HEY, IS THIS A GREAT COUNTRY, OR IS THE MAJORITY JUST ASLEEP?
An Analysis of Freedom
by DC Scribe
Anyone who questions that the concept of "freedom" has played a major role in the power manipulations of the latter part of this century, need only count the number of times the word and its derivatives are used in the inaugural address of every U.S. President, starting with Ronald Reagan.
After Reagan became president in 1981, the U.S. nuclear arsenal grew equivalent to more than two tons of TNT for every man woman and child on the face of the planet. History shows that Mr. Reagan's policies resulted in a similar expenditure by the USSR, creating a combined TNT equivalent of four tons for every person on Earth, which eventually bankrupted the Soviet Union. Today, according to Pentagon officials, this arsenal has cost the U.S. taxpayers $5 trillion, a sum roughly equal to the National Debt.
Engrossed in the tasks that make life worth living, busy taxpayers seldom found time to ask, "Can this omnicidal arsenal really be a 'good' thing?"
Issues of this magnitude are so obviously profound they couldn't be entirely ignored. Mr. Reagan assured the American taxpayers that planetary overkill was not at all immoral when necessary to protect sacred freedoms from tyranny. On June 6, 1982, he told a joint session of the British Parliament: "Although nuclear weapons may mean, if not the end of Mankind, at least the end of civilization as we know it, they are necessary in order to protect against mindless bureaucracy and totalitarian police state tactics which combine to stifle individual freedom and personal excellence."
Today, the U.S. teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and the Reagan Revolution continues under various noms-de-guerre -- Gingrich Revolution," "Republican Revolution," "New World Order." The current champions of Mr. Reagan's "revolution" portray him as the Victor over Communism, Savior of Freedom. Some critics claim these grand titles are unmerited because "freedom" actually had nothing to do with any of it, and the real victory went to International Capitalism over State Capitalism. Freedom, capitalism, and communism aside, practically speaking, a nuclear weapon serves no purpose except to indiscriminately kill, maim and destroy. The U.S. continues to produce "new improved" nuclear weapons, at the same time it claims to be cutting down on these devices. Propagandists cling to the word "deterrent," but a tally of post World War II military conflicts shows that nukes have not deterred war, which raises the question, "Deter what?"
A "Freedom" Barometer
To gauge the state of individual freedom and personal excellence since the fall of the Evil Empire, perhaps one may have to look no further than Lafayette Park in front of the White House. A vigil for "Wisdom & Honesty" which has been maintained 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, began there on June 3, 1981. Those who maintain the vigil see it as their exercise of individual freedom and pursuit of personal excellence. In a sense, the fact that this vigil has not been crushed in the manner of Tiananmen Square might be seen as a tribute to U.S. devotion to freedom of thought, expression and assembly. Occasionally, one of the more patriotic of the tourists passing by has commented that the vigilers "should be thankful for nuclear weapons; they protect your freedom to be here." The vigilers aren't convinced, and credit their own tenacity, rather than omnicidal overkill, for the vigil's longevity. There is a prehistory to the vigil which explains its origins and, perhaps, tenacity.
A Quest for Individual Freedom and Personal Excellence
Born in the U.S.A., for twenty-five years Thomas was proud to be a citizen. Slowly he began to suspect that the U.S., roughly 5% of the earth's population, was consuming roughly 66 percent of the earth's resources. If those numbers were close to accurate, Thomas figured, the lifestyles of roughly 10% of humanity were directly causing roughly 20% of humanity to endure hellish lives and violent, premeditated, gratuitous death - while the remaining 70% of humanity (including himself) played supporting roles in the orchestrations of the top 10%. In 1975 Thomas decided to wander around the world for a while to get a fuller perspective. He embarked on a penniless pilgrimage from Casablanca to Cairo to Jerusalem. He found that poor people were usually kind and often wise. While trying to walk across the Sinai Desert, which was occupied by Israeli and Egyptian military forces, Thomas was seized by the Egyptians for being in a restricted military area. Consequently, he spent a year in El Kantara prison outside Cairo.
