Independence, freedom, empowerment, accountability and self-responsibility — those qualities I value most as a single person — become even more relevant as I watch how our country responds.
Something happened on June 28 that freaked me out — maybe because I saw it happen, rather than hearing about it after the fact.
Facebook shut down Louisiana resident Lee Perkins’ Boycott BP page — the page that grew to three quarters of a million followers from all over our country in a matter of weeks. Despite their personal minutia being as diverse as America itself, the people who came to read, post and comment on this page shared a common despair and anger over BP’s negligence and dishonesty around what has become the biggest environmental disaster in the United States. Not to mention the corporate colonialism permitted by our federal government as BP, a long time business partner and political campaign contributor, continues to control what happens (or doesn’t happen) in our Gulf.
Ironically, about 10 days before Perkins’ Boycott BP page disappeared from the Internet (as well as both his and his daughter’s personal Facebook pages) Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced what’s been nick-named the “Kill Switch” bill — legislation that gives the President of the United States the right to shut down the Internet when he/she deems appropriate.
The actual name of the bill is Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA). Lieberman says it’s needed because the United States’ “economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies — cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.” (Not to mention those pesky citizen uprisings like Perkins’ Boycott BP page where a scary number of people exercised their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.)
Yep, too many people exercising their First Amendment Rights of free speech and freedom of assembly (albeit on the Internet) in a country stricken with apathy and a sense of helplessness to effect change. Three quarters of a million people discovering they can come together and express a common concern and share information not always found in mass media outlets. Imagine a local citizen in Pensacola, Florida running around with a video camera and posting videos on YouTube — that’s empowering for us and threatening to those who want to control our access to “the message.”
This all came down just as the United States of America was preparing to celebrate Independence Day. It must have been a restless night in those old graveyards — the resting places of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the other great men who led the fight for freedom and held the vision for what would become the greatest country in the world.
They, along with other farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen, shook their collective fist at the King of England. They printed their newspapers in back rooms without bothering to get the required approval before posting it in the town square, they boycotted products that supported their oppressors, they stood up for their right to express their opinions in a group environment and exercised what they believed was their right to self rule.
What would our destiny have been if instead, they felt powerless to effect change, if they only cared about their own personal welfare and had no sense of social responsibility? If their concept of democracy was void of integrity and had no moral core? If they were just too afraid and just too tired to stand up for what we came to know as “truth, justice and the American way”?
Anderson Cooper — the CNN broadcast journalist who has been reporting from the catastrophe in the Gulf since President Obama assured us it would be resolved in a week and retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told us there was just a fraction of what was really pouring into the sea — continues his efforts. But now, Cooper as well as other journalists, have been told they will be fined $40,000 and charged with a felony if they come within 65 feet of a spill area. (Some say this is the result of a lawsuit to stop BP from burning sea turtles alive. What you can’t see, you can’t report.) And who will be measuring the distance? BP security guards? Cooper calls it suspension of freedom of the press — yet another First Amendment right bites the dust.
And each day, the spill gets worse and each day people decide to forget about it and those who will not forget have their public forums closed down, their freedom of speech silenced, and the freedom of the press, envisioned by our founding fathers as the “watchdog of the people” is revoked at the scene of the crime.
Yes, it must have been a very restless night in those old graveyards over Independence Day weekend.
Post script: Facebook, after being bombarded with complaints, reinstated the Boycott BP page and Lee Perkin’s personal Facebook page saying it was an “accident.” Perkins daughter’s Facebook page remains suspended at the time we posted this story.