freedom of speech

Releasing the Hounds by Laura Fokkena

The selective silence of persecuted groups is as old as history itself, and I don't claim to be original in my fury. But after Nov. 2 we have come one step closer to creating a culture that normalizes discrimination and inequity, a culture that uses the cloak of democracy to justify bigotry and political persecution. Assuming the election was conducted fairly, a majority of the population -- however slim the margin -- has endorsed the biases, fears, and prejudices of this administration, thought them good and right and prudent, and I for one fear the consequences of a country jacked up this high on patriotic propaganda even more than I fear whatever Dick Cheney might be plotting from his undisclosed location. He and his colleagues are welcome to sit in as many think tanks as they like and write position papers until their fingers fall off, but once their ideas secure popular support (or at least popular neglect), well, that's a horse of a different color. And maybe this isn't the end of the world, isn't the introduction of Stalinism, fascism, oh! oh! Handmaid's Tale, hello George Orwell, but, close election notwithstanding, it's a bit of a downer to be told that your country belongs to someone else, that you are sort of a guest, and you'll be allowed to sleep on the good sheets and use the soap in the bathroom so long as you mind your manners and don't track muddy footprints on the floor. This is the difference between life under Bush post-Florida and life under Bush post-Ohio. Righteous indignation comforted me, frankly: I wanted to believe our government had been temporarily hijacked. In the last three years the left became more organized than it had been in three decades, and yet in the end it wasn't enough. Our base swelled, but not as much as theirs did. It's true that regime change might not have brought drastic changes for the country -- a real shift has to occur at the local grassroots level -- but a presidential election is nevertheless the mother of all opinion polls. The day after the election I forced myself to confront reality: millions of Americans have more contempt for gay marriage than they have for Abu Ghraib. It doesn't matter that the candidates had similar positions on the first issue and never debated the second. It was the perception of their positions that made all the difference, and for the majority of the country the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions just didn't make the "values" cut.

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