Posts Tagged ‘freedom of assembly’

Let them come and see U.S.

August 28, 2013

Let them come to U.S.

Let them come to Washington and see us.

Let the world come and see how a great democratic republic functions.

Let them come and see how those whose ancestors were formerly enslaved can now march in freedom, to present their grievances before a nation of listeners. More importantly, let the world come and see that, in spite of continuing tribulation and repression, the flame of hope still burns bright within them.

Within us.

Let the world come and see a nation whose men and women and children, the grandsons and granddaughters of former slaves, the grandsons and granddaughters of former slaveowners, can now join hands on a ground that is nationally hallowed as a sanctuary for freedom.

Let them come and see U.S.!

Ich bin ein Americano.

Let the world hear the message of a free people, a people set free from slavery.

Let the world notice how we handle our divisions, how we tolerate our differences, how we strive to establish justice among us.

Let the world take note of what happened on our national mall today while thousands were gathered at the Lincoln Memorial.

Let the world compare.

Let the world compare the free assembly of our people to other gatherings in other parts of our troubled world. . .

. . . gatherings in, say, Cairo, or Damascus, or Tehran, or for that matter Beijing.

Let the world compare.

Let the world hear the message spoke there at the Lincoln Memorial today, the message of a young woman, Bernice, a daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

She mentioned an ancient ally, our “brother” Nehemiah, whose people had, long ago, taken on the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, so that they might be defended against enemies,

after a benevolent Persian (Iranian) king had released them to do so.

And let us take note, as Bernice hath mentioned, that in the ancient writings it is recorded that:

when the people of Israel had spaced themselves along the wall to repair it, and found that the distances between them made the tasks of productivity and defense difficult, their leader Nehemiah instructed them, if they found themselves in difficulty or under attack, that they should gather at the sound of the trumpet to unite and to defend themselves and their work

Let the world know.

Je suis un Americano.

Glass half-Full

August 2, 2012

It was a defensive strategy, a collaborative act of popular protective custody.

Yesterday in my hometown, Boone, North Carolina, hundreds, possibly thousands of people ate chicken at Chick Fil-A.

We gathered and ate there in defense of:

~Dan Cathy’s constitutional right to exercise freedom of speech by expressing his opinions

~Marriage, a sacred right and institutional rite acknowledged since the dawn of civilization as a union between one man and one woman.

~Children, lots of children, and their privilege to receive moral instruction from their own God-given parents

~The reasonable privilege of a private company to prosper by marketing a popular product in a free country

~The constitutional right of the people to peaceably assemble.

And peaceable it was. I noticed this while enjoying lunch there yesterday, August 1, 2012.

The gregarious crowd reminded me a herd of cows– contented, spotted cows. Moving patiently in long lines, we spoke amicably. I think I even heard a moo or two. We waited with hungry expectation and shared tasty food. A jovial ambiance of procreative celebration prevailed in the order lines, the packed dining room, the crowded parking lot and drive-through outside, and the half-mile or so of stopped traffic on the highway. The place was about the same later in the day when Pat and had dinner there after work, but without the stacked traffic.

This collective mood was quite different than I had experienced at Occupy Seattle and Occupy Vancouver last fall. The Occupiers, as an identifiable group, are not like cows at all; they are more like hawks, with an edgy, confrontational air about them that demands social justice, and yearns for enforced equality.

My belief is that it takes both kinds to occupy and sustain a healthy, free nation. To each his own, as the sage hath said. And to each identity group their own way of expressing what they believe to be necessary and true, as long as they are peaceably assembled.

I  suppose  the ambient difference between these two movements is like the difference between being well-fed and happy, or forever carrying (as Shakespeare’s Cassius) the lean and hungry look, which pleads for enforced equality and demands social justice.

Now for the Chick Fil-A set, the statement is: let us marry, have children, and eat chicken joyously.

And let  the LGBTQs have their civil unions.

Don’t mess with marriage. That’s the message.

Glass half-Full

Chai Ling’s Heart for Freedom

May 17, 2012

Chai Ling has written a great book, A Heart for Freedom, (Tyndale) about her revolutionary life. I’m reading it now on Kindle.

About a quarter of the way through her autobiographical account, she gets into those historically dramatic days that preceded the Tiananmen Square uprising of April-June, 1989. She gives an accounting of her role as a major communicator in that movement.

Chai Ling’s husband at that time was Feng Congde, a fellow-student at Peking University, and a forceful, very gifted leader within the protest movement.

In last two week of April, 1989, Feng had been intensely occupied with organizing a democratizing event at the Xinhua gate on Chang’an Avenue, the north end of Tiananmen Square. (This is so interesting to me, because I have visited Tiananmen and the adjoining Forbidden City.) On the night of a protest event,  police had dispersed the dissidents from the Xinhua gate, but the young students went on to strategize for what was to come in the next few days. (These events later stretched into weeks, and eventually culminated on June 4 when military troops shut down the Tiananmen uprising.)

In those early stages, however, Chai Ling writes that one night,  her husband Feng did not come home, so she went looking for him; Ling found her revolutionary mate in a room with his comrades as they planned a coordinated response to the repressive police action at Xinhua gate.

Upon finding Feng that night, she set up a desk outside the dormitory room that had become the organizational locus for students who were laying plans; the alert Ling began to function as a liaison between the core group and other students who wanted to get involved.

