History repeats itself, we are sometimes told. War, oppression and slavery continue now as ever. We in the West may sometimes feel that we are immune, that we are the embodiment of the immutable march of progress and therefore above all that. You might argue that, “Sure, war continues, but it’s over there in Iraq, oppression is over there in Saudi Arabia, slavery is over there in China.”
But those things are here as history repeats itself in our own backyard. War is here in our inner city streets, slavery is here on our immigrant-subsidized agriculture, oppression is here in our government’s terrorism-fueled fear mongering. But I’m not here to tell you about all those reincarnations of historical tragedy. Today, I appeal to you to stand up specifically against a governmental effort that threatens the freedoms of millions of our fellow Americans. According to Will Potter, an award-winning journalist and creator of GreenIsTheNewRed.com, the threat I speak of is one that threatens to repeat the events of a half-century ago.
In the 1950s, there was a national witch hunt known as the Red Scare, which consisted of a wave of fervent anti-communist sentiments that swept the nation in reaction to the threat of global communism and its flagship and lead instigator, the U.S.S.R. During this period, thousands of Americans were publicly ostracized, their careers and reputations ruined, hundreds of those solely at the hands of one Senator McCarthy – a man who falsely claimed to have a long list of communist agents working as agitators within the U.S. and especially in Hollywood. It was a time when freedoms were thoroughly and excessively impeded, a time when the social and political forces of a nation were thrown unjustly against an already marginalized yet passionate group of people who had the misfortune of holding an unpopular viewpoint.
Today, we see a repeat of those events with our contemporary war on terror. Politicians today attempt to redefine the U.S. in opposition to all forms of terrorism, while the Bush administration denies all but the most basic human rights to those justly or unjustly accused of being terrorists. Yet, we remember such great moments in American history as the Boston Tea Party, certainly a terrorist act.
The inherent contradiction of a nation founded partly by terrorism fighting an all-out war against all forms of terrorism is brought to the forefront by legislation against domestic terrorist activities. Because of that pesky Bill of Rights, domestic efforts have been limited, producing such marginally unconstitutional cases as warrantless wiretapping and the tracking of domestic calls. But now there is a more severe case: pending anti-terrorism legislation that the ACLU opposes because it “criminalizes First Amendment activities such as demonstrations, leafleting, undercover investigations and boycotts” (“ACLU Letter to Congress In Opposition to the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act, S. 1926 H.R. 4239,” http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/25620leg20060306.html). The act penalizes “non-violent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise” and any actions that “may result in a loss of profits but does not result in bodily injury or death or property damage or loss” (H.R. 4239). To translate, that means that if an action might adversely affect the profits of animal enterprises, it is illegal.
Yet there are millions of Americans who believe in and fight every day for just that end, an end to the unnecessary suffering of tens of billions of animals every year in the U.S. alone. Regardless of whether you believe in that cause, please believe in those Americans and their ability under our constitution to freely act on those beliefs. Please write your representatives today.
Brent Robinson is a junior English major.