In these times, it seems that in order to be considered “American,” you have to blindly follow the Presidential Administration without questioning the motives for world policies being made in our name as Americans. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, coupled with a desire to assert American independence on the world stage, even in defiance of our nation’s traditional allies, seems to justify, in the minds of some, our American rights being rewritten as “privileges” that can be taken away in the name of national security.
For example, the Senate of Oregon had drafted legislation that would jail street-blocking protesters for a minimum of 25 years as “terrorists.” Oregon’s Senate Bill 742 defines a “terrorist” as someone who “plans or participates in an act that is intended, by at least one of its participants, to disrupt” schools, businesses, public property or public transit.
In light of recent events, this bill might seem well-intentioned at first glance, yet under this legislation, peaceful protests would be seen as “terrorist” acts, punishable by at least 25 years of imprisonment. If the legislation in Oregon’s Senate Bill 742 was in place in 1960’s Alabama, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been seen as terrorists and imprisoned for the length of time Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in South Africa.
In the American media, celebrities are being branded anti-American in a way that is eerily reminiscent of McCarthyism in the 1950’s. The Dixie Chicks, a popular Country band, recently came under fire when singer Natalie Maines made a critical remark about the president at a concert in England. Maines said, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” After the remarks were publicized in America, Country radio stations boycotted Dixie Chicks songs and County music listeners nationwide destroyed their Dixie Chicks albums at events that recalled the Bible Belt Beatles Burnings of the mid-1960’s.
This isn’t exclusive to the Country music world, as liberal-leaning Alternative Rock band Pearl Jam soon discovered. Lead singer Eddie Vedder, outspoken on many issues throughout his career, impaled a mask of President Bush on his microphone stand during their Denver concert, the first on their 2003 tour. Pearl Jam then received the un-American label in American media outlets, another victim of free speech in post-9/11 America.
The status of “American” is in constant jeopardy these days, as people whose opinions concerning the state of the country and the world differ from those of the Bush Administration and popular opinion are branded un-American.
It’s shocking how in today’s America, speaking your mind in accordance with the First Amendment Freedom of Speech could be considered un-American, but following the government without question while pasting flags all over personal effects and vehicles is considered “Patriotic.” There is nothing wrong with loving America, but one doesn’t have to wear American flag t-shirts and have flag decals on their cars to prove Americanism. Just because people criticize our country’s leadership doesn’t mean that they dislike the country.
They might love America just as much as the guy wearing an American flag mesh hat; their freedom of expression is one of the fundamentals our founding fathers fought for.