Phyze Efram Awadt was in inmate of El Kantara at the same time. Shortly after the Egyptian military began mobilizing for the Yom Kippur War, Phyze, a private in the army, began mobilizing for peace. "The Earth is the Lord's; the Israelis are our brothers; it's not right to kill our brothers over God's earth." Phyze stated, and spread this opinion to his comrades in arms. Phyze was sentenced to be shot, but President Sadat commuted his sentence to twenty-five years, which was the longest prison sentence that could be imposed under Egyptian law. Twenty-five years of imprisonment can seem like a lot longer, with six or eight other individuals in a cell, not including the rats, where toilet facilities are a five-gallon olive oil tin, and the food is served from filthy vessels.
Phyze was inspirational, a ray of sunlight in a very dark, uncomfortable place. Eventually Thomas brokered a deal with the Egyptians to get out of jail, managed to walk across the Sinai, and was arrested by the Israelis for entering their country illegally. After only three weeks Thomas managed to stike a deal with the Israelis; they agreed to let him out of jail, and he agreed to leave the country within a month. Geographically, Israel is small, but has a highly advanced communications system. As he wandered around to the various holy places, Thomas discovered that he was something of a celebrity. Everyone had heard of the American who'd walked across the Sinai. People were friendly, and Thomas took the opportunity to paraphrase Phyze's message:
"The Earth is the Lord's; the Arabs are your brothers; it's not right to kill your brothers over God's earth," Thomas said to nearly everyone he met. He was stymied when, on two separate occasions, Israelis answered him with the same words, "That's fine for you to say, you're an American citizen. You can return to the United States to live in comfort and security whenever you like. We're fighting for our lives here." As a peacemaker, Thomas felt somewhat hypocritical; what could he say?
Thomas honestly thought his experience confirmed that the United States had become a corporate enterprise abandonimg its core principles in exchange for a strict dollars and cents value system. He reasoned that the inequitable material consumption in the U.S. was a form of international piracy, enforced by murderously indiscriminate superior fire-power. This wasn't a snap decision. It wasn't until several months after the Israelis reminded him of the connection between pleasure, comfort and war, that Thomas finally concluded he could not be both "a peacemaker" and "an American." Forced to choose between serving his Creator, or continuing to benefit from U.S. citizenship, Thomas threw all his identification papers in a lake in London.
Aside from the moral, political and economic reasons behind jettisoning his documentation, for Thomas spiritual considerations were of even greater concern. Based on the Book of Revelations, millions of Christians believe the "Antichrist" will decree that anyone without a certain "mark of the Beast" will not be permitted to "buy, sell or trade." This is supposedly an important spiritual issue, because folks who accept the mark are in dire danger of eternal spiritual damnation. Thanks to the development of Star Wars technology, "SmartCards," and "implantable biochips," today the "mark of the Beast" seems far less technologically fantastic than it did then. Tossing his papers in the lake was, for Thomas, a ritual act symbolizing his refusal to abandon his Creator's principles or submit to the temptations of a deceptive world.
As he was no longer "an American," Thomas felt he had divested himself of sufficient hypocrisy to return to Israel and continue preaching the Gospel according to Phyze. Sure as action has reaction, Thomas suspected his symbolic act would eventually result in undesirable effects. He was fully prepared to accept responsibility for his decision. In his naivete, Thomas didn't expect to encounter any ID difficulties in the "Free World." So he was surprised to be arrested and sentenced to three months in a British prison for lack of proper documents. Accepting responsibility, Thomas did not protest the sentence, expecting to pay his debt to British society and continue on his way. But Her Majesty's government had a different plan. The British Home Office ordered his deportation to the U.S. On appeal Thomas argued that the British government lacked legal authority to deport him to the U.S. because (1) he was a free man, and had decided to travel east, and (2) he was no longer a U.S. citizen so he could not be deported to the U.S.
In all, Thomas spent a full year in British prisons, once escaping from custody for three months before being re-apprehended and forced onto a BOA jet and flown to New York, in custody of two British agents. At JFK airport it didn't take long for his escorts to realize that their efforts to convince him to get off the plane were futile. The out-of-state police appealed to the captain of the plane, who asked, "Why don't you want to get off the plane?"
"I was headed in the opposite direction when these fellows forced me onto this plane and put 4,000 miles between me and my chosen destination. I just want to be back where I was before these guys interrupted what I was doing," Thomas explained.
"That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I don't see why you should get off the plane," the captain said, and left.
After a while the Brits managed to get half dozen JFK security officers to board the plane. "Why don't you want to get off the plane?" asked the head of the security detail. "We got Disneyland here, and everything."
