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Under Construction
Union Square, San Francisco

July 31st, 2002 Finalist
Tuesday. I received notice today my "June 27th entry on the Pledge of Allegiance court decision had been voted a Diarist.netFinalist for Best Account of a Public or News Event finalist for "Best Account of a Public or News Event" in their latest round of awards. My first thought was to read it. Does it read OK? Actually it doesn't, there are areas that are sluggish and not very clear. It think I've written entries that are better. So why not rewrite it? Well, it's a journal, you write it in a day or an evening and you get on with it.

But you've said you go back and rewrite stuff. Why not this one?

Well, a word or two sometimes, but maybe you're right. Clean it up a little, but I'm fighting it, that was last month, I'm hanging on by my nails just to get this month done. Besides, they voted on the damned thing the way it reads now. Maybe it would be unethical to go back. (I told you I was fighting it.) Screw it, I'll leave it. It never occurred to me it would produce anything more than an email from someone who didn't like the premise.

Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, this is a weird time for both and I'm worried it may get worse. I've been thinking of rereading George Orwell's 1984 since someone reminded me that Orwell's 1984 world was continuously at war, continuously fighting an enemy without, although no one seemed to know exactly who "they" were, these people without. With 911 we are now "at war" and it's easy to imagine this sort of war with people who seem to be "in here" and "out there" might just go on for a very long time. That makes a difference in the fight to retain civil liberties. I'm into civil liberties.

I came to a realization in college - I had some fraternity brothers who were, um, way beyondSign in an Oakland window what might be considered conservative - that there were people who didn't trust the ability of a pluralistic system like ours to fight a determined, read totalitarian, enemy. Push come to shove and all this "civil liberties" shit goes out the window. I remembered that realization with 911. The first act by the current administration, whether circumstances seemed to dictate it or not (they weren't talking), was to throw out whole sections of the Constitution, putting American citizens in jail without access to a lawyer, without bringing charges, without thought, perhaps, to ever having them see the light of day, let alone come to trial. There was good reason for this, you understand, it's just, well, it's secret, these reasons, so we can't tell you about them, but trust us, alright?


There could be times coming that require us to do really ugly stuff. Another something happening in or to a city. What would you be willing to do (to your neighbor, for example) to make sure it didn't happen again? What would the leaders of this country be willing to urge us to do to the guy who lives next door, these same people who so willing eat their young to stay in power? I'm not talking about Republicans versus Democrats, Liberals versus Conservatives, Religious versus Not, I'm talking about us, just us, right here.

What weird shit might we hear from our leaders, what might we then do at their urging out of fear, you and I, not those other guys out there, those unwashed millions without our advantage of enlightenment and breeding, what might we do if push should really came to shove? How much of what makes this country really different and valuable from the rest of the world might be thrown out from fear and, in a world forever in fear, forever at war, in a world without information (it's secret, trust us), to never return?

Writing my little Pledge of Allegiance entry on a day like today is nothing much. Some guy's opinion. Someone might get upset, but these days, even those blinded by adamancy retain a kernel of understanding there might be advantages to keeping things separate. It's worked for a long time. Things would become more problematic when writing something that defends individual liberty when stakes are suddenly much higher and people become a frightened mob.

If things should become really ugly, you'd wonder who was scanning your journal for "problematic" opinions. Opinions that might give comfort to the enemy, the enemy, as often as not, defined as those who make waves for people in power.

Wednesday. Oh, hell. I used to write stuff like this for the paper when I was in college.Sign in an Oakland window  Walking around the city today, sampling the various coffee shops, it occurred to me that people were smarter today than they were when I was in college. I'm continually surprised by people ranging from shit kickers to hip hoppers who will stand up and defend somebody's right to say something completely stupid at the drop of a hat with a knowledge and understanding that blows my mind.

Or is it just living in the Bay Area? I mean, the San Francisco City Council voted to grow medical Marijuana last week (Which was probably reported - Crazy San Francisco! - in every paper in the country.). You don't even want to know what Berkeley (located just up the street) is willing to tolerate when it comes to expression. (They will find some way near term to top San Francisco.) Push come to shove, even ugly push and ugly shove, people will eventually shake it off and remember why we all came here in the first place.

And what did they come for, exactly?

Dreams and visions of peanut butter sandwiches, Coca-Cola crisp and cold, McDonald's Hamburgers by the dozen, French fried potatoes with tomato catsup: breakfast, lunch and dinner, in other words, a reliable breakfast, lunch and dinner in a world where they can be chancy. That and the right to an internet connection, a home in the suburbs and an SUV in any one of many colors. The freedom of expression thing pops up occasionally, but generally when someone has rudely interrupted you and spoiled your digestion.

The banner photograph was taken in Union Square in San Francisco, the sign was photographed in Oakland. Art and life.