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Can Americans Engage In UnAmerican Activities?

Responding to raucous protests at so-called “town hall” meetings about health care reform organized by members of Congress, Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer issued a statement declaring that, “These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.” Are they right? Are these anti-reform protests “un-American”?

nancy pelosi steny hoyer unamericanThe answer is simple: No. Unless Hoyer and Pelosi can show that the protests are being organized by Australians, Asians, Europeans or Africans, their accusation is factually incorrect. As far as I know, the protests are conducted by Americans. Therefore, the protests are American, not unAmerican.

The underlying suggestion made by Pelosi and Hoyer, that disruptive protests are contrary to the American character, isn’t accurate either. Vigorous protest is central to the civic character of the USA. That’s why the rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition for redress of grievances are protected in the Bill of Rights. Our nation was founded through raucous protests. Loud protests are a core aspect of the American identity. I’d like to see more of them.

As for the complaint that the protesters are drowning out substantive discussions, well, that’s just not true. When protesters interfere with the operation of public meetings, they’re being escorted away or arrested for doing so. Free speech is protected, but free speech by some isn’t allowed to destroy others’ free speech and right to peaceably assemble.

So, the “town hall” meetings go on as before, after the shouting is done. No one is drowned out by these protests.

Not too long ago, when George W. Bush was President, Democratic voters were engaged in disruptive protests. I didn’t hear Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer calling those protests “un-American”. Why not?

I don’t agree with content of the anti-reform protests. However, I support the form of their protests. It’s unsettling to see the Democratic Party join the Republicans in their willingness to use the language of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House UnAmerican Activities Committee. It reinforces a growing perception that the Democratic Party lacks a consistent, systematic loyalty to the defense of constitutional rights. Increasingly, it seems that leading Democrats only rally behind the exercise of these rights when it’s politically convenient for them to do so.

17 thoughts on “Can Americans Engage In UnAmerican Activities?”

  1. Tamahome Jenkins says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The very things that politicians say make citizens “un-American” are what Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues founded this country on. I believe JFK said it best less than a month before his assassination:

    “The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.”

  2. ReMarker says:

    I would think after 8 years of the Bush bunch (torture, unprovoked attacks on soverign countries, catastrophic economic policies, anti-science policies, lieing to influence public opinion for political purposes, warrantless wiretaps etc.), people would, at lease, give the new bunch a chance. Barrack’s bunch is head and shoulders above Cheney, Rumsfield, Gonzales, John Yoo, Wolfowitz, Bolten, Rice, Giuliani, Libby, Noe, Safavain, DeLay, Frist, Greenspan, Cox, Paulson, Foggo, Domemici, Gingrich, Craig, Vitter, Rove, and Foley, to name a “few”. Should I list more? With a little time, I could post links to explainations of their actions that show how they hurt our country and many time broke our laws.

    IMO, I think many of the Bush policies hurt our country, too. I think the Bushes knew that many of the things they did, hurt America. That’s what unAmerican.

    PS. Even with all the Bush abuses, the Dems. weren’t calling the Bush bunch Nazis. I think Pelosi probably think calling a fellow American a Nazi, is unAmerican. We/they probably should call the Busheys and the current GOP, Nazis, though. They are similar. But I won’t, I think that’s unAmerican too.

    Of course, with America’s guarenteed “free speech” rights, it could be done.

    1. qs says:

      Well since the Democrats control EVERYTHING you should have nothing to complain about now.

      1. ReMarker says:

        I’m not crybabying, I’m the one responding to the crybabying blogger.

        1. Candide says:

          Who’s crying here? jclifford is defending the right of people who he disagrees with to vigorously air them. That’s not crybaby stuff. Crybaby stuff is declaring that the Obamessiah and his disciple Nancy Iscariot are off limits. Boo hoo ho, remarker. Here’s the world’s biggest hanky for you.

          1. ReMarker says:

            If I had said Bush is torturing (wahwahwahwah), that’s crybabying. I said “give the new bunch a chance”. Torturing was listed as one of the facts of the Bush Administration.

            The blogger said, “so-called town hall meetings” (wahwahwahwah) the town hall meetings are “so-called” and not real town meetings.

            The difference is obvious to me.

            It would be easy to go blow by blow through the blog and my comment and stipulate the crybaby v non-crybaby difference but IMO that is a waste of time as you (also obvious) are a member of the “anti-Obama Administration” crowd.

            Free advice: If you like what America has been pre-Obama, then vote GOP.

