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REALITY CHECK with James Campion
THE BLESSED RIGHT OF DISSENT


Here's a juicy one.
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that although abortion protestors in many annoying and wacky ways have and do tend to break the law, the act of their protest and its ill effects on clinics does not constitute a crime.

The always entertaining, and highly hypocritical National Organization of Women, joined by two abused abortion clinics, tried to apply the 1970 established federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prevent these protests. The Supreme Court had previously ruled that RICO could be applied to abortion protesters, ignoring the very spirit of the US Constitution's First Amendment, a continued favorite and oft-dissected subject in this space since the autumn of 1997.
Speaking for the nation's highest court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, wrote that racketeering laws require a conclusion that someone has committed an underlying crime, in this case extortion. The court reversed a lower court ruling on that point, finding that protesters did not extort money or valuables from the clinics when they tried to disrupt business.

Disrupting is all part of civil disobedience, a cherished right of this republic and ostensibly the advertising campaign on invading another government half a planet away.
Dissent is always a sticky subject in political realms. That is why the law is the best place to settle it. And it is why this space has always espoused that although you may hail from one side of the ideological fence or the other, at some point you have likely tried to illegally halt it.
For example, Right Wingers, especially those mired in the fundamentalist ring, have constantly heaped their moral outrage on rap music or violent movies and video games, or any form of art or commentary that might afflict their fragile belief system. Yet, these are the same ones who today cheer the ruling of the high court.

Hypocrisy.
Even those who do not wave the Bible at free expression, choose to wave Old Glory when trying to halt dissent. The asinine call for anti-war protestors to cut the act is blatantly un-American in every way. The paradox is stunning. People defending this country's government in every move it makes foolishly define this as patriotic, when it is merely ideological and sickeningly political. And even if the anti-war protestors are also politically motivated, having outwardly defended the government's foreign butting-in when another ideology was in charge, does not mean they should not continue.
And don't even get me started on the burning of the flag. If I buy a flag and want to burn it, you bet your ass I will. Fucking stop me. No one stops the KKK or the American Nazi Party or the NRA or the Catholic Church or NAACP or NAMBLA or any other configuration of letters.
Now those hailing from the Left Wing are all the rage when they are busy throwing blood on furs and burning down circuses, sleeping in trees and lying down in front of military camps. Sure, that's okay, but mucking up the flow of abortions is deplorable.

Hypocrisy.
Protesting against abortion does not mean shooting doctors or bulldozing buildings. We don't need racketeering laws to stop that. Those fall under well-covered categories. The idea that NOW, completely silent during the Clinton woman-hating scandals, has some set of rocks here.
If not for dissent and protest, they would be nothing more than an offshoot of the Girl Scouts; how they got away with denying someone's right to protest in the first place is beyond comprehension.
The right to peaceful protest and civil disobedience is the only voice of a people that is supposed to be the final voice in its government and its society at large.

One person's enemy is another's cherished icon. The issue is not how you think, but that you are able to do so, and express it within the boundaries of the law, not good taste, religious moralities, silly traditions or how much it pisses someone off.

© James Campion March 2003

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email: realitycheck@jamescampion.com

jamescampion.com
(Log and on and buy James's brilliant collection of essays about contemporary Americana FEAR NO ART)

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