Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reverend Billy

Sitting here watching Reverend Billy from Free Speech TV.

Great show. What a character. This show was a mix two different events up in NYC. One was coverage of a Critical Mass bike ride. The other was a protest against someone who's trying to turn the Union Square pavilion into an upscale private restaurant.

I haven't watched this show often, but seeing Reverend Billy getting arrested seems to be a regular feature. This time is was for his protest outside the restaurant.

The great part was that whoever was filming this was standing next to someone with a foreign accent who was asking "Why is he being arrested? Is he being arrested just for speaking out? That wouldn't happen in my country?" The person filming then asks "Where are you from?" "Spain" is the reply.

For someone who reads history, that's a striking comment. America was founded as a place of free and progressive thought. As opposed to the conservative monarchies of Spain and the rest of Europe at the time. Look how things have flipped around. A citizen of Spain who's in NYC is watching a protesting Rev. Billy get arrested and he's saying "that wouldn't happen where we come from."

Americans in general like to act as if the USA is the world's greatest democracy and the world's free-est country. Its a standard part of our rap that always seems to end with why we need to invade or bomb yet another country. Yet, a citizen of Spain is filmed standing on our streets saying "that wouldn't happen where I come from." Usually, the first step towards change is admitted there is a problem.

The USA imprisons a higher percentage of people than any other nation in the world. Continuing to maintain its lead in the strategically important 'prison race' over Russia. How important are prisons to the USA? As state governments face tightening budgets, do you ever hear of prison guards being laid off? Usually its just teachers and nurses and social workers.

The USA has massive militarized police forces at the local, state and federal levels.

The USA now spies on its own people, with Bush's originally illegal approvals now approved by Congress, with then Sen. Obama flying back to make sure that the big telecoms got their immunity as a part of the bill.

Any protest seems to be met by huge forces of police in riot gear. While the US praised the Tehran twitters reporting on the protest there, the first reaction of the US police was to arrest people doing the same from outside the G-whatever summit in Pittsburgh.

Is the US really still the world's free-est country?

70% of the American people keep telling pollsters they want the wars to end and the troops to come home. Yet, both parties when in power continue the wars. The will of the people seems to be ignored, when its not being ridiculed, by those in power.

Is the US really still the world's greatest democracy?

The Rev. Billy show is now showing a beautiful singing of the first amendment to the US Constitution. I'm guessing the lady is a member of the "Reverend Billy Choir". But its hard to tell, as all you see on the screen is that she is one of the many protesters sitting with their bikes in the middle of the street surrounded by New York's finest in riot gear. Beautiful bit of film. This is just after Reverend Billy got arrested, again, for 'disturbing the peace' by reciting the words of the first amendment. Yes, that's right. He apparently got arrested for reading the very words that are supposed to guarantee us the right of free speech.

The first step towards change is admitting there's a problem. If we delude ourselves by calling ourselves the world's free-est country when we really aren't, then that's a problem. If we delude ourselves into thinking that we are the world's greatest democracy, when we really aren't, then that's a problem. Its looking at the world realistically and admitting that we are not the world's free-est country and that the are not the world's greatest democracy that will be the first step on the path that would lead us back to being both of those things.

America was founded as the free alternative to the monarchies of Europe. Nowadays, a citizen of Europe stands on American streets watching the police arrest a protester and says "that wouldn't happen where I come from."

PS .... it takes time, but eventually police violence and over-reaction does seem to eventually lead to some protesters walking away with tax dollars. Its, a different Critical Mass ride, but I see this on today's headlines .... Gus Ganley Wins $70,000 Settlement Resulting From August 2007 Critical Mass

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