"Don't get me wrong, you probably have a nice country, but I had my own plans, and this wasn't part of them," Thomas informed the officers. The security forces bodily carried Thomas from the plane, and down to the immigration desk, where they surrounded him. The Immigration clerk began asking questions. To each question Thomas answered, "Why?"
"Is that the only word you know, 'why'?" the clerk asked, visibly frustrated.
"No, but I'm not in the habit of answering unreasonable questions. Unless you give me a reason for asking I may not answer."
"Do you want to sign this?" she finally asked, pushing a card across the counter. On the card was an agreement to the effect that the signatory understood he would not be permitted to enter the country unless he agreed to pay $50 to someone or other in the State Department.
"I don't think you understand what I'm trying to tell you. I have absolutely no desire to enter your country, I'm certainly not going to sign that card," Thomas said calmly.
"Get him out of here," the clerk exploded, waving the card above her head. The security forces swung into action, dragged Thomas through customs, and pushed him through an exit door.
"You're in the United States. You're free to go where you want," the head of security stated.
"You gotta be kidding me!" Thomas snorted, confronted by a wall of clubs and guns. "This was the last place on Earth that I wanted to be, and you guys just forced me into it."
"We didn't force you to do anything," security said.
Freedom of Thought
"I might be crazy," Thomas thought, "But I'm not threatening anybody. My actions, misdirected though they may be, are a direct manifestation of my religious beliefs. This is bedrock freedom of thought that these guys are messing with. On the bottom line, all I'm really trying to do is to move freely. Yet the authorities of this country are doing to me the very things that they claim the Soviets want to do to me. If they would do this to me, they'd they do it to anybody."
After a peaceful attempt to "surrender" to the USSR, which landed him in the DC jail on a "trespassing" charge - and a retreat to the woods -- Thomas went to the White House sidewalk with a cardboard sign, "Wanted: Wisdom and Honesty." Having done everything possible to avoid being in a country which he considered beyond redemption, he resigned himself to being in the U.S., but not part of it. He would do in DC what he'd planned to do in Jerusalem - reason with the public on issues of truth, justice, freedom, equality, without which war is inevitable. Promptly he was arrested, his sign destroyed, driven to the edge of town and told not to come back. He caught the next ride back into town and returned with a larger, better version of "Wanted, Wisdom and Honesty," began fasting, and the vigil was doggedly underway.
The Boston Tea Party In Reverse
Historically, symbols are important. For Americans, perhaps the most enduring symbolic act of freedom over tyranny was the Boston Tea Party. Of course, for many, many years Lafayette Park has also been a world-renowned symbol of a free and open society - a site where citizens could assemble to petition their government for redress of grievances. For many years 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was also the most famous address in the world. That historic address ceased to exist on May 29, 1995, when the Secret Service (SS) ordered the closure of the street in front of the White House.
Security forces accomplished this coup, literally, in the dead of night. Semi of Jersey traffic barriers, accompanied by cranes and cops, closed the street while the city slept. When the DC City Council awoke, it was confronted with a done deal. The SS claims this extremism was prompted by fears generated by the Oklahoma City bombing, an attempt to fly a plane into the mansion, and a walk-by shooting by an irate citizen.
One of the nation's founding fathers warned that those who value security more than freedom lose both.
Strengths and Weaknesses of "Constitutional Protection"
For most of its nearly 200-year history, Lafayette Park seemed the centerpiece of a free and open government. Now the one-block park is constantly occupied by dozens of police and their vehicles, and it is common to hear tourists comment that it looks like a "police state." It also is common to observe Secret Service or U.S. Park Police officers intimidating new demonstrators away.
In 1981, when the vigil began on the White House sidewalk, it was "absolutely protected" under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There wasn't an absolute guarantee that the police would display profound respect for the expression of dissident views around the President's house. But, as often happened, when an overzealous law enforcement official exceeded his legal capacity in an effort to eliminate the vigil, the courts invariably dismissed the charges, and the vigil continued.
Getting around constitutional protection took time. At first judicial precedent thwarted Department of Interior lawyers' regulatory assaults. 24-hour vigils were expressly permitted, and Lafayette Park was recognized by courts as a "unique site" protected by the First Amendment. Twice frustrated by federal district courts and once by an appellate court, it wasn't until the landmark "camping" decision in Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence that the Supreme Court finally voted down the vigil's "absolute" protection.
