I made the t-shirt "Protect
Freedom... by taking it away"
could be more UNPATRIOTIC than attacking the foundation of the United
States: the CONSTITUTION. So it is ironic that legislation that
cancels Constitutional freedoms is named the USA PATRIOT Act.
the September 11th tragedy in 2001, the dominant question in government
and throughout American society has been "How can the United
States and its allies be more secure from terrorism?" This
question has spawned a philosophical debate regarding the interrelationship
between freedom and security in society. The Bush Administration's
War on Terrorism has decidedly favored greater security at the expense
(il)logic of these purportedly patriotic protectors of the United
States seems to go as follows: what makes the United States great
is the freedom its citizens enjoy, henceforth we will protect the
United States by taking freedoms away from the American people.
This meme of "Protect
Freedom... by taking it away," is both horribly self contradictory
and a major affront to the patriotic ideals of the founding fathers
of the United States. How can you protect or preserve something
by making it cease to exist? The US Government used similar (il)logic
to justify the horrific violence (including an unprecedented bombardment
campaign) it committed during the Vietnam War, and the massive loss
of life that resulted: "destroy the village in order to save
The USA PATRIOT
Act which passed nearly unanimously following the attacks on September
11th (and which was sadly not read by a great many of the senators
and representatives who voted for it in the extreme climate of fear
that existed at that time) was purportedly designed to increase
security. Unfortunately, the security of the enshrined freedoms
of the American people was decreased. Indeed,
much of the Constitution and its Amendments were negated by the
USA PATRIOT Act.
As if this fact is not vile enough in itself,
the name of this piece of sinister (however well intended or not)
legislation ironically invokes the idea of patriotism. Nothing could
be more unpatriotic than the evisceration of the foundation of the
United States, its Constitution; and yet this piece of legislation
is named the USA PATRIOT Act. It is perhaps fitting that legislation
that is itself an exercise in doublethink ("Protect
Freedom... by taking it away") should have such an Orwellian
one of the founding fathers of the US, stated unequivocally, "Those
who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." His statement
is powerful testimony that giving up freedom to protect it is not
wise nor patriotic. If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, would
John Ashcroft dare to tell him that his statement gives comfort
to the enemy (as he is wont to do to those who question the prerogatives
of the Bush Administration)? Given the behavior of Ashcroft and
the rest of the Administration, of late, it seems quite possible
that he would.
it is unfortunate that news men like Tom Brokaw have seemingly ignored
Franklin's historic rebuke of those willing to give up freedom for
security. Brokaw and his mainstream media mates have ignored their
duty as citizens according to another of Franklin's proverbs: "It
is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
Instead, Brokaw and his ilk favor rhetorically asking the American
people if giving up a little freedom for security is not acceptable.
The conclusion of these "objective" news men and women
often seems to be an outright, or at least implied, acceptance of
the practice of trading freedom for security. This acceptance is
bolstered by a lot of talk of new challenges and necessities in
a "post 9/11 world", and echoes the Bush Administration's
position. Perhaps, too, it indirectly asserts that the advice of
Franklin and other founders does not apply to present day circumstances.
However, the fatuosity (smug ignorance) and thereby the complicity of the mainstream
media elite is the subject of a different t-shirt ("Tom
Brokaw is Full of Shit") that I made, and is described
more fully in my explanation of why I made that t-shirt.
I made this t-shirt because I wanted to challenge the dominant meme
(or idea) in society that suggests that you can "Protect
Freedom... by taking it away." I decided that the best
means to do so would be to display the (il)logic itself, and allow
the cognitive dissonance that arises (in the minds of most human
beings with a heartbeat) to do what it will. That is, I decided
to present an image so ominous and contradictory to itself, that
most people would be, at first, repulsed by it. I did so knowing
that it would linger in their minds and that they would be compelled
to reconsider its meaning by their own curiosity.
The high contrast,
Orwellian image on the shirt--of, not one but, four surveillance
cameras on a single pole (in near nazi-swastika-ish perpendicularity)--stands
against a propaganda red backdrop. I chose the image of surveillance
cameras because there is a parallel contemporary debate about whether
they protect us or instead restrict us by chilling people's behavior--including
non-criminal behavior--thus making us less free. The shirt design
is calculated to disturb those who see it. However, the design anticipates
this initial disturbance, and intends for the image to be reevaluated
upon realization that the initial, face value, interpretation of
the image is ridiculous due to the illogic of the phrase "Protect
Freedom... by taking it away." Furthermore, those who see
the design are intended to perceive its satirical nature, and thus
the message which it exclaims loudly: "You canNOT protect America
by removing its foundation, the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
You canNOT protect freedom by taking it away."
a good many people realize all this on their own and do not require
prompting, there are certainly some who can profit from the prompting
that this t-shirt is intended to provide. Further, even those who
realize all this already can use a satirical restatement of what
this society's leaders are currently saying in order to motivate
them to resist, if only by laughing at the satire that this t-shirt
2006 update: Now we have the Military Commision Act
Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, "With his
signature, President Bush enacts a law that is both unconstitutional
and un-American. This president will be remembered as the one who
undercut the hallmark of habeas corpus in the name of the war on terror.
Nothing separates America more from our enemies than our commitment
to fairness and the rule of law, but the bill signed today is an
historic break because it turns Guantánamo Bay and other
U.S. facilities into legal no-man's-lands.
president can now - with the approval of Congress - indefinitely
hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific
abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize
trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally
beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas
petitions. Nothing could be further from the American values we
all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act."
or BUY this Shirt
Frontier Foundation - EFF is a nonprofit group of passionate people
lawyers, technologists, volunteers, and visionaries
working to protect your digital rights. WWW.EFF.ORG
- Defending Dissent - It origins go back to the 1960's and HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Commission that was formed to repress dissidents during the height of the cold war). This organization is still dedicated to defending the right of political dissent. WWW.DEFENDINGDISSENT.COM
- ACLU - The flagship civil liberties defense group in the USA. WWW.ACLU.ORG
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