Monday, November 5, 2007

Notes from the "Land of the Free"

This is just plain wrong:
Berwyn, IL - November 2, 2007. Over 70 students participated in a sit-in against the Iraq War on All Saint's Day, Thursday, November 1st. It began third hour when dozens of students gathered quietly in the lunchroom at Morton West High School and refused to leave. The administrators and police became involved immediately and locked down the school for a half hour after class ended. Students report that they were promised that there would be no charges besides cutting classes if they took their protest outside so as not to disturb the school day. The students complied, and were led to a corner outside the cafeteria where they sang songs and held signs while classes resumed.
So our story so far, some kids hold a sit-in. School administrators promise everything's cool as long as the kids hold their vigil outside the building. From the following paragraphs, we gather that the sit-in continued largely without incident.
Despite a police line set up between the protestors and the student body, many other students joined the demonstration. Organizers say they chose November first because it is the Christian holy day called the feast of All Saints and a national day of peace. They wrote a letter and delivered it to Superintendent, Dr. Ben Nowakowski who was present at the time, stating the reason for their protest.
Next, check these administrators trying to persuade some of these kids to be a bit more "politically correct."
Deans, counselors and even the Superintendent tried to change the minds of a few, mainly those students with higher GPA scores to abandon the protest. The school called the homes of many of the protestors.
Now what's the usual protocol for cutting classes, which is what the administrators were apparently promising these kids at the beginning? Looks like they were speaking with forked tongues:
Those whose parents arrived before the end of school and took their students home, or left before the protest ended at the final bell, received 3-5 days suspension. All others, an estimated 37 received 10 days suspension and expulsion papers. Parents report that Nowakowski stated those who are seventeen will also face police charges.

Parents who are frantically trying to spare their child's expulsion flooded the school yesterday to file appeals on the matter. So far, Superintendent Nowakowski has held firm on the punishments. They are expected to find out the results of the appeals on Tuesday. Parents and students report and the school's videotape shown to some of the parents confirms that the students were non-violent in their action and there was no damage to property.
There you have it. The kids in this case if anything appeared to bend over backwards to be cooperative while expressing their First Amendment rights. Up until that point, I'd wager that most of them still believed that the US was "the land of the free", and to expect that to be reflected in the nation's institutions. After all, isn't that the propaganda that the very same school probably pushes?

Arthur Silber, who turned me on to the story, hits it about right:
You may as well break the damned rules because, in these glorious, liberty-loving United States in the Year of Our Final Descent 2007, if you stray even an inch beyond the bounds of "approved" discourse and those views that the authoritarian Establishment considers "acceptable," you may well be destroyed whether you in fact break the rules or not. And of course, this does not even address the fact that most rules are designed to protect the status quo and prevent alternative views and serious challenges to authority from being heard in the first instance

[snip]

Ain't freedom just grand? A few more years of this, and who the hell will remember? Not that many people remember now. I can just hear some of you, hopefully not too many: "Oh, maybe I'd better not sign it. Don't want to be associated with those wackos. Could be trouble." Etc.

Get how it works? You see once more what all those rules are for: to shut you up, and shut you down. See how easy it is?

Well, they'll distract you again soon enough. How would bombing another country do? Yeah, that should do just fine.
As Bruce Schneier made clear, this is the new front on the Eternal Glorious War on Terra:
It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong.
Be a Good German and conform, or risk the wrath of the enforcers of The New American Century. Don't protest, don't ask questions, just do as you're told if you don't want to risk your future as a middle class denizen of Wisteria Lane. As Ward Churchill put it:
You’re in the United States. You’ve never read the thing, but the Constitution guarantees you certain rights. And you unequivocally have those rights, right up until the moment you exercise one. Ultimately, you have one tangible freedom in the United States: you’re free to do exactly what you’re told, all the time. That’s the one freedom you have. And the alternative? Well, we’ve got cages. We’ve got clubs. We’ve got the 82nd Airborne Division. What have you got?
Also via Silber, I got turned on to a petition in support of the kids at the Morton West school district that are facing far more hot water than they either expected or deserved. As of this afternoon, I'm one of the signatories. There are quite a few names I recognize among the signatories to this point - some decidedly leftist, some libertarian, some conservative (and I'm not talking about this punk-ass right-wing authoritarian bullshit that is passed off as "conservative"). Whether or not this petition helps these kids, I don't know. It's worth a try.

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