FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The War on Civil Liberties Hits Home

“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.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail