Speaking truth to power!

On the first day of its release, I went to see the latest Oliver Stone film, Snowden. I thought it was very good. Its release was timed to coincide with a campaign, strongly supported by Stone, to call for Ed Snowden to be cleared of all government legal and illegal charges and threats, which have included threats from various US government leaders to have him assassinated! Before the campaign could get under way, the US Congress issued pre-emptive statements condemning whistleblower Snowden over again and vowing to  redouble efforts to kidnap and punish him to the fullest extent possible.

This is the world in which we live.

One of the extra benefits of viewing the film was, by extension, learning a little something about the actors playing its two main real-life characters, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.  Personally, I’d never had any specific knowledge of, nor taken any interest in, either Gordon-Levitt or Woodley. I’d seen brief clips of them chatting on TV celebrity chat shows, and while I had no reason to assume they were anything but probably nice enough if seemingly vapid & utterly boring persons, they held no celebrity/artist personal appeal to me whatsoever. But it turns out both of these young actors have a social conscience! I am so happy to have learned this. (And I thought they both did a good job of acting in Snowden, the only acting I’ve seen either do.)

Just yesterday, Woodley was arrested for protesting the Dakota pipeline being constructed to run more Canadian toxic tar sands oil-sludge through several US states out to the Missouri River where it is then to be shipped down to the Mississippi Gulf and sold to foreign nations. At the same time Woodley was arrested, a documentary filmmaker, Deia Schlosberg, was also arrested for filming the protest. And Democracy Now!’s host, journalist Amy Goodman had earlier also been charged with criminal offense for her coverage of the story.

Also yesterday, Amy announced her decision to turn herself in at the Morton county courthouse in Dakota for trial in order to fight against the specious charges made against her and others observing and/or participating in the protest, but especially those journalists who are or were there only to observe and record what is going on. It will likely be a very important, historic trial, helping call attention to the urgent need to restore freedom of the press under the Constitution’s first amendment rights. Or, perhaps just as likely, and perhaps more likely, will re-affirm the government’s actions in recent years to overturn the free speech and habeas corpus rights guaranteed by our constitution, some of which go back to the rights secured for citizens through the forced signing by the King of England of the Magna Carta.

Some of my English & Scottish ancestors fought against that despotic king (in part) to secure those rights through the Magna Carta. Some of my American ancestors fought against first the British crown and then, diplomatically, against fellow members of their own newly-formed constitutional congress in order to secure a Bill of Rights before they would agree to ratify the Constitution. The entire war for American independence, fought against the mother-country of Britain, would be in vain, they argued, if their new nation ratified a constitution which did not include a universal Bill of Rights.

I don’t much abide with the part about fighting wars, and I’m no big fan of modern nation-states, but as for speaking truth to power and nonviolently forcing government, whether ruled by kings or congresses, to accept human rights – well done, ancestral social justice warriors!

(Even though, sadly, most of the barons who forced the Magna Charta Liberatum upon their erstwhile absolute monarch, were themselves rather despotic feudal rulers of their own smaller fiefdoms, who fought as much to secure their own exploitative power and wealth as to secure rights to their common populations. And we don’t have to state once again that the US Constitution granted no rights whatsoever to Native Americans free or enslaved, nor to African Americans held in slavery, nor to women of any color or station. Still, even in spite of the these atrocious shortcomings, both these documents, and the struggles to secure them, represent some steps forward toward real universal human liberty and justice.)

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