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Operation Eroding Freedom
by rick   April 8, 2003

In the new American landscape, where conservatives have seemingly cornered the market on patriotism and our liberal leaders have run to the hills, afraid of voicing criticism in the current political minefield, dangerous laws with innocuous names are being introduced, undermining the "enduring freedom" that are troops are trying to safeguard.

Oregon Senate Bill 742 has hit the floor and it seeks to re-define the term terrorist to include any person "who knowingly plans, participates in or carries out any act that is intended, by at least one of its participants, to disrupt: assembly, commerce and transportation." Breaking the proposed law listed above will result in being labeled a terrorist and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. The language of the bill has since been changed by author Rep. John Minnis to include the phrase "violent acts," wisely excluding such noted terrorists as Mahatmas Gandhi, who most certainly engaged in the disruption of transportation and commerce during his peaceful protests of Great Britain"s occupation of India.

Admittedly, the bill is designed as a deterrent to demonstrators, a law created to give law enforcement "teeth" when dealing with unruly protestors who are undaunted by the misdemeanors with which they will likely be charged. Portland police have already starting fining vehicles for violation of a noise ordinance when they honked at peace protestors to voice their support.

Disturbingly, these protestors have started to be viewed as disrespectful to the troops who are fighting in Iraq, as if support of the troops and skepticism over our government's actions are mutually exclusive. This "muzzling" of the left by heavy-handed conservatives riding a crest of "rally around the flag" popularity is by far the most disturbing domestic by-product of the war in Iraq. Already we've seen dissonant artists and politicians lambasted for their critical comments of the commander-in-chief. Eddie Vedder was roundly booed at a concert in Denver for spiking a George Bush mask on a his microphone, the Dixie Chicks boycotted by country radio stations for critical comments and Michael Moore demonized for the timing of his acceptance speech. John Kerry, speaking out at a time when most of his party is quiet, has said that America itself is also "in need a regime change," a remark that has come under heavy fire from his colleagues some journalists around the nation. It is important to note, that while the honorable Senators DeLay and Frist fire comments about being respectful to the men and women that serve our country, they themselves have never been in active military service, while Sen. Kerry is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

It is this backlash against free expression that is so troubling. Since when should we feel publicly condemned for taking to the street to oppose a war that we call into question? Since when is loving peace a slap in the face to our armed forces? There are hundreds of examples of court rulings where our basic freedoms were upheld over the safety of our citizenry. One needs only to look at the complex laws and long list of technicalities that a criminal can be acquitted on if proper police procedures are not followed. Is it beneficial to the public safety to let a likely criminal out onto the street because he was not properly advised of his Miranda Rights? No, but it is one of the many steps the government has in place to ensure that our freedoms are not infringed upon. What cost are we paying for all of this new security?

It is a time more than ever to cherish the freedoms that this country was founded to protect. Our humble beginnings can be traced back to the Boston Tea Party, an event that, if laws like Senate Bill 742 are passed, could be re-defined as a "violent act to disrupt commerce," and therefore, terrorism.

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