Commentary by James Turnage
When George W. Bush signed the misnamed ‘Patriot Act,’ America removed the 4th amendment to our Constitution. Not only has our government allowed the NSA to gather private information in the name of ‘the war on terror,’ this year Congress enhanced its powers. Recent events and actions by state governments are attacking the Constitution once again. Is free speech the next amendment to be removed?
The first amendment our founding fathers added to the Constitution was considered the most important. It prohibits one religion from becoming a national religion; ensures the rights of all Americans to practice the religion of their choice; it guarantees the right of free speech; we have the right to a peaceful assembly; and we can lawfully petition our government for a redress of grievances.
Government and government agencies do not like the 1st amendment. They would prefer that the American people were censured and not allowed to speak the truth. Law enforcement would prefer it if they were not exposed for biased actions towards the poor, or black and Hispanic community. Congress and the White House have censored the press and eliminated the conversation regarding Wall Street and our nation’s financial collapse, ensuring the most wealthy in our nation will not pay for their crimes. The rich are protecting the rich.
But censorship is not limited to governments. There was a high school basketball tournament in Northern California this weekend. It was to last three days, and both boys and girls would participate. The tournament was held at Fort Bragg High School.
One of the teams involved was from Mendocino High School; both schools are in Mendocino County. They had previously played against Fort Bragg on December 16th. During warm-ups, the girls and boys teams wore T-shirts in support of protests against the treatment of the black community by the authorities. The shirts were printed with “I Can’t Breathe,” referring to the strangulation death of Eric Garner in New York City, and were in validation of the ensuing demonstrations.
The Mendocino teams were ‘uninvited’ for fear that they would wear the T-shirts once again during warm-ups. The only statement by the tournament organizers was that ‘although they respected the students for caring about what was happening in the world, fears for the security of the players, officials, and fans prohibited the team from wearing the shirts.’ The officials labeled the shirts as ‘political’ instead of an expression of free speech.
All but one of the Mendocino boys capitulated. The girls decided not to partake in the tournament.
The lone boy who decided to sit out the game is a 16-year-old by the name of Connor Woods. His father, Marc Woods, was a California Highway Patrol Officer. He said he is proud of his son and outraged at Fort Bragg High School for their denial of 1st amendment rights. There had been no problems on December 16th.
The school responded by claiming that they were a small school without the assets to increase security if problems resulted because of a ‘political protest.’
Is our nation citizenry willing to see the removal of our civil rights and the amendments to our Constitution by our government and those in authority? Several states have passed laws which are an obvious attempt to deny voting rights to minorities and the impoverished. Other states are removing a woman’s right to decide to terminate a pregnancy if they are poor.
Our leaders are seeking an autocratic society. Every year additional attempts are made to destroy our civil rights.
We should all join those who march behind signs which proclaim ‘BlackLivesMatter.’ It is not only about black men, women, and children; it’s about all of us and how we are losing our freedom.
By James Turnage