"You're All Going to Hell"

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Those were the words shouted at me and several hundred other people as we were walking to the National Mall to attend Obama’s inauguration. (More about our petition action there in Zeke’s post). Those words were yelled by some protesters who were unhappy with the views espoused by Obama and concerned about the policies they expect he will implement.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take some offense at being told I was going to hell simply because I was walking toward an event that made those people unhappy. But I was also glad to see the protesters. They were there on the curb with their signs and their slogans, and no one was bothering them. No police were shooing them away, much less beating them or throwing them in jail. And when I was on the Mall collecting signatures for our 100 Days petition, no one stopped me or tried to arrest me either.

How lucky we all are–me, you, those protesters–to be able to express our opinions without fear of reprisal, imprisonment, or death. So many of our priority cases are not so lucky. If you’ve lived most of your life in places where freedom of expression is “no big deal”, it can be easy to take that right for granted. Has anyone spent time in a place where it was dangerous to express your views? What was it like to live under those conditions?

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2 thoughts on “"You're All Going to Hell"

  1. I hear you, Bryna. Years ago, doing human rights work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I felt the true blessing of being American. I'd ride a shared taxi to work each morning and we would frequently get stopped by Israeli soldiers who would demand to see identity card and pull out random Palestinians at will and sometimes subject them to needless humiliation, just for the hell of it. It was awful and each and every time, the blessing of my blue passport protected me. It was also very depressing to recognize that there was no reason that I alone should have the privilege of riding to work safely, with my dignity intact.

    On a strictly domestic note, we should aknowledge that the change in administration has a lot to do with being able to protest the President. The Bush adminstration was not so kind to dissenters, locking them away in "free speech zones" far from his podium at appearances, spying on innocents, even criminalizing some who simply disagreed with his agenda. So I may not agree with the protestors, but like you, I am happy they are allowed to be out and about. Thanks for the post, Bryna.

  2. I hear you, Bryna. Years ago, doing human rights work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I felt the true blessing of being American. I’d ride a shared taxi to work each morning and we would frequently get stopped by Israeli soldiers who would demand to see identity card and pull out random Palestinians at will and sometimes subject them to needless humiliation, just for the hell of it. It was awful and each and every time, the blessing of my blue passport protected me. It was also very depressing to recognize that there was no reason that I alone should have the privilege of riding to work safely, with my dignity intact.

    On a strictly domestic note, we should aknowledge that the change in administration has a lot to do with being able to protest the President. The Bush adminstration was not so kind to dissenters, locking them away in “free speech zones” far from his podium at appearances, spying on innocents, even criminalizing some who simply disagreed with his agenda. So I may not agree with the protestors, but like you, I am happy they are allowed to be out and about. Thanks for the post, Bryna.