the Pres, should they be arrested for raising their middle finger? For carrying signs that say "Bush sucks!"? How about when they start lighting bonfires? When they form a blockade on the Presidential motorcade? Maybe when someone starts waving fake guns? Sure, those are rediculous, but if no one's going to bother to stop the protesters at any given level, who's to say how far it would go? The point is, you draw the line at the first sign of dissidence because as a Secret Service officer, it's your job to make sure it doesn't ever escalate any higher. Let the kids say and do what they want when the Pres isn't around in person. I'm sure no one would arrest them.
McCarthy would be so proud.
Oh well. Enough about politics. I promise to be funnier and pithier tomorrow.