The expatriate is back in town, in Miami, in Florida, in the great, free bastion of liberty, my United States. What do I find when I flick on the no-longer-flickering eye of the TV? A young man, a muchacho, a student with a hint of serious in his demeanor approaching the podium at the old but un-respected University of Florida. He insists on questioning Senator John Kerry after the politician had given his views and opened the floor for questions.
The U of F has never been regarded as an academic school. It has been noted for its varsity sports teams, called “gators,” and the invention of designer water. I remember my uncle’s graduation when I was about 3 or 4 but only the red-brickness of the campus. It had, for a time, a great photography department, after I had left another poor Florida state university for an academic college in New York that revels in the protection of liberty, freedom and constitutionalism in an atmosphere of academic freedom firmly protected from the ever-present threat of interference.
Waves of paranoia roll across the American landscape at regular intervals. Each has threatened our liberties. There were reactions to the Tories who wanted to tie us to King George, southern spies who would have enslaved our history and Japanese to store in the Nisei concentration camps out west. Each was a good excuse to protect ourselves by giving away our rights in exchange for “security”.
Now there is a world of Arabs waiting to destroy all of western civilization, to explode themselves in murderous frenzies against women, children and random men. No question but that they are there and do want to bathe the world in blood. But does that mean that America must give up everything that made us free in order to protect ourselves from the forces of evil?
Today Andrew Meyer, a University of Florida student did that which students are supposed to do. He thought about politics, about candidates, about the nature of democracy and about his vote and he barged up to the podium in that party school and attempted to engage Senator Kerry in a discussion. Yes. He became heated and took more than his minute and that catapulted him into his 15 minutes of international fame.
Said John Kerry, “He barged to the front of the line and started to ask questions.” Yes, he did. Bad boy. Shoot him.
The U. of Florida thought-police surrounded him and ordered him to stop asking questions. They attacked him, five or six overweight bubbas of black and white, four alpha males of the gorilla persuasion and one female version pulled him bodily from the podium. He raised his hands in supplication and surrender and they continued their vicious attack. At one point the white bubba looked up into a video camera with glee as they continued to manhandle the youngster. “What fun!” shows in his beady eyes. He seemed so happy at the excuse for violence against students that one wonders what perversity had him accept (or seek) a job in a university environment.
Andrew begged to be let go, cried for help and promised to comply with their violent demands. They ignored him, sat on him, pummeled him and then shot him with a taser. He was unarmed. There were five of them. Each out-weighed him with that great American bulk of the lower classes, the ham-necked against the slim intellectual. It was a classic battle of the physically violent against the verbally demanding, the bloody sword against the pen.
“They only used a taser,” some will whine. Only! As a man whose survival is based on a sophisticated pacing device in my chest, that taser would be murderous. And, yes, I, too, have been known to ask questions. I was a journalist and it was my job, always my pleasure and compulsion. I consider it a virtue. In me and in Andrew Meyer, who today learned that America is rapidly losing or has already lost any semblance of civilization and liberty. They only used a taser. They merely put people in camps. They only stuffed some people in boxcars. They only used machetes. They only wanted to return to the “year zero”. There are so many things in our world that could be worse that we may not notice when worse things become commonplace. He was merely kidnapped by the cops, locked up like an animal and, when a judge saw through the inhumanity of the University, was he given what he always deserved — his freedom. He did not get Kerry’s answer. He received a civics lesson in the Bill of Rights — or its death.
In 1948 the United Nations, when it was still a beacon in a darkened world, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which includes:
“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…”
And, in Article 5,
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…”
America also has something called “The Bill of Rights” but seems to have lost sight of what it includes and how it might work in our modern, threatened society. It is not so much those of us who have reached another age that worries me. Some of them still remember the viciousness of the McCarthy inquisitions and the stories that came out of the fight against fascism. Some people still remember the civil rights movement when other students were killed for registering people to vote, were attacked by the same kind of southern cops with dogs and water cannon and who only received deliverance from Jim Crow slavery in the 60s and 70s.
What is more fearful, more threatening, more dangerous and may stain our collective soul with its complacency began to be reported early today in The Gainesville Sun which also reported that six officers were used to “subdue” the student for asking Kerry about contesting the 2004 election results.
“As Meyer was escorted away, he was followed by several students, including Matthew Howland, 20. Howland, a UF senior who said he didn’t know Meyer, said he was “appalled“ by the way UPD officers handled the situation. Howland acknowledged that Meyer had acted inappropriately by “rushing“ the microphone and forcing a question on Kerry.”
This is enough for worry but it will be investigated, dissected, reviewed and, hopefully, brought to court in a massive lawsuit to, like OJ, cause the negligent university and guilty thugs financial pain even if they are merely reprimanded or suspended by timid college administrators and repressive politicians.
The importance is that the concept of liberty is being forgotten or mistaken by a younger generation. Just recently I read but did not note the origin of an op-ed piece on how college-age people do not understand freedom of speech and expression. Many are so terrified of the terrors of our world that they think security can be protected by repression, that freedoms are easily traded for security and do not understand what is protected speech and what is not. Some think that police are entitled to ask whatever they like to make any orders they care to. Gainesville seems to be one such place.
On Fox News just following the incident a news anchor with a decidedly opinionated manner (who I should know if I watched Fox News) “reported” the news of the police attack by explaining that the police had the right to shoot a student for being “obnoxious” and that “…police always have right to tell people what to do and they must do it…”
After the student was forcibly kidnapped and imprisoned for illegal question-asking the Fox videographers interviewed students who had witnessed the attack. One decried the violence in spite of Andrew’s pleas and lack of violent actions. Another, incredibly, announced that the police were within their rights in attacking the student for hogging the podium and not immediately cowering in front of the new leaders of Florida universities — the cops.
Question: Will the national academic community censor the University for allowing cops to control its campus?
Question: Will the state of Florida revoke the charter of the University of Florida for its negligence in allowing thugs to be ill-trained and un-supervised?
Question: How rich will Andrew Meyer be after suing Florida for assault, battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment and cruel and unusual punishment?
Question: Should John Kerry bow out of any campaign for public office for his failure to have his staff or bodyguards help to protect the man against the demented police attack?
Question: Will any serious student entertain the thought of application to such a place where questions are answered with weapons? Would any decent parent allow their child to go to a party school where deviation from mindless partying could be dangerous to their health?
Question: Does a nation that surrenders its liberty in the name of security become more secure — or less?