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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Aha! There's an inconsistency in our Bill of Rights.

It's been taking up most of my thoughts since writing that last post...the thing that bothers me still and won't be dismissed casually:

It's this.

I fully understand the concept of Civil Disobedience. I've engaged in it around matters of importance, like the time that I joined with others to block the passage of trucks carrying war cargo into the Concord Weapons Station in Concord during the Vietnam War. Or, more recently when we stood at the gates of the Bayer Pharmaceutical Corp. in Berkeley when they joined with other big pharmas to block the sale of generic drugs to HIV victims in Africa. I (We) were on both occasions purposely disobeying the law to call attention to an unjust policy -- with full awareness of the legal consequences and willing to be arrested for the actions. That, according to Kohlberg ethical standards, is the highest form of patriotism. One has only to re-read Thoreau or Dr. King for confirmation. The hard fact is that -- according to the Bill of Rights -- I can engage in Civil Disobedience, but must be willing to face the penalty for my actions.

However, under the Freedom of Speech dictum, we have to face the old "you can't yell fire in a crowded theater" gambit -- without facing criminal charges;" the sole exception punishable by law.

In the case of the displaying of the Confederate flag or any other paraphernalia (KKK regalia, for instance), those rights can be exercised and are fully protected, but the policy does not provide for a penalty for exercising that right in the event of the dire consequences it may invoke or the pain it might inflict on the unsuspecting or the intended victims. That's a problem that needs addressing, I believe.

But, the fact that the Civil War was never cleanly won, nor have the issues of full emancipation or the question of reparations been addressed, much has been left unfinished; in political limbo. These critical omissions are clearly indicated by the fact that the 1863 date of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation -- clearly the epochal event in the life of this nation -- has never been declared a national holiday -- makes one wonder, doesn't it?

Now that's a conversation we've postponed for far too long. I'm almost certain that I'd have been spared the pain of uncertainty about my position in space on this 4th of July, had it been so. My right to stand in my own shoes upon any spot in the city, the state, or the nation on that day should have been unquestioned, at least in my own mind. After all, my family has been a part of this nation since the 1600s on one side and before the 1805 Louisiana Purchase on the other!

It is inconceivable that I should have been made to feel defensive about fears and resentment at the sight of those who would question my right to exist -- as I did in seeing blatant evidence of strident segregationists on the streets of a small town in my state -- and on the day celebrating the birth of my nation!

Fear gone -- anger present and accounted for. Now to find ways to continue to transform it into something usable and not destructive to myself and those around me ... .



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