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War of BIG words: Anti-War activist attacked

by Fredric L. Rice Thursday, Aug. 04, 2005 at 8:41 AM
frice@skeptictank.org

Anti-war activist Ford Greene faces opposition from right-wing extremists

War of BIG words: An...
sign3.jpg0fit8o.jpg, image/jpeg, 250x385

War of BIG words

San Anselmo, California, the battlegrounds for yet another skirmish in the latest battle for Americans' hearts and minds. This time, the battle is against BIG words, and the BIG sign that holds them.

What do you do if you don't like being constantly reminded that the political party you've dedicated your life and your votes to is a party stuffed to the rafters with liars, criminals, cheats, and war mongers? What do you do if you're forced to drive past a large billboard with uncomfortable, embarrassing truths you can't help but read as you drive by, causing you to grind your teeth together in frustration, anger, and maybe just a little hate at who ever the Hell it is that dares to constantly speak of such things?

If you're like most Americans who disagree with something, chances are you'll oppose the person's speech with your own speech, vying for support in the open marketplace of ideals. If you're a Town Council member and have the legal authority to pass regulations on such things as billboards, you might do what the Town Council of San Anselmo, California, did: Pass a new regulation to remove the offensive, troublesome, embarrassingly truthful messages.

Of course most people don't find the messages thereon to be at all offensive, and of course there's still a little matter of the Constitution of the United States and a little something carved within that supposedly inviolate guarantee of our rights known as "freedom of speech." So the new regulation specifically designed to remove that irritation driving your blood pressure up on your morning commute will have to be presented to the citizens of the town as a safety or beautification measure. It just wouldn't do having to admit in public that it's the actual messages on the sign that you're trying to silence.

Long time anti-war activist attorney Ford Greene who maintains a law office in town is being faced with something very much like what's suspected to be happening, described above. After the invasion of Iraq and the endless parade of damaging memos, photographs, eye witness testimony, and other information coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan about what America is really doing there has made it to the reluctant American media, Greene took the fight to further expose his opposition to Bush's wars to a billboard mounted on the side of the building where his law offices are held.

The messages on the billboard might be inflammatory, to be sure, but they're without question entirely accurate.

"To steal, lie, invade and torture is wrong. Get religion out of the White House."

"Bush hates freedom. Gives Heil Burton our candy jar, uses terror for psychopolitics' lies."

The messages might also be even so radical as to quote previous Presidents on such matters.

"Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe. - Abe Lincoln"

Greene's web site ( http://www.fordgreene.com/ ) carries a history of the messages that have appeared on his movable-type billboard. In addition to the written political statements opposing Bush's wars, the sign has featured an American flag up-side down, a widely and internationally recognized sign of a ship in distress.

To some, such a display is considered offensive. To suggest that the United States is floundering like a ship at sea and faces the threat of sinking is, to some, considered to be "anti-American" despite Greene's admonishment that it's very American to speak up and speak out when one's country is facing such grave dangers at the hands of a cadre of madmen bent on plundering not only Iraq of its last drop of oil, but has also swindled American tax payers out of some 0 billion dollars so far to fund his regime's latest oil grab.

Inflammatory? Yes. Much of political speech is supposed to be. Offensive? Yes, if one supports Bush's wars, the crimes that the United States is committing against the people of Iraq, and the invasion of what everyone knew was a country innocent of any weapons of mass destruction or complicity in the New York attacks, one might find the messages offensive. But for most Americans, while the truth might be offensive to others, it's understood that freedom of speech -- and simple truth -- trumps mere annoyance at the messenger for the audacity of speaking a truth.

On August 9'th at 8:00 p.m. San Anselmo's Town Council will be holding a public hearing into the anti-war activist's sign, anting to hear from residents and others what their options are in regards to the sign, freedom of speech, and the challenge to the new regulation brought by activist Greene.

People are asked to telephone the Council to voice their opinions at 415-258-4600 (voice) or 415-459-2477 (FAX.) Or they may email the Council members at pbreen5@@comcast.net bthornton9000@yahoo.com wcooper@fcblaw.com jktk@jps.net lwight@ci.san-anselmo.ca.us

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