“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky. A lot of talk has went in towards the term ‘Freedom’ in the United States. We are free to do this, we are free to do that. We are free to march on down to Wal-Mart to take advantage of those fabulous savings! Freedom as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” But, how does that definition line up with political and social freedom? Are we truly free to express our political and social views? Seemingly, as long as your political and social views line up with the accepted Status Quo your views can be freely expressed. But, if it were to go against the grain, you may find that the suppression of political and social dissent in the United States can be and has been, quite brutal.
The history of crushing political and social dissent in this country runs very deep. For example, The miners strikes that were rampant in the early 1900’s. The workers that were being exploited by wealthy mining interests banded together to demand better conditions for themselves. For their efforts they were met by private armies and police guards hired by the mining companies to break any strikes by any means necessary. This usually meant any strikers that dared to ask for a better life had their heads cracked open with billy-clubs if they were lucky, a bullet to the head if they were not. It wasn’t just the private mining interests that got involved, the US Federal and State governments also got into the game in many cases, such as the case of the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado. The workers of coal mines in Ludlow, Colorado in 1914 went on strike in the face of deplorable living conditions. Despite efforts by the mine owners private security forces to break up the strikes, the people persevered. So the wealthy owners pleaded for help from the government and troops were sent in to crush the efforts of the workers. The National Guard troops set their sights on the people with their machine guns and artillery slaughtering upwards of 200 innocent lives, because they dared to ask for a better life.
Government involvement in crushing political dissent runs deep. Take the case of the Black Panther Party for Self Protection. as an example. Two men by the names of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale banded together to form a revolutionary group intended to provide protection and well being for the African-American citizens of the inner-city communities, since the citizens of these communities were being brutalized and exploited by the authorities. Due to their leftist beliefs and militant dress and posture they managed to frighten the Status Quo. Therefore the group was persecuted and placed under surveillance by the authorities. Eventually the Black Panther leadership was either in prison, or murdered by police, crushing their aims of social justice.
Even Right-Wing dissidents aren’t safe from governmental political persecution. Much like the case of Randy Weaver and his family. Weaver was a Right-Wing separatist who believed that government had overstepped it’s bounds and sought to separate himself from US political control. He moved his family to a secluded area of Idaho called Ruby Ridge. This aroused suspicion among the authorities and Weaver and his family were placed under surveillance and eventually approached by the FBI and asked to infiltrate and provide information on racist Neo-Nazi white separatist groups operating in the area. After Weaver refused their proposal the FBI set out to entrap Weaver by sending another of their informants to Weaver’s homestead, to talk him into sawing off a barrel of a shot gun so they would have a federal gun charge to place on him. When the authorities came to execute their bogus arrest warrant Weaver and his family fought back, leading to the deaths of Weaver’s son and wife.
Even in more recent times true political dissent is met with extreme violence. Such as the case of the protests against the World Trade Organization and Economic Globalization in Seattle, Washington in 1999. Vast numbers of people came to peacefully protest at a meeting of The World Trade Organization. Before the protests had even began vast numbers of riot police had staged themselves in preparation for a battle. Although the vast number of protesters in attendance were by all accounts engaging in completely peaceful protest, A handful of violent anarchists from a group known as The Black Bloc began destroying property, was all the excuse needed to unleash a barrage of tear gas and shotgun blasts. Why, since there was more than enough police presence, was the handful Black Bloc anarchists allowed to run rampant and the riot squad turned on the people as whole is a question that remains generally unanswered.
Freedom is a word that gets thrown around a lot in this country. But do we know what it means? Do we have the slightest clue? Those that have tried to express dissent against the Status Quo find out what freedom means when it smashes them across the head for daring to speak out. They will tell you what freedom is. They know what it looks like and can describe it to you perfectly. They may even say it looks like the business end of a service rifle.