Darrell Huckaby - 08/16/09

I remember when we this country still operated under the Constitution our founding fathers provided for us back in 1787. It was a hell of a system, too. It provided for a separation of powers so no one person - or group of people - would gain too much power and included a system of checks and balances so if one branch of government got out of kilter another could rein it back in.

The Constitution even had a Bill of Rights - the first 10 amendments - and for almost 200 years people actually paid attention to them. Now - not so much.

The very first amendment guaranteed that, among other things, Congress would make no law abridging the freedom of speech.

Remember freedom of speech? Sure you do. I bet you've even seen that Norman Rockwell poster that FDR had commissioned back during World War II - the one depicting the Four Freedoms that were supposed to remind us all why we were fighting the Germans and the Japanese. It had a rugged looking individual, dressed in his work clothes, standing up to speak his mind in a town hall meeting.

That was then. This is now. Now when Americans stand up and speak their minds in a town hall meeting the president of the United States berates them for trying to stop progress and the speaker of the House calls them "un-American."

Freedom of speech and speaking out against the party in power is now un-American. Imagine that.

Actually, nothing could be more American. The social unrest that became the American Revolution didn't begin with nice, peaceful, civil discourse. Colonists who were upset over rising taxes didn't sit down across the table from royal officials and politely discuss their differences of opinion.

Citizens who were fed up with what they perceived to be unfair treatment by the government authorities gathered in saloons and taverns from Savannah to Boston, got all tanked up on a few pewter mugs of stout ale and began to rail against their oppressors.

They created a spark and fanned the flames of dissent until their movement spread. When those same subjects of the Crown became dismayed over the fact that the English government was giving preferential treatment to one particular corporation that had fallen on hard times - a tea exporter - they didn't sit down and write a letter expressing their discontent. They painted themselves up like wild Indians and dumped the East India Company's tea into Boston Harbor.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an eloquent speaker and writer - but his speeches and essays alone would not have been sufficient to secure equal rights for black Americans. He organized economic boycotts and sent his followers into the streets to demonstrate against the inequalities they faced in American society.

It was MLK's intention that the demonstrations remain peaceful. He also knew, however, that they would not - and it was the violence perpetrated against the demonstrators that made the demonstrations so popular on the 6 o'clock news. Eventually, in part because the mayhem and violence became so embedded in their subconscious, mainstream America began to pay more attention to the racial inequalities that had existed for centuries and, gradually, the laws were changed.

The soldiers on the front lines of the civil rights movement were expressing their opinions, just like the Sons of Liberty were expressing their opinions - and just like those who are standing up at town hall meetings today and voicing their views about the socialized medicine proposal are expressing their opinions.

And Nancy Pelosi says they are un-American. And Barack Obama says they are standing in the way of progress.

And now the White House has started a program in which they are asking American citizens who receive "fishy" e-mails that contain information that is contrary to the party line concerning Obama's proposed health care plan to forward those e-mails to the White House.

I knew that Obama sounded a lot like Santa Claus during last year's campaign, when he was promising to give everything to everybody. Now it sounds like he is making a list and I am certain he intends to check it at least twice - to find out who is for him and who is against him.

Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? Of course I am not.

The official word, of course, is that the administration just wants to have a chance to dispel any myths that might be circulating about Obamacare. They have no interest in who sent the e-mails.

Right. And I'm a midget Russian astronaut.

You want to know what is un-American? Trying to stop American citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech is un-American. Compiling an Enemies of the State list from the ranks of the general population is un-American. Socialism, be it in industry, commerce, or health care, is un-American.

No wonder Nancy Pelosi wants to stifle debate about the health care proposal. But she and her cohorts had better be careful. I seem to have heard of another government official, many years ago, who tried to keep Americans from standing up and speaking their minds. His name was King George III, and George Washington and the boys gave him change he could really believe in.

Darrell Huckaby

Editor's note: The name of a Covington man suspected of running over and killing a Clarkston 6-year-old was spelled incorrectly in Darrell Huckaby's column on Friday. The correct spelling of the suspect's name is Gregory Armwood.