The Price of Free Speech
When I found myself in Harrisburg two weeks ago surrounded by seven police officers wearing body armor, I have to admit I was a bit taken aback. Seven was probably more than enough to handle a sixty-year-old arthritic. Yes, it is true; I called a member of the Democratic Party a "fool" and a "maggot" when he explained to me that it was necessary to remove the Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli from the ballot in order for the Democrats in Pennsylvania to defeat the Republican Rick Santorum. I tried as nicely as I could to explain to him that while I agreed that Santorum is a psychopath, a Democratic victory over a Republican at the cost of the democratic process is a bad bargain.
This 24-year-old unibrowed gargoyle however was long past considering such foolish, romantic notions as "freedom", "justice" and "democratic values". When he instructed me to remove six signatures from Mr. Romanelli’s petition as invalid simply because the six people had all mistakenly printed their name in the first column and signed their name in the second column instead of the other way around, I slammed my hand on the table and shouted "shit, if you’re going to remove those signatures, you maggot".
Now of course I realize that there have been times in the past when I have been more complementary to Democrats but I certainly did not realize that calling a Democrat a "maggot" was in any way similar to shouting "fire" in a crowded movie theater. At best I thought someone might call me impolite but instead I was surrounded by menacing members of the Democratic Party, grabbed by a court officer in Gestapo like fashion and forcibly removed from the room. When I refused to "sit down and shut up" as instructed by the court officer, the police were summoned. I was ultimately charged with "disorderly conduct", at the insistence of the attorney for the Democratic Party, and was led away by the police. It is against the law, you see, to call a Democrat a maggot even if he is consuming the still living tissue of our body politic.
Fitted for a Muzzle
Last week the Peace and Justice Coalition in my district (Lancaster County, PA) refused to allow my campaign to place an ad in their newspaper. We were told we were in plenty of time for the deadline and then suddenly we began to receive a series of e-mails saying "well maybe you are not quite in time for a full-page ad"; then, "maybe we should have a strong disclaimer so that no one thinks the Lancaster Peace and Justice Coalition endorses you"; next, "maybe if your ad were to appear opposite an ad from the Democratic Party candidate it would be okay"; and finally "due to political infighting in the Peace and Justice Coalition your ad will not appear". Of course the only "infighting" that could have occurred would’ve come from the Democrats who dominate the peace coalition in Lancaster County. The last thing they want is to let the antiwar community know that there actually is a real antiwar candidate. The peace movement in Lancaster has put the election of a pro war Democrat ahead of the goal of "troops out now" which the Democratic candidate here calls "cut and run".
The Democratic candidate in this part of Pennsylvania isn’t even as "antiwar" as Ned Lamont. Mr. Lamont of course is not exactly what I would call "antiwar". He immediately donned his cheerleading uniform and delivered a series of "rah, rah, rahs" as soon as Israel began committing unspeakable atrocities on Lebanon.
No, my little Democrat here in the 16th District of Pennsylvania has made it quite clear that our troops cannot come home from Iraq until we have created a government whereby the Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds all feel equally represented, our national interests have been secured, the area is no longer destabilized and the world community comes to our aid. This Democrat called my plan to leave Iraq immediately "cut and run". Why would I be surprised in 2006 to find a Democrat quoting Karl Rove?
VICTIMS OF THE DARKNESS
So the Democrats had me arrested and then wouldn’t let me even advertise in the antiwar newspaper. I no sooner picked myself, dusted myself off when towards the end of the week I was told by the Rotary Club in Lancaster that there would be a debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates and that I would not be invited. There’ll be no fun at that party you can bet; unless you’re into pulling the legs off insects and enjoy the sound of fingernails scraping across a blackboard.
Although I have been endorsed by two county-level Green Parties, two county-level Libertarian Parties, the Reform Party and the new American Independent Party, the Rotary Club sees no reason to invite an independent candidate. Although I have been endorsed by some of the most well-known people in the country like Ralph Nader, the prominent MIT scholar Noam Chomsky and the world-renowned historian, World War II veteran and antiwar activist Howard Zinn, the Lancaster County Rotary Club has decided to promote the candidates from the two corporate financed parties.
Of course this is the same as making a huge contribution to the Democrats and Republicans and telling 38% of the people that no opinions other than the Democrat and Republican are considered meaningful by the Rotarians of Lancaster County (38% of Americans are registered as "not affiliated" or in one of the newer parties).
The Rotary club told me they would decide who they would and would not invite and I would not be invited. According to the Rotary International manual one of their mottos is: "They profit most who serve best". Until two years ago it was: "He profits most who serves the best". In 2004 they finally recognized the existence of women and took out the gender specific language.
Some of the better-known Rotarians include the prominent film star and well-known racist Mel Gibson; Prescott Bush who helped finance the Nazis and spawned two generations of Republican presidents who have brought nearly apocalyptic disaster to our nation; Tom DeLay whose crimes are too numerous to list and the ever popular Jesse Helms who told us that Martin Luther King was associated with the Communists and who took special joy in singing "Dixie" to the African-American Senator Carol Moseley-Braun. Is it any wonder that the most outspoken critics of the Rotary club were some of the 20th century’s most critical thinkers including: Dorothy Parker, George Bernard Shaw, Sinclair Lewis, Clarence Darrow, H. L. Mencken, and G. K. Chesterton?
The web site of the Rotary Club tells us that it is an organization of business and professional leaders that help "build goodwill and peace in the world". The web site of the Republican Party might very well tell us the same thing. So much for free and open debates in a free and open democratic society brought to us by the Rotary Club whose goal is building goodwill and peace by sponsoring a debate between two candidates who are both on record as supporting the "Bush Doctrine". It was the "Bush Doctrine", stating that an entire nation may be held accountable for a terrorist act committed by one of its citizens, which led to the bipartisan supported, brutal invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq.
When the Democrats had me arrested two weeks ago for disorderly conduct I guess it kind of all snuck up on me. It is good to recall the warning of Justice William O. Douglas: "As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
Whether it rides the symbol of the Democratic Party or displays the symbol of the Rotary Club the specter of tyranny is most frightening when it comes in the guise of a protector pretending to exercise its tyranny for the good of its victims.
John Murphy is the independent candidate for House of Representatives in the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. He has been endorsed by Michael Berg, Peter Camejo, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader and Howard Zinn. He has been endorsed by two county level Green Parties, two county level Libertarian Parties, the Pennsylvania Reform Party, the New American Independent Party of Pennsylvania and the GDI among others. He is also one of the founding members of the Pennsylvanian Ballot Access Coalition, working to change ballot access laws in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.