Friday, September 5, 2008

Our Greatest Freedom

Arguably, the First Amendment of our Constitution is what gives the United States its character as a country.

It is the basic premise underlying our democratic system, and it is this Amendment, more than any other, that set us apart from similar societies in the late 1700s.

This Amendment, more than any other, created that revolutionary "shot heard round the world" that caused the eventual toppling of various European heads of state and gave full rise to the middle class since it's harder to have royal dictatorships when dissent and freedom of the press is allowed, and citizens learn that they can hold just as much power as those from the aristocracy.

It is this Amendment, more than any other, that should make us all proud to be Americans.

Just to remind you what the First Amendment says, I've included it here:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

So, our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to peaceably assemble shall not be changed.

Those are our inalienable rights as American citizens.

Why am I providing a civics lesson on a Friday morning?

I am providing this lesson because several of those rights have been infringed over the past two weeks in preparation for the Republican National Convention. Raids have taken place on homes, arresting folks who were planning on exercising their right to peaceably assemble. Journalists have had their credentials confiscated. Our laws have been broken.

The St. Paul police have been blamed, but it's exceedingly unlikely that a police force in a liberal area would come up with this on their own. Police are there to protect and to serve. Police in our area, at least, have a long history of having to take on distasteful duties in order to protect citizens' rights to peaceably assemble.

To read a bit about what's been going on, I've provided many links below.

So, I ask you, if you consider yourself a patriotic American, does it make sense to align yourself with a party whose current administration has been bound and determined to remove your inalienable rights as Americans, and whose new slate of candidates have pledged to continue in this same direction?

As a proud American, as a lover of the Constitution, I refuse to allow my rights to dissipate in this manner. I plan to keep myself informed between now and the election and to read POLICY on the sites of the candidates, not listen to RHETORIC and attacks. Please, voters, check your candidate's policies. See if you agree with them.

In the meantime, please browse some links below, especially if you think you really, really know your party.

On another note, I'm having a heck of a week - nothing tragic, just way too many tasks for any given hour. As a result, I'm not going to be around as much as I'd like, either in terms of writing here or in terms of commenting. As many of you know, I tend to be fairly loyal with my comments. ;-) I'll be back for real as soon as I can.

From my local paper:

Police target protesters at RNC convention

102 arrested after GOP convention's third night


Massive police raids on suspected protesters in Minneapolis

From the Minneapolis media:

Police raids enrage activists, alarm others
Houses, spaces raided throughout the Twin Cities
Police search homes, seize contraband in advance of RNC


Amy Goodman released but protests against police conduct at Convention continue

From red, green and blue (an environmental blog):

Minneapolis Police Seize “Sustainable Living” Bus - in St. Paul

From the Huffington post:

Police Raid Protester Houses In Advance Of Republican Convention


Anonymous said...

Very useful list of links -- and good point. Thanks.

And how about Miss Congeniality asking how to ban books from the library, and attempting to fire the librarian who stood up for the Constitution?

Karen Olson said...

Thanks for posting this, Jen.

Oh, and Miss Congeniality? I heard she really didn't get that title, but don't ask me where I saw that link. I've been way too many places on the Internets the last few days...

There's a great Alaska blog at Might want to check that out. Very interesting information there.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Great post Jen. What about her quip during her speech slamming Obama for asking about rights first?


anno said...

Excellent post -- and thanks for the great list of links!

April said...

Great post, Jen!

thailandchani said...

I hope things calm down for you and that you are able to have a peaceful weekend.

As for the police actions, yes... ugh! It all looks like something out of the Weimar Republic, even down to the jackboots.


glamah16 said...

I know how it is to be overwhelmed, so hang in ther sna do what you have to do. Thanks for these links. I wasnt aware of the extent of this.

Jami said...

Over at Pam's House Blend, they are now referring to Palin as Gov. Miss Lipstick Pitbull Congeniality.

Charity Tahmaseb said...

Jen, thanks for this. I work in downtown St Paul and this is my first day back in the office. We were encouraged to work at home/take vacation during the convention.

Like Karen, I've been glued to:

Huge time sink, but worth it.

Flower Child said...

Oh I hope my anger is later transformed into 'you stupid pit bull loser'. grrrrrrr

oh wait, she's already a loser. that's me exercising my right to free speech.

Marianne Arkins said...

No response from me, Jen, except it's a shame the comments are sinking into name calling... your post was intelligently written. It's too bad your commentors can not respond in kind.

Unknown said...

There have been so many times during the past eight years when I've thought "surely this Constitutional violation will provoke a mass outcry from the citizenry." And then, a whimper faintly discerned beneath the noise of a Jessica Simpson or Brittany Spears debacle flutters up and floats away. On a personal level I fret over how to make a difference. I'm trying to remain civil in my political conversations, trying to connect the dots, trying to be honest. Certainly I panic at times, react at times, and don't measure up. I thank you for your calm, reasonable voice warning us all of the dangers that threaten all of us.

Anonymous said...

As always, you are clear and eloquent in your thoughts and comments.

