Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Good government goes bad

[I want to protect your right to protest—I may need it someday]

When it comes time for you, or maybe your children's' children, to protest a government that's "gone bad," and they all do eventually, will you have the right! Or will your right be muted by local police and/or national guard, being so powerful by then as to stifle the smallest resistance, snuff out the tiniest candle light of dissent.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence states, "...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness..."

I decided to check this "right to protest" out first hand during the WTO's Ministerial Conference on Food and Agriculture in Sacramento, California June 23rd to 25th, 2003*. Delegates from around the world had been invited to hear why they needed biotechnology, food irradiation and other industrial agricultural technologies that, the protestors say, harmed people and the environment. It was one of the most exciting weeks of my life, as I spent daily vigil as an observer on the front lines, between the Sacramento City Police and a variety of protesting factions—some of which had nothing to do with biotechnology.

Two things were very apparent to me, as the conference and the protests cane to an end: 1. The Sacramento City Police did a magnificent job of controlling the crowds and 2. I was able to see just how easy it would be for my hometown, the capitol of California, to turn into a police state. If this was a vital protest of the country's people to change the course of "a good government gone bad," we wouldn't have stood a chance against the heavily armed government backed forces.

Our past indifference to those speaking up today for causes that may or may not be of interest to us, or are even adverse to your own beliefs, may be eroding one of our Founding Fathers most important freedoms of expression -- the right to protest. Sure many of those G8 Conference protests may seem silly, disruptive and self-serving, and violence for no good reason is never wanted, but it's not the causes we should be focusing on, rather, it's the principle of the "right to protest" that we should be keeping an eye on.

"...We were under conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to passing events; and thought that the appointment of a day of general fasting & prayer would be most likely to call up & alarm their attention...," from Thomas Jefferson's autobiography.

Our lives are busy and we're relatively happy with things here in the states... right now. Movies to see, meals out to consume, places to go, still, "things" change and governments do sour with selfishness, hubris and indifference (e.g. the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Ottomans and Egyptians). Maybe not today, maybe not in fifty years, but what about a hundred years from now, when your kids' kids want the same type of life, the same type of government, that you enjoy now.

Will your right to protest be there in the future? Go to a nationally publicized protest sometime and experience the possibilities, envision just what it would take to correct the direction of an aberrant government. Is it still possible? Would you or your representative be able to effect a change, if and when it was needed.

The most important thing on the minds of those huddled over that historical document on July 4, 1776 was "the right to voice and carry out their protest without threat of jail or deadly government reprisal."

The Founding Fathers valued the right to protest above all things: Boston Non-Importation Agreement, The Tea Act, The Sugar Act, The Currency Act, Proclamation of 1763 and The Stamp Act. Now it's our duty to protect that right to insure the best destiny for our children, because... "even good governments can go bad."

True Account of Monday 23 Battle (2003 WTO protest in Sacramento)

Reporting from the underground...

Stan Morris