Anti-free speech events in this country are ringing a bell |

Anti-free speech events in this country are ringing a bell

As I watched the couple dragged away in handcuffs, the image reminded me of something I’d seen before. It brought back some vague memory I’d read about in a history book or something I’d seen once upon a time on a black and white newsreel.The couple was sitting in a public park wearing anti-Bush T-shirts at the start of a presidential pep rally, when the police arrived, pulled them to their feet, handcuffed them and led them away.When asked later why the couple was jailed, a police spokesperson said they were uneasy about the whole episode. The police claimed the President’s Secret Service (SS) told them that the couple was to be arrested for trespassing, and the spokesperson said that when the SS tells you to do something, even if you believe it to be illegal and a violation of someone’s civil rights, well, you just do it.The charges against the couple were later dropped.If this had been an isolated incident, I would still be livid that our president was sending out his thugs to curtail free speech, but I would have thought that maybe it was some kind of mistake on the part of the powers that be.

Unfortunately, this was not the only time it has happened. Many people peacefully protesting against our president in public places in recent months have been detained or arrested without legal justification on the word of the SS. And others, like the protesters in New York City during the recent Republican convention, have been held longer without due process than shoplifters, thieves and other serious criminals.Other recent events also have given me some uneasy feelings in recent months and years. There is the Patriot Act, a document I consider the greatest loss of American civil rights since the country was founded, and even seemingly minor things, such as the no-fly ban on Yusuf Islam, the singer formally known as Cat Stevens, causes me sleepless nights.When Islam was refused entry into this country, a government official said it was because he may have associations with potential terrorists. For those who can’t figure it out, the important words in this statement are “may” and “potential.”Having traveled around the world a time or two, and having consorted with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians and people from just about every race and country, it is just possible that somewhere down the line I might also have had – without my knowledge – links to a potential terrorist.

Does this mean this cute, fun-loving, peaceful Italian/Polish kid from Akron, Ohio, should also be refused the freedom to travel to, from and around this country? Heck, using the Bush administration terrorist criteria, about the only people free to travel in the United States would be people from Crawford, Texas, who have never traveled further from home than the corner drugstore.Closer to home, in recent years there has been the creation of the travesty known as the Academic Bill of Rights, which threatens the livelihood of college professors that speak out against – you guess it – conservatives. Of course there are other things going on in the United States that cause me uneasiness besides the whole loss of personal freedoms.There is a war raging in the world, caused, not by a foreign invading army, but by the man in charge of this country. And that same war is being used as an excuse to rape our civil rights and the environment as well.

And there is even a minority group in the United States currently being targeted for a special kind of prejudice. It is sad to think about it but America’s good, God-fearing Christian majority is using a kind of twisted fear of gays and lesbians as a rallying cry to keep our current president in power. And President Bush is helping stoke the fear and hate with talk of constitutional amendments.The climate in this country reminds me of something, but I just can’t remember exactly what. The stomping of our civil rights, the war our country started, the singling out of one minority group for a country’s anger, it all rings a bell. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it is the liberty bell I hear ringing.Andrew Gmerek writes a Friday column. He can be reached at

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