Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Court of History

In the face of overwhelming opposition, the Bush administration is fond of saying that history will vindicate them.

Today's NYTimes had an interesting article by Jim Robbins about terrorism, or at least treason in an earlier era. Let's consider a couple issues in light of this article: detainees at Guantanamo, and civilian wire taps under the rubric of the war on terror (which is not an enemy, but a tactic... good luck fighting that one... and declaring victory)

Through my daddy-o's interest in the NPL and the sedition act of 1918, I was interested to read Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana's posthumous pardon of three women and 75 men. Like today, the advocates for those men and women saw the charges were unfounded, and had less patriotic motives. From the article:

Clemens P. Work, who was conducting research for the book when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, said he had found the similarities between 2001 and 1918 to be eerie.
"The hair on the back of my neck stood up," Mr. Work said. "The rhetoric was so similar, from the demonization of the enemy to saying 'either you're with us or against us' to the hasty passage of laws."


The sedition law, which made it a crime to say or publish anything "disloyal, profane, violent, scurrilous, contemptuous or abusive" about the government, soldiers or the American flag, was unanimously passed by the Legislature in February 1918. It expired when the war ended, Mr. Work said.
Those charged faced penalties of prison, death, and high fines, often ruled long after the war. So how does history view Governor Sam Stewart?
Blame should be laid at the feet of Governor Stewart, Mr. Work said. "In the last 100 days of his term, he commuted 50 sentences, including 13 murderers and 7 rapists," he said, "but not a single seditionist."
Forget about kids, history can be so cruel. Beware Mr. Bush, I'll wager that history will adopt my opinion of you, and it won't take 80 years. Even though it is pop journalism, the Rolling Stone article made for interesting reading.


Blogger Brian J said...

I actually used this exact same article during a classroom presentation last week. We were talking about a number of different social issues, and one of my co-presenters asked the class of high school students if it was okay for people to have different opinions in our country. They all said yes. I couldn't resist -- I jumped in with, "Well, currently. But it hasn't always been the case. . . " which lead directly to this article.

Meanwhile, the 3rd generation German in me wonders if any of the Montanan German's who were fined and jailed were any of my peeps.

Wednesday, 10 May, 2006  

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