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News ::
Either You're With Us . . .
12 Nov 2001
Modified: 23 May 2002
We are all part
of a support mechanism that keeps dissent alive and thwarts attempts to
squash it. Dissent now is difficult. The people are more wary of protest than
usual. Also, government agencies tend to act against dissenters, sometimes
without good cause.
Where there is dissent against a government, there is reaction. That has
always been the case. However, many activists state that since the terrorist
attacks of September 11, people in the U.S. have a more negative view of
dissent. Sentiments like "Now is not the time" and "We must be united" are
common, and dissenters are seen by many to be unpatriotic or disloyal.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were a shock, a shock
that quickly turned to anger. This anger is beyond our borders, with little
criticism of our own government.
It is important, however, to place this terrorist attack in context. It is
important to ask why the attack happened. Critics point to the presence of
U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest sites of Islam to support
U.S. economic and oil interests as one possible reason for the attacks.
For many people, however, these answers are simply not acceptable. They
equate them with the callous statement that the victims of Sept. 11 deserved
what they got. They are satisfied with the mainstream media explanation that
the terrorists were "jealous of our wealth" and didn't share "our democratic
values," and criticism of the victim, America, is most unwelcome.
A common statement from hecklers, uttered at protests is "You wouldn't be
against war if any of your family died in the World Trade Center." This is a
statement difficult to refute, because most protesters have not lost anyone
in these attacks. The statement is simple: It implies that the protesters are
indifferent to the tragedy.
One very angry driver shouted to protesters at a Park Street vigil "You're
with the terrorists!" It should be noted that the majority of people probably
do not see protesters in the same light as the terrorists who committed these
atrocities, but some clearly consider any kind of dissent equivalent to
aiding and abetting "the enemy." Where could this sentiment come from?
Perhaps from President Bush, who said: "You are either with us or you are
with the terrorists." Bush's message was clearly aimed at nations, not
individuals, but it is a very polarizing one which does not leave much room
for alternative points of view. At a time when we must "get in line" with the
president, criticism of his policies can be seen as being on the wrong side.
A political climate such as the one today is very conducive to raising
popular support for a war. One of Adolf Hitler's generals, Hermann Goering,
recognized this. He said, "Why of course the people don't want war. Voice [in
the government] or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding
of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being
attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing
the country to danger."
Historian Howard Zinn, addressed "lack of patriotism" at a recent teach-in at
the Massachusetts College of Art with a quote from Mark Twain, who was
accused of being unpatriotic and disloyal for his opposition to war: "My kind
of loyalty is loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its
office-holders. The country is the real thing… Its institutions are
extraneous."
Zinn also pointed out that the Declaration of Independence states that
governments are "artificial creations" put in place to achieve certain goals
for the people, and that "when government becomes destructive of those ends,
it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. That's serious," Zinn
said, "but that's democratic doctrine. And therefore there are times when it
becomes absolutely patriotic to point a finger at the government... to do
what we always praise when it is done in other countries, totalitarian
countries."
With the current hostile climate, one thing seems clear: there is
strength in numbers. Small vigils and protests in Greater Boston have been
plagued with scores of counter-protesters. Large ones, however, consisting of
several hundred or thousand people, have been remarkably undisturbed. A well
organized protest with a clear stage, a good sound system, adequate security,
and a large, supportive audience deters hecklers. For example, the march from
Copley to the South End on October 14 drew only a few non-confrontational
counter-protesters.
Intolerance of dissent, however, extends beyond mere passers-by who object to
the speaker's words at a vigil. Att a silent vigil in Park Street, an
undercover police officer spent nearly an hour recording protesters. He had
extended conversations with nearby police officers during the course of the
vigil via walkie-talkie. Police in Worcester also allegedly photographed
protesters.
Prior to September 29, protesters secured permits for a march in Washington
D.C. that would allow them to hold a rally on the sidewalk of the White
House. However, the Secret Service imposed a month-long ban on all protests
in the vicinity of the White House for "security reasons." They can renew
this ban indefinitely.
There is one story of federal officials harassing dissenters that has
provoked particular outrage from the progressive community: the detention of
Hendrik Voss.
Hendrik Voss, a German citizen and volunter for School of the Americas Watch,
an organization against a terrorist training school for Latin America, was
illegaly detained by US immigration officials on Wednesday Oct 10, after
attempting to cross the border into Canada. Without charging him with a
crime, immigration officers interrogated him for several hours and threatened
to deport him. The next day, Voss was released following numerous vigils in
his support and a flood of phone calls and e-mails to the German consulate.


Here too the solution was strength in numbers and organization. It sent a
clear message that the members of the peace movement are not isolated, and
that when any part of it is attacked, the rest will step in. We are all part
of a support mechanism that keeps dissent alive and thwarts attempts to
squash it. Dissent now is difficult. The people are more wary of protest than
usual. Also, government agencies tend to act against dissenters, sometimes
without good cause. The Roman writer Cicero once said, "In time of war, the
law falls silent," and indeed the "war on terrorism" seems to be a higher
priority today than our own civil liberties.
Yet dissent can still thrive in a hostile climate. When there is threat of
war and the loss of more lives, the cause of proponents of peace becomes
urgent. Also, the organizational structures left behind from previous
emergencies remain. There is no better example of this than the peace
movement of today. According to Howard Zinn, "the momentum the antiwar
protests have attained in just a month far outpaces early protests during
Vietnam." The peace movement is only getting stronger.
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Comments

big typo
13 Nov 2001
Author is Alex KULENOVIC
Where is the Goering quote from?
23 May 2002
I have seen the Goering quote before. Sometimes it is attributed to "Goering, 1936", other times to "Goering at the Nuremberg Trials". Hard as I try, I could not find a proper citation for the quote, and seaching the Nuremberg trial archive did not help either. Can anyone help? Is this quote just one more urban legend?