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Should America's Citizens Have The Right to Dissent?

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posted on Mar, 28 2006 @ 01:58 AM
That's right. There are "protest zones". I always wonder what was with that. I always notice when Bush is getting ready to speak somewhere, there is always the authorities that will drive people with a "dissenting message" away. Even if they were wearing the wrong shirt, they were gone. Or if not, they were situated far enough that they would not even be recognized.

And then, another celebrated case is with Cindy Sheehan wearing the T-Shirt with the number of dead soldiers on the front. She was taken away by the police and arrested. A republican's wife who wore a pro-Iraq war shirt was only asked to go away.

Are there degrees of dissent that will be allowed to be heard by the government? Better yet, should this question be posed to the American leader. Isn't the POTUS supposed to uphold and defend the Constitution? Isn't "freedom of speech" one of rights guaranteed within the Constitution?

[edit: correcting info on Sheehan shirt story.]

[edit on 28-3-2006 by ceci2006]

posted on Mar, 28 2006 @ 03:01 AM

Originally posted by ceci2006
And then, another celebrated case is with Cindy Sheehan wearing the T-Shirt with the number of dead soldiers on the front. She was taken away by the police. A republican politician's wife who was wearing a pro-Iraq shirt was let in to the SOTU address. Does that mean only "dissent" in a positive light is only allowed around our national leader?

In the interest of full honesty, the wife of the Rep. was asked to leave also:

House rules bar demonstrations in the galleries.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Florida, spoke on the House floor saying his wife, Beverly, had been "ordered to leave" the gallery during the speech for wearing a shirt that said, "Support Our Troops."

posted on Mar, 28 2006 @ 03:15 AM
Yes, that is true. Both Young and Sheehan were asked to leave. But in different ways. Young was not arrested. Sheehan was taken in by authorities.

Sorry, jsobecky. You're right. I was thinking too quickly when I wrote about SOTU story between Young and Sheehan.

Thanks for straightening me out.
I corrected the info in the post above.

However, the U.S. Capitol Police Chief thinks that the barring of protest inside the House antiquated in the same story:

On Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said neither woman should have been removed from the chamber. "We made a mistake," he told CNN.

He said an apology was made to Bill and Beverly Young, and the congressman has been told that Capitol officers will receive better training. He said they are operating under outdated guidance on House rules regarding demonstrations.

"Just wearing a T-shirt is not unlawful," Gainer said. Wearing a T-shirt and engaging in actions meant to draw attention to the shirt is against the law, he said, but neither woman was doing so .

Yes, it's true that the House finds protests unlawful. Both women wore T-shirts. Only one got criminalized for it. Don't you think that "special treatment" is given out by the certain level of dissent? Why shouldn't both women be allowed to stay? Or should both women be arrested for violating the rule?

[edit on 28-3-2006 by ceci2006]

posted on Mar, 28 2006 @ 10:00 AM
The difference in action taken could be attributed to the fact that Sheehan was asked to cover up her T-shirt and refused to do so. She also became very vocal, causing a scene. And I had heard, from one correspondent, that she was in the process of unravelling a banner over the seat in front of her when she was approached.

The Rep's wife, on the other hand, was asked to leave without being given the option of covering up her shirt. She quietly obliged.

posted on Mar, 28 2006 @ 11:35 AM
Dissent is essential to a healthy democracy. However, it must be deployed judiciously, or else we might "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Not to be overly figurative here, but to some dissent is the equivalent of amputating a foot to relieve an ingrown toenail.

posted on Mar, 29 2006 @ 07:14 PM
Then what would be criteria for "proper dissent" beside it being peaceful?

posted on Mar, 29 2006 @ 07:59 PM

Originally posted by ceci2006
Then what would be criteria for "proper dissent" beside it being peaceful?

I have answered that question here so many times that this one time I am going to refuse your request. If you are an American and you are over the age of 12, you should have a decent idea of how to express dissent both peaceably and responsibly. If you are an American over the age of 12 and you do not know, then my banging my fingers bloody is not going to provide an adequate answer or even if it did, it would fall on deaf ears, I'm sure.

posted on Mar, 29 2006 @ 08:26 PM
I'm sorry you won't answer the question. Being that I am still new to the ATS boards, I have read a lot of posts, but rarely if never uncovered your answer. That's fine if you feel that this criteria is something all of us are expected to know.