I am frightened that people will not open their eyes and READ, dig deeply, not just watch the gliterati on TV. It also frightens me that the newsreaders - Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, etc. will have waaaay too much impact on what people think.

I am frightened for what our country can become in the hands of an old warrior and a young totally inexperienced chippie.

Thank you for the links and your enlightened comments.

Take your time catching your breath...we'll be here waiting for you!

CJ said...

abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

You're correct that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is the most important one. I would imagine that's why our Founding Fathers put it first.

However, you seem to have a one sided view of who gets to avail themselves of this right.

Consider the following from

The arrests on Tuesday came a day after violence erupted following a largely peaceful anti-war march by some 10,000 people. Afterward, police blamed a splinter group of about 200 for harassing delegates, smashing windows, puncturing car tires, throwing bottles and starting at least one fire.

Smashing windows, puncturing car tires, throwing bottles and starting fires are not, in any sane person's mind, a peaceful assembly.

Harassing delegates and trying to force your way passed a security line and into the arena is not a peaceful assembly. It also infringes on the rights of those inside to assemble peaceful in accordance with their rights.

Or, do I have it wrong? Does The Constitution of the United States only apply to the left side of the political scale and not to the right?

And, speaking as a police officer, if you've never been on a line like that you have no idea how chaotic it can be. Your only focus is to get things under control. It's that simple. There's no way you can stop and try to sort out who belongs to what group; either they all go or the chaos continues.

The raid conducted prior to the convention starting was done under the power of a search warrant. That means some judge in St. Paul signed off on it.

Here's what this lovely group of anarchists were planning:

It described the group as "an organized criminal enterprise" that had a three-tier strategy of blocking the Xcel Energy Center, immobilizing the delegates' transportation and blocking connecting bridges.

It said the organizers' discussions included talk of blocking traffic; attacking police with Molotov cocktails, sharpened poles and shields; using marbles or ball bearings to trip police horses and people; using liquid sprayers filled with urine or chemicals; sabotaging the Xcel Energy Center and the St. Paul Downtown Airport; and even kidnapping delegates

You might want to keep in mind that your rights guaranteed by the Constitution also apply to those you don't like and don't agree with.

Or, is that too much to ask?


Faye said...

Thanks for posting this, Jen.

From this link and possibly others:

If you go to about 9:21 in this video of 11:18 minutes, you will hear from one of the 'detainees' while they are being detained in handcuffs, prior to any violence at any convention. And keep listening to catch what is said at about 10:46 min.

I've also been trying to figure out what I can do....during times when individuals who firmly believe in "good, clean, and fair" are challenged what action is there to be had?

Thank you, Jen, for advocating education - knowledge is empowering - and as long as I can think, feel, and believe there is a higher truth, I won't be defeated by this. I also try to spend some time thinking good thoughts - I know this may sound simplistic and polyanna....but words and thoughts have energy and energy can and does take form:

If we could all do this 24/7 we would surely be enlightened...being who I am that isn't likely....but every bit helps, and I do feel better after spending quiet time, focused on this. I hope it helps others.

Anonymous said...

I'm committed to voting against McCain.

I just wish I could get excited about Obama.

Korie said...

I'm sorry to hear that the Republicans are continuing and even escalating their opression of the American people. People called me crazy when I made the remark that no one realized the 3rd Reich had taken over until it was too late. Apparently and unfortunately it seems half of America is still living in denial. I hope, for all of you over there, including my family, that when election time rolls around the citizens of the United States will collectively choose a president who allows them their constitutional rights.

Núria said...

Hola Guapa! Hope next week is better for you!

We are following the USA elections with interest from here! The winner, not only leads the States but also the whole world. Sometimes I think we should get the right to vote for the American president because his/her power goes beyond USA's frontiers.

If I were an American cityzen I would vote for the democrats!

Meg said...

I'm still fuming about the Republicans starting a war based on BS (seems impeachable to me).

And then Miss--I'm sure she's never use Ms.--Congeniality harps on about the brave young service people defending our freedom. Even her son will go off next week to defend our freedom.

Maybe he should save his life and stand up for the librarian instead.

Meg said...

I'm happy there are so many liberal bloggers out there.

Hope your week goes well. ;)

Sister Sassy said...

I know, right?! I listened to Democracy Now! the day after Amy was arrested. She got to grill the police chief about her arrest and also decribed what was happening on the street.

really great post!

Anonymous said...

Always a good reminder.
Come back soon :)

Virtualsprite said...

As a journalist, I have been called a lot of names. Really bad ones. I've been hung up on and swore at and denied entrance into facilities because I had a camera.

It appalls me to see free speech threatened, for whatever reason. I have a little card that I carry with me that has the first amendment on it... it's always a good reminder for people.

Jen said...

Mae, that's a point that worries me tremendously.

Thanks for the link, Karen. I still have a lot of reading to do.

NYC, I'm really tired of the quips and jokes - I wish folks would focus on policy. Also, her insulting community organizers really upset me.

Anno and April - thanks.

