Arrest of protestor at Clinton speech means government isn?t practicing what it preaches

Jon Weller

Jon WellerColumnist

History is happening all around us. What began in Algeria, spread to Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. Revolution, the People’s Revolution, has now etched itself into history as a time when the people threw off their shackles of oppression and peacefully ousted tyrannical dictators. The exceptions being Libya, but the rebels have little choice to fight when confronted with armed government retaliation, whether by soldiers or mercenaries. The world watches 24 hours a day as reporters embed themselves in Egyptian crowds and follow the resistance of Libyan rebels fighting Gadhafi. We watch our State Department praise these resisters and denounce the leaders who had ruled for decades as dictators of nations. This is exciting. Most people can get behind the empowering of people over oppression and evil.

In this continuous media blitz in our 24 hour media lives, one speech given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been glossed over. This speech, given on Feb. 15, highlighted the brave Egyptian protestors and condemned an oppressive government that attempted to silence its citizens. This speech was interrupted briefly by a man named Ray McGovern. McGovern, a military veteran and former CIA analyst of 27 years, is part of an organization called Veterans for Peace. He chose to remain standing during Clinton’s speech. No noise, no fanfare, just McGovern standing with his back to her while everyone else sat. Approximately 30 seconds into the speech, McGovern was tackled by two police officers, forced out of the podium area, and arrested for disorderly conduct.

The irony of this moment is that McGovern’s peaceful resistance to the U.S. government’s role in two simultaneous wars was violently squashed by the same people who were fighting for foreigners to peacefully protest their governments. The media goes so far as to label him a “heckler.” The only moment that McGovern spoke during this debacle was during his abrupt removal from the area when he said, “this is America?”

This is America? What poignant words. What is America? Last semester, I took a class that attempted to define America. The class walked away with no clear definition but it remains in my mind an ideology. America stands for freedom and equality, the ability to come from nothing and become anything. Millions strive to escape nations to live “The American Dream.” But is the American Dream still the American Dream? Are we still a free and open society?

The U.S. Patriot Act expired this year. Heard of it? This is a highly intrusive bill sold to the American people as keeping our nation “safe.” In our Post 9/11 world, fear is the universal motivator. This bill, which was originally intended to be provisional, was signed into a temporary extension by President Obama almost 10 years after its initial inception. Among other things, the bill allows for roving wiretaps on American Citizens to include phone conversations and private email. Even your library records are fair game to government agencies under this bill and have been for almost 10 years now. So the government can legally spy on you, citizen. This is this America?

I wrote an earlier article about the Department of Homeland Security “teaming” with Walmart to help combat terrorism in aisle 7. Asking you, citizen shopper, to report suspicious activity without defining what or who is suspicious. This creates an environment of mistrust and fear of fellow shoppers, not protecting you from foreign terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security asks you to report your neighbors now. Why would they do this? East Germany spent many decades living in a closed, monitored society and that was one of the most repressive governments of the 21st century. Our nation of the free is now mirroring this fascist government. This is America?

It is not the America that I found in class last semester and it is not the American that I, Roy McGovern, and every other veteran fought for. It is definitely not the America we grew up in as children. So what is it? That is hard to answer. We live in hyper-violent times that are constantly in upheaval. We are fighting two simultaneous wars, one lasting almost ten years and the other eight. Our political parties wage war against each other, which divides the people on arbitrary issues and ultimately pits citizen against citizen. The economy is in shambles and gas prices are rising and so on and so on… This is now America.

Jon Weiler is a non-traditional student majoring in English.