However, I would like to turn the question over to the other voices on the board and see if we can work together to add on to this "already known" criteria. Perhaps there will be a different resolution to the question. I certainly hope so. There are so many intelligent thinkers on the board.

Especially, when I just heard from the news that students who are protesting the immigration bill will be penalized if they leave school. I believe that if they walk out and protest, they are to either have community service or a fine.

You can read about ithereorhere.

The question I asked is still legitimate. I regret that the answer will lack your participation, since you always display the wisdom and candor related to your age.

[edit on 29-3-2006 by ceci2006]

[edit on 29-3-2006 by ceci2006]

posted on Mar, 29 2006 @ 08:29 PM
It will be interesting to see what others have to say on this issue. I might also like to hear what methods you might offer from your own perspective. You must have some concrete ideas, even if I, or others might, disagree.

posted on Mar, 29 2006 @ 10:41 PM
First of all, I am going to give the link to two protest sites: one from the left and the other from the right. These are two types of protest groups that engage in different methods of dissent. I find them quite interesting because their idea of "protest" is based on ideologically-based activities. I think it is always interesting to review different positions based on the degrees dissent is poised. They can offer a launching point in which to establish the criteria of what protest means to different segments of the population.

The first one is Protest.Net's Activist Handbook.
The other is from Saddamized in San Francisco

What do you guys think?

As for myself, I am going to give myself some time to develop what I think the criteria of dissent means besides being peaceful. It will be written in a future post.

[edit on 29-3-2006 by ceci2006]

posted on Apr, 3 2006 @ 03:49 AM
Finding out what the criteria for dissent is not an easy task. And, I think that people have ideas about dissent but I don't think it is inherently known. However, what is known is when we do not like something, we argue against it. And when there is an issue we feel strongly about, we tell as many people as we can to get the message out. Dissent is something that can be taught, not absorbed. And as I think about it, it is of sheer arrogance to assume that "people ought to know how and what dissent means" in lieu of seeking answers to actively confront current issues affecting the American populace.

There is always a question when a national event arises: what can I do about it?

However, I have found a few things that might help push the cause along to find criteria for dissention besides it being peaceful. This first site is from It not only states why people where ribbons bearing the inscription of the American Flag, but what it means to dissent. Hank Blakely gives the reasons here:


A free society is the only place where patriotism and dissent coexist.

Uniformity is not unity. Sheep are very uniform.

Loyalty is earned. It is not commanded. It is a gift, not a debt.

Dissent is not disloyalty. Conformity may be.

Freedom is special. Without it we are nothing.

If I cannot speak neither can you.

The President and the Presidency are not the same. One lasts longer than the other

Adding to the meaning of the term, is a transcript from the "News Hour With Jim Lehrer" show on PBS. This entire transcript is fascinating because it discusses the meaning of dissent during a time of war. Lehrer's guests included Bill Bennett, James Goldsmith, Rep. James Mc Dermott(D.-Wash.) and Wendy Kaminer in a round table. One of the most meaningful quotes about dissent came from Ms. Kaminer, who writes critical articles about the POTUS in American Prospect Magazine:

I think it's my job as a citizen to say what I think, as long as I say it peacefully in the course of a civil debate[...]I think that there is no more appropriate time than a time of national crisis, than a time when we are entering a very complicated and dangerous war to hear diverse opinions on whether or not the Administration's actions are going to make this a safer or a more dangerous world, whether or not we really can trust the president. I'm always troubled when I see too much faith in government because - and too much faith in the president - because just as government can't function when people don't trust it at all, freedom doesn't survive very well when people trust it too much.

Judging from Ms. Kaminer's arguments, dissent can be also measured by "diverse opinions"especially in a "time of national crisis". So it can also be discerned that the very definition of protest retains the civility of discussion while remaining vigiliant on the processes of government. These are ideas that were touched upon earlier in the thread and given more resonance in grass roots organizations, protests over immigration and the upcoming mid-term elections.

