Living up to the Bill of Rights
The word "Patriotism" that may move most Americans may not move me, but this little episode on a TV show did
May 9, 2006
I wasn't born in America, so I feel as if either I missed the flag waving and the pledge of legion, and everything else that goes with it, or I was saved from the propaganda that goes with it and some brain-washing that comes with it. I never really did understand all this "we're number 1", "The greatest power", or rhetoric like it. I'm not arguing the validity of it, I just don't relate. So, it gets to be a bit difficult to digest words like freedom and spreading democracy, especially since we hear it in the president's speech eight or nine times in three sentences.
One thing I do understand and feel is when I hear all these words and phrases but either don't see it being applied or see just the opposite. So I pounce on it. My ears get really sharp and my tongue goes into a trans, wanting to find someone to argue with or shout my piece of mind to. My poor wife is usually at the end of it and truthfully, she doesn't want to be. She's just about had it with me yelling at the TV screen every time a politician come on, opens his/her mouth and pure bull shit comes pouring out.
A few days ago I walked into my wife's home office and heard words coming out of this guy's mouth that stopped me with hunger to listen to. She had received it as an attachment in an email and it was closing arguments in a court session from an episode of Boston Legal. Now I haven't watched any of the weekly shows, but this bit really got me interested.
I'm happy to say that in it's time slut I choose to see the Daily Show with John Stewart and then Keith Olbermann show, which I think either one has made me a bit smarter, or at least hasn't made dumber if I would have watched the Fox Network!
The show is very "Alley McBealisque" if you would, a comedy-drama about the justice system in this country with an injection of comedy and/or satire.
The closing arguments start as the opposing counsel, whom I guess is the District Attorney, argues that what this lady did was illegal:
"Clearly she committed a crime, she didn't pay her taxes. The only question is, will you hold her accountable", he looks at the jury.
"Now, no doubt Mr. Shore will try to paint her as some sort of an activist hero, (the camera pans towards Mr. Shore, the attorney for this lady) but she is no hero, folks. At a time when freedom has been no more precarious in this country, (pan towards the defendant, the lady) for her to refuse her civic and legal duty to pay her taxes, while we have soldiers dying over there... blah blah blah. I don't know what does this have to do with soldiers dying "over there". I wished someone would ask this goofy character, "Why are the soldiers OVER THRE?" They are always over there, aren't they?
After a long blabbering crap-filled speech, it was clear that she didn't pay her taxes in protest of war. The argument is that she is found guilty and the defender starts up:
"When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up, hummm, they didn't. Then when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in a rendition of a practice, where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes, who specialize in torture, I was sure then, the American people would be heard from then. We stayed mute. Then, came the news, that we jailed thousands of terrorist suspects, locked them up, without a right to a trial or even without the right to confront their accusers. Certainly we would never stand for that, we did.
And now, it's been discovered that the executive branch has been conducted massive illegal domestic surveillances on its citizens, you and me. And at least I consult myself that finally, finally the American people would have had enough, evidently we haven't. In fact if the people of this country have spoken, the message is, "We're ok with it all. Torture, warrant less search and seizure, illegal wire tapings, prison without a fair trial or any trial, war on false pretenses". We as citizens are apparently not offended. There are no demonstrations on college campuses, in fact there is no clear indication that young people even seem to notice.
Well, Mellisa Hughes noticed. (That must be the defendant's name. She is portrayed as a beautiful youngish looking, classy lady). Now, you're saying, instead of withholding her taxes she could have protested the old fashioned way, made a placard and demonstrated at a presidential or a vice presidential appearance, but we've lost the right to that as well. The secret service can now declare free speech zones to contain control and in affect criminalize protest. Stop for a second and try to fathom that, at a presidential rally parade or appearance, if you have on a supportive t-shirt, you can be there, but if you wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed. This in the United States of America, this in the United States of America is Mellissa Hughes the only one who is embarrassed."
He then plops himself in the witness chair and lets out a big sigh. The judge, who is a bit goofy, looks at him and says, "Mr. Shore, that's the chair for witnesses only".
Mr. Shore shakes his head in exhaustion and disappointment and says, "Long speeches make me so tired sometimes". That's where the funniness of the show is visible.
"Please, get out of the chair", the judge protests.
"Actually, I'm sick and tired", Mr. Shore says.
"Get out of the chair", says the judge this time with anger. "And what I'm most sick and tired of is how every time somebody disagrees with how the government is running things, he or she is labeled un-American."
"Evidently, it's speech time", says the DA sarcastically, as he stands. "And speech in this country is free you hack, free for me, free for you, and free for Mellissa Hughes to stand up to her government and say, 'stick it'."
"OBJECTION", says the DA, angrily. Mr. Shore answers quickly and into DA's face, "I object to government abusing its power to squash constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And God forbid anybody challenges it, the smear is being a heretic. Mellissa Hughes is an American, Mellissa Hughes is an American, Mellissa Hughes is an American". He repeated it three times, as if he wanted everyone to really hear it. It wears on the judges patients and he whines, "Mr. Shore, unless you have anything fresh to say, please seat down. You've reached the decorum of my courtroom with all this hooting". Apparently this judge is famous for using antics like "hooting", "jiber jabber", and such funny sayings.
Mr. Shore continues, "Last night I went to bed with a book. Not as much fun as a 29 year old, (as he looks at Mellissa Hughes) but the book contained a speech by Adlai Stevenson, the year was 1952. He said:
"The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear, in which we live and fear breathes repression. Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of mind, are concealed under patriotic cloak of anti-communism."
"Today is the cloak of anti-terrorism." Mr. Shore continued. "Stevenson also remarked: 'It is far easier to fight for principals than to live up to them'.
"I know we are all afraid, but the Bill of Rights, we have to live up to that. We simply must. That's all Mrs. Hughes is trying to say. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room, because it'd be for her." He said these last words pacing the bar before the jury and looking at them.
The moment for me was quite bigger than the "Bill of Rights", "Declaration of Independence", "Founding Fathers", or any of the other words or phrases that make up this country. I still consider myself a lonely student who came to this country; pay attention now, came to this country to go to school. I didn't migrate here for a "better life". My life was fine. I was force to become an immigrant, duo to special circumstances in my home country. Most of these names and phrases do nothing to me. They don't churn up any feelings and don't bring tears to my eyes, but justice, realism, and human rights do.
What we have on paper written from ink of 200+ years ago, from men who knew better and had a passion about the land they were standing on means something and has value. We've lived by these dried ink lines, on Declaration of Independences, Bill of Rights, Bibles and Qurans, for centuries. Good or bad, right or wrong, what value would they have if we disregard them? What good are they if we start believing parts of it and step on the rest?
The word "Patriotism" that may move most Americans may not move me, but this little episode on a TV show did.
I hope and wish we had more of this. I wish our youth would wake up and see that much like our atmosphere and our way of life, our civil liberties and "freedoms", which we value so much and sell it to the rest of the world, is in inherit danger.
The atmosphere has never been so radically poisoned. It can be, once again cleared. I think we can do it.