A number of years ago during an Iraq war protest at Baywalk in St. Petersburg, one of our protesters held a sign that said, "The U.S. military is killing innocent people in Iraq."
Within moments, a person who said he was in the Army began screaming at the protester saying, "I just came back from Iraq where I was fighting for your freedom. Without the military you wouldn’t have the right to protest." The protester, himself an Army veteran, replied, "you look good for someone who is over 200 years old, because that was the last time the U.S. fought a war for freedom."
Maybe the soldier actually felt that he went to Iraq to protect free speech, or maybe he was just angry that we were protesting something he believed in (which would have been ironic), but he wasn’t the first or last person to claim that the U.S. fights wars overseas to protect the rights of its citizens.
In fact, we’re hearing it today as NFL players lock arms or kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before football games. "You’re disrespecting the military – the men and women who are fighting for your right to protest" is the ultimate rationale offered by those who disagree with the players' peaceful protest. Sadly, many in the NFL take the bait and say, "I thank the military for their service and for giving me the right to protest." The U.S. war machine couldn’t hear sweeter words as NFL players are unwittingly being used to glorify the military, thus normalizing U.S. wars abroad.
As a side note, the NFL players’ protests are (unfortunately)not covered by the First Amendmentwhich only applies to public spaces, not privately-owned places such as NFL stadiums.
We’ve seen this first hand during the years we protested in front ofBayWalk
. On many occasions we were threatened with arrest if we didn't stand on a particular part of the sidewalk (nonsensically, part of the sidewalk was public and part was owned by BayWalk.) So while we adamantly defend free speech anywhere, the First Amendment only offers protection while on public land.
Speaking of (meaningless) wars that have nothing to do with (overrated) U.S. freedoms:
Next Saturday, Oct. 7 marks the 16th‘anniversary’ of the war on Afghanistan. We were considering a protest or a different action, but much of the public is focusing on other issues right now. So we decided to show a film about Afghanistan on Wednesday as a way to learn more about that country and its people who are still suffering under U.S. bombs.
by Adam Curtis
Weds. Oct. 4, 7:0pm
Community Cafe, 2444 Central Ave. in St. Pete
A history of Afghanistan since WWII, via the Arab/Israeli conflict, the Cold War, the oil crisis, the 1979 Soviet invasion, 9/11, the 2001 US/UK invasion, and ISIS. The film is Adam Curtis' account of how we got to where we are today in Afghanistan. (2015, 72 mins.)Note: Due to time restraints, we are showing an edited version designed to be accessible to history teachers/students. You can watch thefull version here.