What is more, the rules of dissent implies a balanced approach in seeing the government. I too agree with Ms. Kaminer's assertions that a citizen cannot just have faith in his or her national leaders. Furthermore, a healthy approach to hearing the both sides of an issue can not only keep the American people on their toes concerning what affects them; they also can also communicate with the government in order to demand certain measures to stop or to praise measures which help the country's infrastructure and people along.

Compellingly, dissent marks certain points in history. Instead of history being in the hands of the privileged and the important, by speaking back to government allows the American people to create their own historical signifigance. One must think back to the different protests that have made a difference: such as the Bus Boycotts in the 1950's or the protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960's and early seventies. And even now, it becomes important when people feel that they have a platform to stand on when questioning matters regarding the second Iraqi War and the constitutionality related to "wiretapping" as well as the "Patriot Act".

This is especially echoed by the comments of these three luminaries James Baldwin, Oscar Wilde, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. More comments talking about patriotism and dissent are found here:

"I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
- James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

"Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion."
- Oscar Wilde

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
- Dr. Martin Luther King

Most importantly, dissent is does not mean breaking the law. But by the very virtue of our First Amendment Rights, we can speak about injustices of that law and how it negatively affects society. And it also does not include standing idly by and remaining silent. By virtue of our words and actions, we will be arbiters of making a difference. It takes only one person to speak out and question matters at hand. Then others will follow. And then, a movement is born.

What do you guys think about these ideas regarding dissent?

posted on Apr, 3 2006 @ 11:49 AM
Think of the person you love most in this life. Your so, your child, your parent. Whomever.

Would you allow this person to do something that you know would end up hurting, or even killing themself? Like sticking a needle in their arm? Or selling their soul to strangers every night?

How much would you be willing to step in and prevent that from happening? Is there a point where you would throw your hands up in the air and say "You're on your own."

Dissent is the length you are willing to go for that person (your country).

posted on Apr, 3 2006 @ 12:24 PM
The only rules I would have for a proper dissent is this: Peaceful, and at the right time of day. Being concious of people who might have to sleep during the day would be polite (that would be me
). Social decorum would be advised. Protesting at a funeral is just plain rude, to say the least, and less likely to get me in trouble with the mods.

Be as loud as you want. Wave all the signs you want. Get your point across without being inflammatory.

Those students who are walking out of classes to protest are in violation of truency laws, and so face minor sanctions. Most don't seem to care...I don't agree with them, but what the is their right.

Many of the social changes that many of us over the age of 40 have witnessed in our lives began as a result of peaceful, or at least attempting, peaceful desegrigation, the entire civil rights movement, womens rights, and many others not so prominent except at a local level. To attempt to stifle dissent, is to stifle freedom in our country.

[edit on 3-4-2006 by seagull]

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 12:42 AM
In light of establishing what dissent is, do you think that we are in an "McCarthyite" situation today due to America's intervention in Iraq, and most possibly in Iran? Does that reach the limits of dissent--especially in war time?

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 11:49 AM
Most of us are, or at least seem to be too young to remember McCarthy, and his anti communist witch hunts of the 1950's. It has always been my impression that that came as close to tearing a hole in America's soul as anything ever has or will.

McCarthy was attempting to stifle dissent with his Committee on Unamerican Activity, or what ever that travesty called itself. I haven't seen anything even resembling such a concerted effort to curb dissent. Sure some of us may wish that some others would just shut up, and go away, but if you tie us down and tickle our toes we'd admit to the right of a freepeople to dissent against the actions or inactions of their governments elected representitives.

[edit on 4-4-2006 by seagull]

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 11:55 AM
Ive always felt that NOT dissenting when there is something seriously and morally wrong with the current system is not only unAmerican, but downright treasonable really.

Dissent is not only our god-given right. Its our honor to do so.

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 11:57 AM
Honor, and duty as American citizens. Don't forget duty. Oh, damn, a one line post. I am sooooo sorrrrry.

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