FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The War on Civil Liberties Hits Home

by SHRIREEN PARSONS

“The story of what we’ve done in the postwar period is remarkable. It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.”

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA), on his return from touring Baghdad with other Republican congressmen to see “what’s going right in Iraq.”

October 2003

On October 26, the current erosion of civil liberties in the United States affected me most personally.

On that sunny Saturday, in Washington, DC, my daughter, 2-year-old granddaughter and I joined 50,000 Americans opposed to the Iraq War in the protest organized by International ANSWER and VoteNoWar.

Participants included thousands of veterans and soldiers’ families, as well as members of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of family members who lost loved ones during the September 11 attacks and who are actively speaking out against the Bush administration’s campaign of “endless war.” It was a wonderful experience, shared in solidarity by simultaneous demonstrators in San Francisco and other US cities, as well as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in other countries around the world.

In the late afternoon, filled with the exhilaration of the protest, my daughter, granddaughter and I decided to go to the food court at the Ronald Reagan Building for some refreshment before taking the Metro back to my daughter’s home in suburban Virginia.

As we passed through the security checkpoint at the entrance to the building, one of the guards politely informed me that I’d have to put away my poster, which reads, “End the Occupation of Iraq.” I had no problem with that, so I rolled up the poster and stashed it in my tote bag.

I also happened to be wearing a t-shirt, purchased at the protest, over a black turtleneck. The shirt is red, with “Unite to Fight Imperialist War” printed in black letters, arranged in a 7-inch circle around an image of two clasped hands — one white, and one black. On the back, it says “No Imperialist War,” repeated in 19 languages. It’s a beautiful shirt.

It was when the guard politely informed me that I’d have to remove my t-shirt that the exhilaration of the day faded. As the guard was obviously from the Middle East, I explained that, in wearing the shirt, I was exercising my right to freedom of speech as guaranteed to American citizens under our Constitution. He politely said he understood that, but that I had to remove the shirt before he could allow me to enter the building. Not wanting to involve my daughter and granddaughter in a scene, feeling sickened, I removed the shirt. I believe the guard was as mortified as I was.

I instantly regretted my decision to comply with this violation of my civil rights, and I regret it still. The fact that I went to the nearest restroom and put the shirt on again didn’t make me feel any better.

The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is a federal property — it is owned by me and every other American citizen. That I acquiesced to a requirement to doff one of our most treasured constitutional rights along with my shirt in order to enter a federal building in the nation’s capitol has left me with feelings of outrage and shame. Outrage that The Land of the Free is no such thing, and shame that I didn’t have the presence of mind to protest this injustice loudly enough to get hauled off to jail.

Americans must not be required to shed our constitutional rights in order to enter federal property — OUR property.

Shireen Parsons lives in Virginia. She can be reached at: parsons@counterpunch.org.

 

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and the End of the Democratic Party
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Doug Johnson Hatlem
NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Paul Craig Roberts
Somnolent Europe, Russia, and China
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Tadeu Bijos
The Wants of Others
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail