Silencing of the Sheep
Posted by PintofStout on May 2, 2006
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Eric Arthur Blair or George Orwell
British novelist and essayist (1903-1950)
“When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out.”
American radical activist and writer(1936-1989)
As Kyle, a fourth grader from the cartoon South Park, said (not a direct quote), “It was easy for a long time to believe in and defend free speech.” Well, now it seems to be getting more and more difficult. In the past several weeks a reporter is being charged for nothing more than rudeness, the so-called leader of the nation founded on free expression denounces the simple translation of the national anthem to a foreign language, and offensive yet demur images of the prophet Mohammad were cut from a cartoon in the “freest country on earth.”
Wenyi Wang is a reporter for a newspaper owned by the exiled Chinese religious cult Falun Gong. During the Chinese president’s visit to the White House, Dr. Wang started yelling out in Chinese and English that the Chinese President’s days were numbered, and telling him to stop persecuting the Falun Gong. To President Bush she shouted to stop Hu Jintao from killing the religious cult. What was the response from the impotent leader of the USA? Arrest her and charge her with some ridiculous crime for speaking out, and threatening her with fines, jail time, and even possible deportation!
It is no real surprise that the country with only a slightly-less bad record for human rights abuses is embarrassed to be shown as being inferior; nobody wants to be told they are second- or third-best. George Bush may not be harvesting organs, but he detains people without trail (acting above the law, as usual), condones torture, bombs foreign countries killing thousands, uses his position to leak classified information to silence a critic, and now wishes to deport somebody for speaking out! Is this still America: Land of the free and home of the brave? (Or as Bill St. Clair once wrote at The Claire Files, “Amerika: Land on its knees, home of the slave.”) Is there still a First Amendment?
Adding to my disbelief is the echo chamber of some of the conservative press who say she should be arrested and charged. Speak out against her if you feel she was wrong; that’s the beauty of free speech. But to legislate against the expression of her views is wrong. If it is illegal to criticize and condemn with speech, then there is no way to wrest our nation from the clutches of despotism.
Then as an ancillary to the immigration debate, a Latino (not sure if he was Mexican or other) singer translated the words for the Star-Spangled Banner, our wonderful war-worshipping anthem, into Spanish. There has been no legislation in the matter or threats of criminal charges (yet) and opposition is mainly using more speech to counter the act. But when the Criminal-in-Chief says that a song should only be sung in English, brace yourself.
What could be wrong with singing a song in a different language than it was written in? Should it matter what song? I would contend not. Would it take meaning away from the Declaration of Independence to be translated into another language? The declarations in that document should be translated into every language on Earth and disseminated over the globe. The Bill of Rights, as much as the Declaration, is written to declare principals that most Americans used to hold as universal, not contingent on race, creed, color, location, language, or political affiliation. If the national anthem is somehow a symbol of those beliefs, it, too, should be translated and disseminated. If the xenophobes masquerading as public servants who took an oath on the principals of liberty, freedom, and the structure and principals of our government can’t understand that, then we surely need to educate them.
The atmosphere for dissent speech against the status quo is getting more and more unfriendly. The longer we wait to put a stop to the suppression or at least challenge it, the harder it will be to get back the freedoms already lost.