Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Freedom to Speak Posted by Picasa

Free to Speak

Ah, so there are the buttons in the Blogger composer. I wonder what I did to make them disapear the last time?

I failed out of college the first time around, and then many years later went back to complete a degree. I studied Elementary Education, a course of study I found just right, but not a good career for me. There were very few men in that program, something on its face might seem like an advantage, but I never found it to be. Partly because I was older and partly because I am a man, I was seen as something of an interloper and out of place. Once in a required introductory linquistics class, quite dreaded but not really that difficult, the woman in the seat in front of me turned, as the professor was addressing a question I had raised, and sneered at me:
Shut up! Why don't you just shut up! Shut up.
I was plenty taken aback because the course was pretty much a straight lecture course, not a seminar where I was dominating the discussion. That was my first inkling that I wasn't merely being ignored, but rather positively disliked.

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and made famous by her camping out near president Bush's Texas home in an effort to meet with him, was handcuffed, forcibly ejected and arrested after taking her seat at last night's State of the Union message. She had come from an Alternate State of the Union event and was wearing a t-shirt 2242 Dead - How Many More?. Beverly Young, the wife of a Florida congressman was also wearing a printed t-shirt and was ejected but not arrested.

I'm stodgy enough that I would not be particularly offended by a "dress code' enforced in the House Chamber. Indeed, I remember a congressman was ejected by the late Speaker of the House,Tip O'Neil because on a hot summer day entered in he wasn't wearing a jacket and tie. But the issue with Sheehan, particularly her arrrest, has to do with supression of protest. I wouldn't be surprised that the charges against Sheehan are quietly dropped. Her removal garnered more attention than her attendence ever would have if she'd been left unmolested. But if you ask me, I'll tell you that freedom of speech is a fundamental right, a pillar so substantial eroding it is more destructive to democracy than a plane crashed into the Pentagon.

February 1st is the anniversary of Langston Hughes' birthday. I was alerted to this by a post at 3 Quarks Daily Abbas Raza provides a photograph and short biorgraphy from this Web site and reproduces Hughes' I, Too. I got the photo here, I particularly liked this photo because I was just about the age of those kids pictured when I discovered Langston Hughes. We had an unusal class assembly where we watched the film, A Raisin in the Sun. Any movie in school would have been a big hit with me, but this movie especially so. The title comes from a line in a poem by Langston Hughes called Harlem (What happens to a Dream Deferred. It short and beautifully rendered by artist Theresa Rosado here.

Hughes was a prolific writer and managed to make a living of it, although just barely. Now that the barriers to entry for publishing are so low, it's hard to know what would his writing career be today. As a black man, Hughes' access to the media was limited and calculated so that he and the many other artists of the Harlem Renassaince remained outside mainstream attention.

Bill Gates said today that attempts for governments to censor Web site contents are doomed. His point is that information people want to know will get out via email anyway. That's a good point so far as it goes. I'm not sure governments' eagerness to censor has so much to to with preventing information gettting out, and more to do with shaping the narrative of government control. The ever readable Ethan Zuckerman has a post, Ethiopia notices cyber-dissidents. (Indefinite detention without charges is the sincerest form of flattery.) about the arrest and detention of Frezer Negesh a correspondent for a Web site, Ethiopia Review. The government of Meles Zenawi has at least sixteen journalist in custody:
[S]everal have been charged with “non-journalistic crimes” - not with libel, but with treason, “genocide” or crimes against national security.
I'm happy to hear Gates speek against censorship. But I'm afraid the fundamental issue from governments' points of view isn't really about information getting out, rather taking advantage of opportunity to wield violence as an instrument of power.

Ejecting Cindy Sheehan wasn't intended to supress the information 2,242 soldiers killed, the point made is that it's unpatriotic to say so. Furthermore by her arrest the point is made that it's illegal as well.

I object.

1 comment:

Bobert said...

Informative Post