Symbol of "Freedom" in a Police State

To: Editor, Seacoast Online
January 13, 2006
From: William Thomas

On January 8, 2006 the Portsmouth Herald published James Eldridge's letter concerning his opinions on police states, his trip to Washington, DC, and the man in the moon. Being the Thomas to whom Mr. Eldridge points as evidence that one may still create a "scene (that wouldn't) be tolerated in a fascist nation," let me point out that Mr. Eldridge got his misinformation from "a very polite and personable young police officer" (who probably wasn't even born when I began my vigil in 1981, which Mr. Eldridge erroneously refers to as a "camp site").

Since the polite young Secret Service (SS) officer didn't know what he was talking about, perhaps Mr. Eldridge was also talking to the man in the moon, or maybe he was just judging by outward appearances, a symptom common among Football Brain Syndrome (FBS) sufferers.

FBS is a condition that recognizes neither morality, good/evil, right/wrong, nor empirical thought. Rather, the Football Brainiac is fixated on: Rah, Rah, Rah, Sis-Boom-Ba. Go Team, Go. Win, win, win. Kick 'em in the shin. There are certain catchphrases that help identify FBS sufferers. For example, "Don't confuse me with the facts. My government tells me all I need to know." Or, "If you don't like it here move to the Soviet Union/Iraq/whatever." Another fun FBS phrase runs to the effect: "America is not yet a synonym for perfection, but it's the best there is."

Perhaps because he'd already spoken to his polite young SS agent, and/or the man in the moon, Mr. Eldridge didn't bother to ask me any questions about what I was doing, or why. If he had asked he'd have learned that when I began exercising my First Amendment rights there wasn't anything the government could legally do about it. Not because they didn't try. I was arrested, and briefly jailed, numerous times. Government's problem was the concept of democracy and the courts were still strong enough to protect me from the abuse of governmental authority.

Then the Reagan administration cranked up its regulatory war on freedom of expression. In all, over two terms, the Reaganites enacted four regulations aimed at debasing First Amendment exercise in Lafayette Park. As a result I've been arrested about fifty times, several times beaten by the police, regularly jailed for simply sitting in front of the White House with literature and signs which read "Wanted, Wisdom & Honesty", "Live by the Bomb, Die by the Bomb".

Last time I was arrested under these regulations I was locked up for ninety days. As a result of this punishment I got media coverage that portrayed me as a reasonable, principled person, and pretty much reflected the government in an authoritarian thuggish light. All I know for sure is that immediately upon my release from prison I returned to Lafayette Park and began doing precisely the same things that I'd been incarcerated for. God knows why, but the government hasn't bothered me since.

My guess is: Now the tour guides come through, point to us, and say, "These people have been here over 24 years. Freedom of Speech. Only in America. Ain't it great?" Then too, you have individuals, like Mr. Eldridge, who draw the same conclusion independently: "The United States has not lost its democracy." So, I'm being used as a tool to make it seem as if this were still a free country.

In light of my own experience … repeated arrests, beatings and jailings … it's difficult for me to accept the premise that democratic values, and much less troops in Iraq, rather than my own flat out pig-headedness, accounts for my continued presence in the Park.

Mr. Eldridge asks, "Would this scene be tolerated in a fascist nation?" I say, "Yes, it is being tolerated in a fascist nation." Why is it being tolerated? Because FBSers like Mr. Eldridge see me as a vindication of their fantasies. The fascists don't have to worry about me; I'm no threat to their plans or policies, because the FBSers are in the majority. The FBSers are not to reason why, theirs is to write flowery letters that would really appeal to Hermann Goering.

To gauge the FBS pandemic one need only look at other letters on the page of Mr. Eldridge's letter ( ). There's the letter from fourteen-year-old Evelynn Barclay. Early on she falls on the "America is not yet a synonym for perfection" symptom. Does she suggest ways or means by which to draw closer to perfection? Of course not, Ms. Barclay simply assumes that George W. Bush is "a man who loves this country," and suggests we "exemplify the values this country has (and) dust off the antique treasure of support." Excuse me. I'm not trying to "to crush an individual’s sense of self-worth, or feelings of value." It's just that I can't completely ignore the possibility that W is a pathological liar. Nuclear weapons? None. Chemical, biological weapons? Nope. Terrorist ties? Not really. Connection between Iraq and 9/11? None. War? Yes! Reasons? No! Why don't I feel compelled to dust off the antique treasure of support for a pack of lies?

A few letters after Mr. Eldridge's letter B.J. Figueredo displays the don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts symptom. "To all you protesting 'peacenicks' 'out there'," Mr. Figueredo, begins, "hear about the Iraqi election? The one you kept insisting would never take place, to choose a new government under the new Constitution (The one you kept saying they’d never compile?) Well, guess what? It did!"

What, except for FBS, would impel Mr. Figueredo to fabricate negative concepts, and attribute his handiwork to "all protesting 'peaceniks'." Personally, I can say I never "insist(ed)" that an election would not take place, nor did I even once say the Iraqis wouldn't draft a Constitution. On the contrary, I thought those things would happen, I simply think time will prove it was all a meaningless sham. By the way, prior to the glorious US invasion there wasn't a word spoken by the US administration about elections or constitutions. And what if this new constitutional government decides it wants to be close with Iran? Sure is fortunate those Iraqis love the US so much. Otherwise, in the event of war, they might just support Iran against the US, which would leave the US even further from Coach W's coveted victory.