While in the midst of basking in the afterglow of Tuesday's election results, the longest high I've had without inhaling, I got an e-mail from a friend this morning alerting me to what he thinks is an ominous Web site.
I'm not drawing any conclusions here and, as a lifelong supporter of free speech, far be it for me to challenge the right of anyone to express themselves in cyberspace or in real time.
But, given the hate-filled, and volatile, political atmosphere created in these last few months courtesy of the McCain/Palin campaign, to ignore a virtual red flag might have tragic consequences in light of what Rachel Maddow has described as the "venomous" attacks on Obama at Palin rallies which as Congressman John Lewis insists can contribute only to "sowing seeds of racial divide."
So, given these considerations, and in this context, I feel compelled to cast light on what visuals, and verbiage, suggest is a disturbing Web site: http://www.biden09.com
The site attempts to pass itself off as an innocent purveyor of political bumper sticker whose aim is "entertainment," but consider the following questions it poses:
What if Obama relinquished his presidency in 2009..."Change we can hope for."
Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, facing almost certain impeachment."Change we can count on." We can not be held responsible for any repercussions you may face while making a bold political statement. "
What is Biden 09's idea of "making a bold political statement?'
As another presidential candidate, John Kerry, pointed out in a piece he published recently on The Huffington Post, the "ugliness" which was omnipresent at McCain/Palin rallies could only lead to a situation in which "Audience members hurl insults and racial epithets, call out 'Kill him!' and 'Off With His Head," and yell 'treason' when Senator Obama's name is mentioned."
Frankly, the chorus of boos heard at the mention of Barack Obama's name, during John McCain's concession speech on election day, sent shivers up and down my spine. Protecting freedom of expression has always been a balancing act, and it is no less important now that free speech is protected, as well as freedom of assembly, if only to prove that new leadership is taking us away from "free speech zones," and harassment of the press which characterized the Bush years.
As recently as the Republican Convention, in August, reporters were rounded up like cattle, and jailed, for the simple crime of trying to capture authentic news. Similarly, we now know that members of the secret service were dispersed at Sarah Palin rallies, on the pretext of crowd control, to isolate journalists from the crowds when their real intentions were to mitigate against an authentic representation of the crowd's reaction to the Republican vice presidential nominee.
The First Amendment has been invoked to protect the most execrable, and reprehensible, rallies of the KKK. The First Amendment likewise protects groups like the National Rifle Association from thinly veiled death threats it makes on writers, like myself, who did little more than describe a senseless shooting rampage by an off-duty police officer in a small midwestern town as a way to argue for tighter gun control legislation, and more rigorous police department pre-employment evaluation.
But, in an emotionally charged political climate, such as the one we find ourselves today, in which the stubborn vestiges of racial divisiveness persist, as was abundantly evidenced by all the secret service protecting Barack Obama, how can responsible investigative measures not be taken to find out just who is behind a Web site, what their objectives are, and why they are inviting viewers to make a "bold political statement" by attempting to thwart one of the most popular presidencies in decades, and whether their intent is solely to sell bumper stickers.
The paranoia generated by the Bush years, his USA Patriot Act, and Department of Homeland Security, must not be allowed to go nuclear, and promote even more fear as justification for dissolving freedom of expression.
While we must protect the First Amendment, we must also protect Barack Obama from any, and all, who might wish to harm him, and abort our Declaration of Independence from the mental tyranny of the past eight years.
Causes Jayne Stahl Supports
Free Speech, human rights, and abolition of the death penalty.