          2. J. Clifford says:

            ReMarker, are these “town hall meetings” at town halls? No. Are they equivalent to the town hall meetings that had been in the past, where everyone gets a chance to talk? No. They’re heavily orchestrated media events – whether the Democrats or the Republicans are holding them. They’re propaganda tools for elected officials to try to shape public opinion, not genuine opportunities for constituent feedback. These are the reasons I call them “so-called”. I criticized them when Republicans used them to push Social Security defunding, and I criticize them when Democrats use them as well. I don’t have too much sympathy for people who complain that protesters interrupting propaganda rallies are “unAmerican”.

            If your only standard is that America is not what it was when Bush was President, that’s a very low bar… that’s not being met. Are you aware of all the Bush policies that are being continued, and even expanded, under Obama?

          3. qs says:

            Well if they don’t hold town hall events, when do we ever get to actually see these people and protest. I don’t think having them is such a bad thing.

            Also didn’t originally every 5000 people or so get 1 congressman? Once the ranks started swelling in D.C. to 430, they changed the limits of that so now days a congressman is actually more like a senator population wise.

          4. J. Clifford says:

            Not such a bad thing? If the only alternative is nothing at all, maybe. Maybe. But, that’s not the only alternative. Holding an honest, unscripted meeting with constituents is another alternative.

          5. qs says:

            J. Clifford,

            Most conservatives were against Bush’s social security reform stuff. CATO Institute did a lot of good reporting on it. It didn’t do any cutting all it did was add to the debt. You know it’s bad when when the liberals are storming your townhalls and the conservatives hate it too.

            I like these townhalls anyways because they are a way to register discontent. Plus we know that whether or not an R or a D is in office, both will try to enlarge the government and enrich their private constituents who lobby them so these townhalls are good way to try to stop the politicians from their antics.

  3. Tom says:

    They may control the House and Senate in numbers, but they don’t control their party members because they have the freedom to vote the way they want (as opposed to the Rethuglicans who just vote to obstruct anything being proposed – especially if it’s the least bit progressive).

    The machinery of government is thoroughly corrupted by lobbying interests spreading around money (to these legislators’ re-election campaigns) if they vote the corporate party line. Until lobbyists and Wall Street are removed from the process we won’t see any progressive changes to anything. This has been going on for far too long, and now the damage is evident – states running on empty, the currency debased to fiat money, more of the same wrong-headed foreign policy decisions, massive unemployment (still growing), and PUBLIC DEBT/PRIVATE PROFITS for the bankers while the mortgage industry refuses to help underwater homeowners – to name a few.

    1. ReMarker says:

      Update: The recent unemployment numbers are lower by .10%, from 9.5 to 9.4. That’s not much but let’s hope it’s the beginning of a trend. If it becomes a trend then it will be weaken the “Obama is screwed up” position.

    2. ReMarker says:

      Jim, you hit on a most vital point. The money. Barrack had monetary success because many people supported his efforts with small amounts of money, primarily.

      Many main stream politicians usually get their money in lumps from people/organizations with lumps of money.

      The piles of money allows “the product” (politicians) to be sold to us like washing powder. Name recognition is the name of the game (many times the color of the product’s container has an impact on sales). And ruthless politicians sell their souls and sell out America, for that money.

      The GOP leaning Surpreme Court has ruled, money = free speech.

      Unless and until something changes, and with few exceptions, we(the people) will continue to be jerked around.

      You would think since “the public” owns the air waves, something could be worked out so people that aspire to political office could try to sell themselves without selling their souls or selling out America.

      I support efforts (when they exist) to stop making money THE deciding factor in our elections.

      1. ReMarker says:

        Opps, excuse me Tom. I put “Jim” as the person I was addressing but I was addressing you Tom. Sorry about that.

  4. Kevin says:

    I would side with Pelosi here, except maybe relate it as “not acting in the best America spirit of free discussion”

    you see, from what I saw, protestors ARE shouting down any discussion of the issues. they have a stated agenda of disrupting the meetings and do not want the dems to lay out facts related to proposed changes.

    How does a group of people in the meeting shouting “read the bill” help? I think that street protests are fine, except carrying signs that say “Goverment hands off Medicare!!” and “No Health Insurance NOW!” seems kind of dumb.

  5. Paul Hood says:

    “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American” Stick to what she actually said, no problems. Expand on it, paraphrase it, spin it, problem. At the risk of being redundant, she’s talking about interfering with free speech, and that is indeed un-American.

    On another note, do you think that any of the multi-billion dollar companies which stand to lose a lot of money from healthcare reform might “encourage” a few folks to show up and simply disrupt these meetings and prevent any “free speech” from happening?

  6. Kevin says:

    “Expand on it, paraphrase it, spin it, problem. ”

    what? I paraphrased it and I didn’t have a problem.

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