It's noteworthy that the government specifically argued its regulation was not intended to preclude vigils, but only "typical camping activities." Government attorneys plainly stated that "camping" was distinguishable from "vigils" when sleeping was done in "a tent or other structure," but otherwise, sleeping in the course of a vigil would be unaffected. In reality, however, the camping regulation opened the door to arbitrary police enforcement. Vigilers were arrested although they had no "tent or structure," even when they weren't sleeping, and charged with "camping."
For the most part, the public was unconcerned that bureaucrats and lawyers might be nickel and diming the First Amendment to death. "It's not going to effect me," it seems American reasoning ran. Years later the broader effects of the camping regulation can be discerned in the recently popularized "quality of life" regulations, which draw their legal authority from the Clark decision, and are swelling prison populations with homeless people who have nowhere to sleep except public property. "It doesn't effect me," many continue to say.
Pastor Neimeier remembered, "First they came for the gypsies, and I said nothing, because I wasn't a gypsy. Then they came for the jews, and I did nothing.... Finally they came for me."
Regulatory Degeneration of Sacred Protection?
"Congress shall pass no law respecting (etc. -- since every schoolchild should know the First Amendment, repeating it might be an insult to an intelligent reader). Technically, Congress wasn't directly involved with this regulatory scheme; it was just a few lawyerly bureaucrats, following executive orders, rubber-stamped by Reagan's revolutionary courts. The camping regulation was only the beginning, ... the final end remains to be determined.
Emboldened by their Supreme Court camping triumph, the regulation writers discovered new, ever more imaginative methods of transforming "protected expression" into "criminal activity," resembling totalitarian police state enforcement tactics. Founded entirely on their legal "camping" precedent, in 1985 Department of Interior (DOI) lawyers began the process of cranking out three more regulations, successively levying restrictions on the previously protected activities of (1) demonstrating on the White House sidewalk, (2) the size, shape, and number of signs, and (3) the amount of property allowed to demonstrators. Hundreds of people have actually been arrested during the course of demonstrations under the authority of these new regulations.
Of course, not everyone has something to say, and perhaps they'll never have anything to say. Thus, many folks continue to assume, "It doesn't effect me." On the other hand, a time may come when these good folks believe that they do have something worth saying. In that case, they will quickly realize how it really did affect them.
A First Amendment Arrest
Back in the '80's, President Reagan used to tell Americans they needed nuclear weapons to keep the communists from turning Lafayette Park into a Red Square, where a person couldn't speak without going to jail. If he still recalls those days, might Mr. Reagan be shocked to learn that his own SS has started aping the old KGB?
For one example, on Easter eve, 1996, Thomas was sitting peacefully at his vigil when a group of middle aged, middle-class Americans strolled by. "Get a job," one of them spat. As the group meandered away, Thomas replied, "I have a very difficult job, trying to reason with ignorant people about sacred principles." He began reciting the Declaration of Independence.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" yelled SS officer Christian Stanton, running across what used to be Pennsylvania Avenue.
"No, no, no, you've got that all wrong," Thomas said quietly, as Mr. Stanton stood nose to nose. "Your job is to protect the President. As long as I'm not threatening him, you're supposed to leave me alone." Before Thomas was finished speaking, SS agents, including a van, motorcycle, and bicycles, surrounded him.
"You're disturbing the peace," Stanton stated.
"Who is being disturbed ... besides you?" Thomas asked.
"You're too loud," Officer Stanton persisted.
Thomas knew that Christian was among 250 loyal Americans who, just that week, had joined the Secret Service payroll for the sole purpose of guarding the White House. "I realize that you're new to your job, and may not be acquainted with the rules and regulations, but I can assure, in the case of United States v. Nomad, the Court of Appeals for this Circuit ruled that there are no decibel limits on demonstrations. Since I'm not using any sound amplification equipment, it seems obvious that I'm not too loud."
Much to Thomas' surprise, Stanton turned and began walking back towards where he'd come from and the rest of the police dispersed. Attracted by the commotion, a large group of tourists had gathered on the sidewalk across the street. "I guess you folks are wondering what was going on over here!" Thomas called to them.
"Yeah, what was that all about?" one of the onlookers called back.
"Well, one of those policemen told me to 'shut up.' I explained to him that this is a free country - you know, freedom of speech is what makes this country great, and all. See, I wasn't saying anything unreasonable ... did anybody hear me say anything unreasonable?"
