If one example epitomizes creeping fascism in America, it is the recent Florida incident in which John Kerry did nothing while police tasered and arrested a student who asked him a rambling question about why Kerry had not contested the 2004 election and why nobody had moved to impeach Bush. Did Kafka write the script for this? Andrew Meyer had a non-soundbite question. He was trying to lay out enough background so that his question made sense, and had in fact gotten to his point, when University of Florida police moved in, manhandled him to the back of the room, put him on the floor and tasered him, while Kerry droned on, making jokes about the incident( “I’m afraid he’s not able to come up here and swear me in as President.”) and everybody in the room just sat and watched. Later, Kerry claimed he was not aware that Meyer was being tasered. Hey, the guy was screaming “Don’t taser me!” I guess this kind of answered his question about why Kerry didn’t contest the election. All that’s necessary for evil to triumph, they say, is for good people to do nothing.
When I was in college, an incident like that would have sparked a riot, tasers or no tasers. The fact that nothing happened is a sad commentary on the state of America today, and what’s sadder is that it’s not the only symptom of repression, or of passive acceptance of repression. We’ve all heard of no-fly lists, and the increased airport security that goes with them. Flying these days is like going to a voluntary prison,where they treat you OK as long as you do what they tell you. Step out of line like Carol Gotbaum or Doris Watson, and police who are trained to confront big, burly, healthy male criminal types will manhandle you to death. What happened to treating women, no matter how agitated, like ladies?
While these womens’ deaths are, so far, isolated incidents, there are plenty of people who have found that the friendly skies aren’t friendly to them any more. While the exact number is a state secret, there are an estimated 700,000 people either forbidden to fly in this country or subject to intense search and questioning every time they board an airplane. What have they done? In many cases, they are individuals who have spoken out against US government policy. This is political harassment, pure and simple. In spite of widespread protest, the government is planning to make travel even more difficult—by next year you will, if they have their way, need a passport to visit Canada and a federally-approved “real ID” to enter federal courthouses, national parks, and other locations. Gotta protect them national parks from freedom-hating terrorists, yessir. Oh, by the way, you won’t be able to get social security or open a bank account without it—and you may not be able to get one, and it may cost more than you can afford.
Plus, you can only cross the US-Canada border if you’ve been a very good little boy or girl. In June, I recounted the plight of a psychologist who has been refused entry into the US because of articles he published in praise of psychedelics, thirty years ago, although he has no arrest record and has been visiting his family in the US without incident for decades; now comes news that two anti-war activists, Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright, of Code Pink, were recently refused entry into Canada because of the arrests they have undergone to protest the war. Both had entered Canada with no problem as recently as August. It seems the US FBI gave Canadian customs the National Crime Information Center list so the Canadians would know who to keep out, and it makes no difference to the Canadians whether you were arrested for attempted murder or for trying to stop a war they themselves had the good sense to avoid. According to this standard, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu would all be denied entry into Canada. And speaking of Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was briefly blackballed from speaking in Minneapolis because Jews in Minnesota interpreted his criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “anti-Semitic.” Hey, Arabs are Semites too, y’know? And what the Israelis are doing to them IS a lot like apartheid! Anyway, THAT particular piece of American censorship was turned back by popular outcry.
American censorship. It’s what’s happening, baby. We got Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush lyrics to “The Wall” cut out, we got Bono’s speech accepting the Liberty Medal edited for him. (The company did present his full remarks in another, longer video clip that fewer people would see.) We got Verizon trying to keep NARAL from using its flash messaging service, we got Yahoo and MSN deciding that Truthout’s emails are junk no matter what the recipients think. And, speaking of keeping people from finding things out for themselves, we got marijuana arrests at another all-time high. In 2005 it was one every forty seconds, in 2006 it was one every thirty-eight seconds. That may sound like a pretty trivial increase, but those two seconds mean that 47,000 more people—another 130 people every day– were arrested for marijuana last year, mostly for simple possession. More people were arrested for marijuana than for all violent crimes put together. Hey, is this a free country or what? It will only be a free country if lots and lots of us, too many of us to haul away or throw a wall around, start exercising our rights. John Kerry and his vacuous Democratic buddies—Hillary, Obama, whoever– are not gonna do the job for us.