Chani - I feel for the police - when people are doing their job, they're doing their job. I learned that in the academy last spring. Our police force were stuck PROTECTING the KKK when they obtained a permit to march, and our city council felt they had to uphold the First Amendment. Which they do. Protesters came out in droves and threw bottles, etc. Friends of mine on the police force found that to be the worst working days of their lives. There are times when I've had to do things that are part of school district policy that I find repugnant. I've usually ended up quitting that position, but I won't abandon the students I have for that year because I don't agree with policy.

Glamah, I think that's why a reader e-mailed me and asked me to post on this.

Jen said...

Jami - there's certainly room for parody in all of this.

Charity - again, thanks for the link. I consider both you and Karen to be very circumspect folks, so that gives even more weight to those posts. I dipped into mudflats and it's very enlightening. I'm still working my way through final prep for teaching on Monday, so I want to finish that first.

FC - that's why we HAVE that right. We can say what we wish. It was very interesting to have that perspective when I had the teaching exchange to Soviet Russia in the late '80s. It was a relief to come home.

Jen said...

Marianne - I understand your position. As you know. ;-)

Greg - I guess I've just found over the years that folks listen better when you speak quietly. OTOH, sometimes it's hard to keep emotions in check.

Hotmama - as someone who reads, reads, reads that's my biggest fear, as well. My greatest hope is for a truly informed electorate. I think that's a big problem that we have as a nation these days - we pick a "team" rather than choosing leaders whose policies truly match our convictions.

Jen said...

CJ - it appears to me that you looked at the button on my site and didn't read my post carefully enough. If you see my comments back to the responders, I think that you might find that a. I in no way, shape or form was criticizing the police and b. that the gist of my post was that people need to be informed about whom they're voting for. If they ARE informed, and their convictions, morals, etc., match those of their candidate - that's the way our process is supposed to work. As for your comment about the Tuesday arrests, most of my links were about raids that took place the Thursday and Friday and Saturday of the week before those arrests. I'm not sure what group of anarchists you're referring to, but if you send me a link where you found your information, I will certainly look at it.

Jen said...

Faye, I'll look at your links as soon as I have time. Thanks.

Patti, maybe we can discuss this some time? See where you diverge on policies? Were there any candidates that you found exciting this cycle?

Lilac, I hope that whomever our next president is, that our constitutional rights will be restored and respected.

Nuria, thanks so much for your comments! I just wish the U.S. *weren't* so influential; I think balancing power, whether nationally or globally, is always a safer bet.

Meg, it's nice to have folks who agree with your views! It's also nice to be able to debate when you disagree. ;-) I'm angry about the war, too, needless to say.

Sassy, I wish I'd heard that - do you have a link?

Maryann - thanks!

Virtual - nice to hear from a journalist on this, too!

Momisodes said...

This is why I love coming here. Thank you. THANK YOU for presenting this so eloquently. I just made it through most of these links. Quite an eye-opening experience....Off to read more.

Jen said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments, Sandy. They mean a lot!

Mariposa said...

I'm learning a lot here...reading them...all!

Jan said...

Thanks for the post. It is a sad situation. It's a shame that we can't have a clean election anymore... without all the backstabbing and name calling. Just present the facts and let us decide our vote. (((HUGS)))

Thistlemoon said...

Great post! I think it is important to understand all of what happens leading up to a political event. This is going to be one crazy election. If McCain wins, I have vowed to leave the US. I hope I don't actually have to do that. ;)

cathouse teri said...

It's all downhill from here.

Becca said...

Excellent! Thank you for all the info here...although it makes me even more fearful than I already am.

Jen said...

Mariposa, I love learning about the politics and culture of other countries - it's part of the great thing of blogging!

Jan, I wonder if we ever did have that kind of election. ;-) If you go back over our history, name-calling and grandstanding have been there almost from the beginning, sadly.

Jenn... I think many folks are feeling the way you are. And many probably are on the opposite side, too. I think our country is in desperate need of healing. Our system seems very broken right now.

Teri, in what way?

Becca - Maybe if we get scared we'll make changes. I think I'm angrier than scared right now. Sigh.

BusyDad said...

Sadly, because we are now in a lot more real danger than in the past because of terrorism, it seems that our government makes a lot more loose interpretations of "for the greater safety of others." In many cases, I actually agree, but extending it into this realm is ludicrous. You cannot spin this into a terrorism related issue.

Jen said...

It's true, Busydad, that we're in a very different time than we were earlier. We also have to find ways to guard both our freedoms and our borders, in the sense that our Constitution must be shored up, also. I fear there are no simple solutions to life in this day and age.

Ben said...

Jen, I had read this post before, but I had to come back and read it again and comment. The first amendment not only gave Americans freedom. Its echo throughout the whole continent is what made peoples rise against their European slavers and that's how our independent continent was born.

It is outrageous to read what the far right tries to do with civil and individual liberties and rights. But if they succeed, the whole country will be to blame for allowing it. People get the government they deserve. I truly believe that.

Hugs :)

soccer mom in denial said...

Another frequent comment by Miss C. focused on "small towns". Between that and the diss against community organizers - couldn't the Republicans just come out and say "we don't like black people"?