"I didn't hear anything unreasonable," called one of the onlookers from across the street.
"And I didn't say anything obscene? Did I?"
"No," said an onlooker. "I didn't hear anything obscene," shouted another.
"That's the point, as long as I'm not saying anything unreasonable or obscene, the police shouldn't bother me, because the fundamental laws of the land protect me from them," Thomas explained. He began methodically reciting the First Amendment.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" screamed SS officer Stanton, racing across the street. Before Thomas got to "freedom of speech," Stanton was screaming in his face.
Thomas continued to recite. Stanton, about four inches taller, and sixty pounds heavier than Thomas, circled around behind. By the time Thomas got to the part about "freedom of the press," Stanton had grabbed him around the waist, lifted him into the air and smashed his face down onto the pavement. Before Thomas, nose bloodied, managed to tell the tourists about "peaceable assembly," he was on the bottom of a pile of SS personnel. Within minutes, he was handcuffed and on his way to jail, charged with assault on a federal officer.
Fortunately, a couple of unimpeachable witnesses (a minister and a law clerk) reported to the SS that Stanton had assaulted Thomas. Although the government had no case against Thomas, he waited three days in jail, while the court celebrated Easter, before charges were officially dismissed.
Freedom of the Press
It's popularly believed that in the U.S. the communications media is free of government censorship.
The day before election day, November 1996, Thomas was at his vigil, trying to communicate with the general public on issues of broad concern. A TV news crew -- female interviewer with a cordless microphone, male cameraman with a camera on his shoulder - asked whether he would like to comment on the upcoming election.
Park Police Officer Lombardi confronted the trio and told the cameraman that he couldn't use his video camera in the park.
Thomas said, "I know you guys often hassle news crews about cameras, and I'm not at all sure you have the authority to do that. But that isn't at issue here, because there's no tripod on the camera," Thomas observed. Officer Lombardi mumbled something about "a lawyer," and walked away. As the cameraman and woman interviewer walked to the area where they wanted to do the interview, Park Police officer Gonzalez then approached Thomas and asked, "What's your problem."
"I don't have any problem," Thomas said.
"What's your problem?" Officer Gonzalez insisted.
"I told you I don't have a problem," Thomas repeated.
"What's your problem?" Officer Gonzalez persisted.
"Look, maybe he's got some problem," Thomas said, indicating Officer Lombardi, who was standing about ten or fifteen feet away.
"Why don't you talk to him?"
"What's your problem?" Officer Gonzalez harped.
"Frankly, you're becoming a problem. I'm trying to do an interview, and you're in my face," Thomas admitted.
"I'm going to be watching you, as soon as you get even a little out of line, I'm going to be right on you," Gonzalez threatened.
"Fine, you do that. In the meantime, why don't you just take a walk and leave me alone?" Thomas asked.
Officer Gonzalez crossed his arms across his chest. "This is a free park. I can stand right here," he said.
"Okay," Thomas agreed, "you stand right there." He walked away to join the news crew, already set up for the interview.
Three or four SS officers joined Lombardi and Gonzalez. The group stood by the curb, about thirty feet from the signs, and scrutinized the interview from a distance. After the news crew left, Thomas sat between his signs, and began reading a newspaper. Officers Lombardi and Gonzalez left the other police officers standing by the curb, and approached Thomas "Is this yours?" Officer Lombardi asked, lightly kicking an accordion file of literature with his foot. "Take it, and get out of the Park." Thomas didn't answer, and continued reading the paper. Lombardi argued with Concepcion, who was trying to convince him that Thomas wasn't doing anything but "demonstrating," Lombardi repeatedly ordered Thomas to leave the park. After Thomas, who didn't utter another word, failed to leave the park, he was arrested, charged with "disorderly conduct" ("hooliganism," they used to call it in Red Square), and jailed.
In addition to the arrest Thomas and three witnesses were forced to spend two days in court. Not until the unspeedy trial did it become apparent that Thomas' witnesses had wasted their time. Officer Lombardi was the government's only witness, and notwithstanding the good officer's liberal exaggerations, imaginative misrepresentations, and significant omissions, after the government rested its case the court acquitted Thomas of the charge without requiring him to present witnesses or put on any case at all.
