REALITY CHECK with
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
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.
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.
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
THE BILL FOR REBUILDING IRAQ
James Campion -A
Seminar in Wartime Follies
'crank up the engines,
I'm back in the game!'
Price of Safety Rises
Would you feel safer
if the cops knew your every move? James Campion
(Log and on and buy James's brilliant collection of essays about
contemporary Americana FEAR NO ART)
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