As the movement gathered energy and participants, 60,000 students from 48 colleges and universities in Beijing joined with a student strike. This was the inception of the larger massive protest that happened during May at Tiananmen Square. Feng Congde’s leadership was a seminal component in the student leaders’ dorm-room meetings that had preceded these events. What really focused the students’ intensifying zeal, however, was the  April 22 funeral of Party leader Hu Yaobang, whose inclination toward reform had endeared him to many young Chinese.

Hu’s memorial event, April 22, 1989,  was a mournful, highly-charged event. On the day of Hu Yaobang’s funeral, thousands of people gathered at the west side of Tiananmen, and upon the steps of the Great Hall of the People, in anticipation of the Party’s commemoration of him. But a long wait for the many thousands gathered there became a potential flash point for mob ire when the CCP leaders dispatched Hu’s hearse through a back route, ostensibly to minimize the deceased reformer’s legacy to the restless “People.”

The scene was about to turn violent. As Chai Ling writes, the core of Peking University (called Beida in the book) students quickly organized a strategy to prevent violence and imminent bloodshed. At that point, Ling jumped upon a wall and shouted out a desire to communicate with the leaders who were inside the Hall. This bold move on her part immediately propelled her into a critical negotiating role at that point in time. Someone handed her a megaphone, and her decisive act as stand-in-the-gap peacemaker between angry students and Party luminaries  became Tiananmen history.

Although Ling’s role in the Tiananmen uprising of 1989 was played mostly in Tiananmen Square itself–that is, the outside space–she must have later communicated with a highly placed official person who had been inside the Great Hall of the People on that day of Hu’s funeral. For she gives an account, in her book, of a certain moment in time–a quite momentous moment–when Premier Deng Xiaoping looked out a window and had a view, for the first time, of the massive gathering of young people out in the Square.

Chai Ling wrote:

Another old Party cadre who had fought with Deng alongside Mao Zedong in the early days of the revolution walked over to Deng and stood next to him, pounding the floor with his cane.

‘They call us dictators,’ he declared in a loud voice (to Deng) broken with age. ‘They call you the Emperor.’

That moment determined the fate of the student movement and all that followed. Deng would not tolerate anyone who called him a dictator.

Apparently, in the race of men, even reformist capitalist-road visionaries such as Deng Xiaoping have their intolerantly repressive aspects, as the world later witnessed on June 4, 1989.

Since that time, Chai Ling has come to follow a different leader–one whose whose revolutionary work pertains to the Spirit, rather than the dictatorships of this world. More about that later.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Have Americans become risk-averse to freedom?

February 6, 2011

“If you think yourself a man, then come with me on January 25th…”

And the rest is, as they say, history.
With those words, Asmaa Mahfouz, a young woman brimming with courage, challenged the men of her nation to take a stand for freedom.  Little did they know it, but those men and women who chose to accompany her one week later to the heart of Egypt were making a date with world history.

Although Asmaa’s passionate appeal turned out to be a perfectly-timed ultimatum, the basis for her urgent Tahrir call is nothing new in Egypt. The cauldron of discontent has been heating steadily for many years. Now it is boiling over. Mubarak and his crew saw it coming, but instead of reforming their police state–as elected leaders should do–his government sought to repress the grievances of their people.

As it turns out, now with the going forth of a young woman’s impassioned youtube message, the captive genie of justice has been released from its bottle. No, the basis for demanding reform through free elections is not a new development in Egypt.

In 1993, Edward M. Said wrote:

“With literally no exceptions, every Egyptian I know and have discussed these matters with for the past half dozen years says the same disaffected, even disgusted things about the government. Deals on every conceivable commodity are made by middlemen and commission agents, usually with some minister or Mubarak-in-law as a front; public discourse is so devaluated that it is virtually impossible to tell the truth; the country is in effect ruled by a series of autocratic measures licensing the government to stop articles in newspapers, to jail and torture dissidents under emergency laws passed by Sadat but still in force now, and to prevent unions, political organizations, secular human rights groups from assembly or action.”

“We just want our human rights and nothing else…” pleaded Asmaa, on her grainy, un-hyped video posting of January 18.
“If you have honor and dignity as a man, come! Come and protect me and other girls in the protest…”

And come they did, by the hundreds of thousands.

Now cautious, comfortable people around the world are asking:  Does this impetuous demand for popular government portend a soon-to-come takeover by Islamofascists? Does it pave the way for usurpation of  rising democratic impulses by the Muslim Brotherhood or  some other extremist groups?

That could happen, yes. Freedom is always a huge risk. Recall from your middle school social studies class what our founders risked in order to emancipate themselves from the burdens of King George III.

But the freedom and prosperity of the people of Egypt is worth taking that risk.

As a Christian who supports Israel,  I say:  Go for it, Egyptians! Go for freedom and justice. Go for constitutional government.

And as a born-free American,  my insistence on freedom of assembly–my conviction that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth–requires that Egyptian citizens must be allowed to elect, in internationally-validated elections, their own leaders. And those elections should be arranged as soon as possible, before Mubarak’s crew has time to neutralize the presently positive thrust toward reformative democracy– and even, perhaps, before extremist elements have the chance to get their explosive ducks in a row.

It’s time for the people of Egypt to vote!  United Nations, figure out how to make it happen,  and how to effectively moniter those elections so that they are, as many have advocated, “free and fair.”

This could be a grand lesson in democracy for every nation of the world, including our friends the Israelis.

Glass half-Full