As a crestfallen Officer Lombardi stumbled from the witness stand, Thomas momentarily felt as if justice had been done.
"Officer," DC Superior Court Judge Trainor gently called, "Would you stay in the courtroom for a few minutes, please?" Officer Lombardi froze, looking like he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Thomas, expecting the judge to explain to Lombardi that he shouldn't abuse his legal authority, was very disappointed. "Sir," the judge said, turning to Thomas, "although you didn't violate any law, you were very rude to the officer," and lectured him on Rudyard Kipling, and the great debt which society owes its police officers.
Although U.S. regulation writers haven't gotten around to writing a ban on "hooliganism," Thomas left the courtroom with the distinct impression that as soon as they get around to writing it the courts would gladly embrace it.
Freedom of Movement
Given his experience with "freedom of movement," during the early 1980's Thomas was frustrated when, as he often did, President Reagan told U.S. taxpayers that they needed to buy nuclear weapons to protect their right to travel from "coast to coast without a picture ID." Paradoxically, now that the Soviet Union is safely on the ash heap of history, folks in the U.S. can now no longer travel from sea to shining sea without a "picture ID."
Anybody who questions this statement, but doesn't want to bother evading police while hitchhiking from New York to L.A., can now call their travel agent, book a flight, and then ask the agent whether there will be any difficulty traveling without an ID. Thomas tried this experiment and was told by United Airlines that he would not be able to board the plane without one.
Curious, Thomas inquired as to the legal authority that supported a picture ID requirement. The airline employee claimed it was "an FAA regulation," but didn't know what it said, but gave Thomas a number for the FAA (1-800-FAA SURE).
"Yes, the FAA does have regulations requiring a photo ID to travel on an airline," an FAA agent confirmed, after calls to several different offices.
"Where are these regulations codified?" Thomas asked.
"Oh, they're not available to the public," the FAA agent replied.
"You're kidding. You mean these are secret regulations?" Thomas asked.
"They're security regulations," the FAA corrected. "If we were to make them public, that would defeat whole the purpose of the regulations."
Thomas explained that he had no picture ID, but wanted to fly on an airline, so he needed to know what the regulation said to legitimize the abrogation of what had, until so recently, been the right of an individual to travel across country without a picture ID.
The FAA insisted that it could not divulge the content of the regulations, but confided that the "airline has alternatives available to them." Thomas pressed for information about the available alternatives, but was only advised to call the airline.
Another call to United connected Thomas to a professionally bright and friendly airline agent. He explained that he had no picture ID, but that the FAA had told him that the airlines had "alternatives" that would allow arrangements for him to fly without one.
"Oh, no. We require a picture ID."
"But I don't have a picture ID," Thomas reminded.
"Everybody has a picture ID."
"Well, no. I haven't had one for twenty years."
"You have time to get one."
"I can't get one. It's a matter of my religious beliefs," Thomas explained.
"Well, you'll just have to talk to the leader of your religion and get him to make an exception." United replied, the professional friendliness wearing a little thin.
"That's not an option," Thomas stated.
"Can't you understand, this is a matter of security."
"I can understand how you feel, it's just that I'm not a security threat, I don't have an ID, and the FAA says you folks have some alternative that will let me on your plane without an ID."
"You're a nut case," United's agent proclaimed.
"Let me speak to your supervisor."
"You're a nut case," United repeated.
"Okay, but let me speak to your supervisor."
United hung up.
Eventually, after a few more calls, Thomas finally reached United's security office in Chicago, Illinois. After a lengthy discussion, Thomas was told that, although some airlines (specifically Delta, he was told), made absolutely no exceptions to the "no ID, no fly" rule, United did happen to have some procedures which it could apply, and Thomas would be allowed to fly United without a picture ID.
"I can't tell you that. If you want to fly, you'll just have to wait and find out when you go through them."
Of course, this is only a microscopic view. It can be argued that a person with enough persistence can still manage to travel coast to coast without a picture ID, recite the First Amendment in front of the White House -- at least if he doesn't mind getting his face smashed -- and do a TV new interview without getting convicted of disorderly conduct.
"Change is the one thing endlessly continuous, all things and situations constantly alter and rearrange." Norman Mayer used to say, and, on various levels that premise appears self-evident.
Certainly, nuclear weapons are a substantial issue, but, without freedom of speech, one can't be sure that one can speak of anything.