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Announcement :: DNC : Human Rights : Organizing
Yard Sign Project
by Bill Fisher
Email: wwfisher (nospam) alltel.net
07 Jun 2004
The invitation below has been sent to artists, friends, writers, activists, hacktivists and strangers. Please contact me if I may provide further information, images, or if you would like to link to the project. Yard Sign Project is online at http://billfisher.dreamhost.com/yardsign.htm, allowing individuals to freely print a larger, full-resolution image.
YARD SIGN PROJECT
Attached is a jpeg image file of a sign, approximately 1.5' x 2', that is to be placed in front yards and other
public locations. Designed to look similar to the ubiquitous * biblical "Ten Commandments" yard sign, it includes text from the Geneva Convention as it relates specifically to treatment of prisoners.
If you would like to display this sign in your yard or elsewhere, please visit http://billfisher.dreamhost.com/yardsign.htm to download a pdf file. You will either need a large format printer, or you can resize the image for your printer. I ask that you send notice of participation and, if possible, digital documentation of your sign in place to wwfisher (at) alltel.net or
william.fisher (at) gcsu.edu, or photographs may be mailed to Bill Fisher, CBX 094, GC&SU, Milledgeville, Georgia 31061. Please feel free to encourage others to participate.
As our political leaders and media now focus on the outrage felt over
the recent release of images of torture and humiliation of Iraqi
Prisoners of War, it appears the "illegal" release of such images may be
as repugnant as the actual abuses or their underlying causes.
This may be inferred from the following excerpted testimony by Secretary
of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, before the Senate and House Armed
Services Committees, Friday, May 7, 2004:
"It's my failure for not understanding and knowing there were hundreds or
however many there are of these (pictures) that could eventually end up
in the public and do the damage they've done."
"The photographic depictions of U.S. military personnel that the public
has seen have unquestionably offended and outraged everyone in the Department
of Defense. If you could have seen the anguished expressions on the faces of those
of us in the Department upon seeing the photos, you would know how we feel today."
"We're functioning in a -- with peacetime restraints, with legal
requirements in a war-time situation, in the information age, where
people are running around with digital cameras and taking these
unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to
the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the
"If these (pictures) are released to the public, obviously it's going
to make matters worse. That's just a fact. I mean, I looked at them last
night, and they're hard to believe. And if they're sent to some news
organization, and taken out of the criminal prosecution channels that
they're in, that's where we'll be. And it's not a pretty picture."
"It is the photographs that gives one the vivid realization of what
actually took place. Words don't do it. The words that there were
abuses, that it was cruel, that it was inhumane -- all of which is true
-- that it was blatant, you read that and it's one thing. You see the
photographs and you get a sense of it and you cannot help but be
Secretary Rumsfeld was one of the first to object when pictures of
American hostages taken by the former Saddam regime were aired on television. He said this
was harmful to their dignity and contravened Geneva conventions.
However, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, it is the US
government's position that even if it was torturing and executing prisoners at
Guantanamo Bay, no court could intercede. The WP editorial page charged
Secretary Rumsfeld was to blame for the lack of accountability in
prisons: "[Rumsfeld's] Pentagon ruled that the United States would no
longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions (in Afghanistan and Guantanamo
Bay); that Army regulations on the interrogation of prisoners would not
be observed; and that many detainees would be held incommunicado and
without any independent mechanism of review."
According to Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, there are as yet
unaddressed allegations of a separate unit at Abu Ghraib prison
reserved for women and children.
As our cause in Iraq is seen by many as morally superior to the cause of
those Iraqis opposed to our presence there, the Judeo-Christian
influence on our leadership and wartime policies can not be overlooked.
The purpose of referencing the Ten Commandments in the Yard Sign Project
is not to denigrate this ethical document which includes admonitions
against killing, but rather to comment on the hypocrisy of displaying
such a document or publicly espousing its content while supporting
behavior which it specifically prohibits. The substituted text from the
Geneva Convention is used to remind ourselves of both our claim to be
civilized even in the event of war and our responsibility to the
world community and to humanity, and to educate those unfamiliar with
these universally accepted proscriptions on the maltreatment of
Bill Fisher, May 14, 2004
*In 2003, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the removal of a 5,280-pound granite representation of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda, installed by Chief Justice Roy Moore. The resulting debate over the removal of the monument lead to private citizens displaying the Commandments on front yard signs throughout the Southern USA, perhaps in solidarity with the former Justice (Moore was removed from office for defying a federal judge's order to move his monument), or in support of the first ammendment, or perhaps in support of the values expressed within the Commandments. The recent and aggressive invoking of the church (or the Christian God) by the state, and the resultant narrowing of their separation (as also seen through federal funding for "faith-based initiatives") may be to Justice Moore's benefit as he pursues his case. Moore also hopes to place a similar monument in the US Capitol, as a gift to Congress.
According to The Washington Times, August 31, 2003, "The Alabama chief justice's constitutional interpretation on the Ten Commandments may find support from three of the Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice
William H. Rehnquist, who has taken stands on church-state issues several times since 1980. 'The Establishment Clause does not require that the public sector be insulated from all things which may have a religious significance or origin. ... The Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western world,' Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in objecting to the court's unsigned opinion on the First Amendment church-state issue in a 1980 case, Stone v. Graham. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in 2001 joined his opinion and said the Supreme Court 'never determined ... that the Commandments lack a secular application,' despite their religious guidance to Christians and Jews."
I've seen the Biblical 10 Commandments yard signs throughout Georgia and
the Carolinas. I'm assuming they're popular in Alabama as well , and I've heard they're in Texas and Louisiana. They are sold in my town at several locations (looking like little Christmas tree lots),
about $4.00 each, and seem to be breeding throughout neighborhoods across a
wide social and economic spectrum. In a way I'm in awe of this grassroots,
private citizens' public act of collective expression. To openly document your
beliefs with a public display, at your home, perhaps without support from your
neighbors (I've seen lonely signs posted as well as those displayed in 9 out
of 10 front yards on a neighborhood street), to protest what you regard as
unfair laws or misguided leadership...all this amazes me, and I think it's
great. I'm concerned though that the majority of these folks, probably
rather fundamentalist in their religious beliefs, support the current US
administration's arrogant, heartless military rampage towards Empire. President Bush
has been shameless in the public invoking of his personal "Born Again" religious beliefs
to guide his hand during these difficult times, knowing full well the psychological power these associations have
over the will of the people. In a climate of fear and uncertainty (an
ungoing War on Terror is very convenient for maintaining this climate),
the people will turn to anyone who promises them safety and security, law
and order, at almost any cost to personal liberty or human values. Having
God, "our" God, on his side...how can we lose with such leadership? How can
we question him, and still be good Christians, or good Americans.
The Biblical 10 C's are in direct conflict with our administration's actions and
attitudes. That's where this project began, as a response to this
contradiction, this twisted quest for money and dominance at the cost of thousands of lives, with millions more dehumanized.
Assistant Professor of Art
Georgia College & State University
Department of Art
Milledgeville, Georgia 31061
Office Tel: 478-445-4572
Office Email: william.fisher (at) gcsu.edu
Please visit the Art Department Directory at http://billfisher.dreamhost.com,
a database of world-wide online university listings.