I bother some people. A lot. I know this from reading the comments about me that appear everywhere these columns are read. It has been made clear to me more than once that some people with wealth and power in this town don’t like that I publish my opinions every week. There are people who would very much like me to dissociate my writings from Illinois College, where I work.
People with less personal connection with me have much harsher ideas in mind. They say I shouldn’t be a teacher, that I shouldn’t be allowed to write for a newspaper, that I am an evil person. They want to shut me up entirely.
What if they were in charge? What if our political system, at any level, were dominated by the people who want to get rid of me? That’s not such a far-fetched possibility.
When a police car drives by my house now, I have nothing more to fear than my neighbors do. That is a privilege enjoyed by few people on this earth. We Americans talk a lot about our rights. It is easy to forget that our ability to express our opinions without worry that the cops will show up at our door tomorrow is rare in the world, and has often been violated here at home. We must always be vigilant in protection of our sweet liberty.
That’s why I pay close attention to what political leaders do and say, especially those who most loudly disagree with me. Here is what I see.
Proponents of gun ownership in communities across the nation have proposed that every household in their towns be required to own a gun. Such an ordinance was passed unanimously by the city council in rural Nelson, GA: “every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore”. Kennesaw, GA, has had such a municipal ordinance since 1982. Towns in Idaho and Utah are also considering such laws. The city council in Byron, ME, passed a mandatory gun ownership law. That caused outrage among the town’s citizens, nearly half of whom packed a town meeting to nearly unanimously reject that idea.
Laws about “concealed carry” sometimes restrict the rights of private entities to control what happens on their property. Concealed carry laws have been proposed in Iowa and Ohio which would prevent private educational institutions from banning guns on their campuses. Some participants in the current discussion in Illinois about concealed carry wish to forbid private entities from banning guns on their property. What if those people were in charge?
What if the police showed up in my classroom, because I refused to teach while some students were carrying guns? What if they were required to enforce a law that mandated that my household possess a gun? Suppose they heard from reliable sources that I did not own a gun. Would they have the right to search my home?
The makers of these laws always say that they will allow exceptions. The Kennesaw GA law reads: “Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. . . . who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.”
What if I said publically that I refuse to own a gun? Would they test me for mental disability? If I wanted to plead poverty, would I have to show them my tax forms? Who would decide whether my beliefs are conscientious or what religion I have?
I don’t think these things will happen where I live. But there are politicians I worry about. Hispanic citizens of East Haven, CT, have been subjected to police terror for years. In January 2012, the FBI arrested four police officers, including the president of the local police union, on charges that they “assaulted individuals while they were handcuffed, unlawfully searched Latino businesses, and harassed and intimidated individuals”.
In parts of the US, doctors and nurses cannot safely practice medicine, if that involves the legal procedure called abortion. The kind of social practices that used to be called riots when they were protesting discrimination or the Vietnam War are now commonplace around abortion clinics in some states. Dr. George Tiller’s clinic was the scene of many instances of violence before he was murdered in 2009. He had been described by Bill O’Reilly on national television as “Dr. Killer” and “Tiller the baby killer”, and he was pursued by a prosecutor in the Kansas Attorney General’s office.
What if those people were in charge?
Extreme conservatives talk a lot about liberty. But their definition of liberty doesn’t always include my liberty. I want my police force to protect me from all kinds of threat, including those of the far right.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, March 19, 2013