Fourth of July Parade,
Rural America, 2002
The theme of the parade was “America: Our Land, Our Flag, Our
Freedom!” Not to ask questions, but just film it for
b-roll, would be tantamount to silence and complicity with
unthinking patriotism. It was an opportunity to explore in a
short video what rural people think about land, flag and freedom. (more)
How closely are
they listening and watching what their country is doing? They
agree with it, sure. But do they know what they agree with?
sense being coy about this. Many of our
neighbors are the 1933 equivalents of citizens of Kronenberg, Nazi
Germany.* They think of themselves as law-abiding, that their
government is good, mostly; and they will declare publicly that they
cherish it and respect their appointed leader, George W. Bush.
give the sequence of interviews consistency, I
asked general questions about patriotism and tried to follow up
respectfully, without condescension, then
asked: “Is there
anything that this government would do that you would object to?”
interviewed those whose costumes or slogans expressed strident
patriotism so, as expected, everyone whom I asked on camera said
“no”, they agreed with everything their country was doing, or
would do. They said the Office of Homeland Security, with its unsupervised
budget of $143 billion, was just fine. A priest
said it would “bring us together.” And most of them said
that Bush “didn’t know” about 9/11 in advance.
latter question was prompted by the fact that on
my baseball cap I wore a large
black and white button that said “Bush Knew”. It
seemed most appropriate to give them up front some idea of my
thinking before asking questions.
interviewed about 25 people, and then the police showed up. I
wasn’t surprised. After
all, I’d been questioning people’s patriotism for well over an
hour. Two deputy
sheriffs and the county sheriff, dressed in black, stopped my
asking people questions,
you’re making them nervous”
demanded: “What sort of
questions are you asking?”. I answered as best I
could, then asked if I was being ordered
to stop -- in
violation of the First Amendment. They
my questions were not appropriate on this special patriotic day.
told me to stop asking them
are the ones asking questions.”
I kept the camera rolling, a little more shaky
and off center than I’d hoped. They know I have press
credentials – issued by the sheriff himself, who will appear on my
cable access book show (“Chautauqua Books”) to discuss the book Capital
Crimes (which I’d months before given him a copy of). He
asked me as “a personal favor” to stop asking questions. I
asked him: “Do I have the right as independent press to ask
questions?” He responded, “You have freedom of speech, as
long as your questions don’t alarm people.” By then I
had enough; the parade was nearly over; I told him I would continue
elsewhere -- and went down the street to interview the lone
protestor along the parade route.
surprising during the two-hour parade: there was little
strident defense of George W. Bush in response to my button and
questions; and yet, when pushed, they said Bush didn’t
know; and to the degree that they followed such matters,
said that 9/11 happened because of incompetence
– and that we should give Bush a second chance.
it was a display of ignorance; they simply ignore such matters as
treason or gross incompetence, mass murder, slave labor,
US-sponsored death squads, vote fraud, corporate theft and so on --
hoping unreasonably for the best.
people have doubts and
one else speaks out
– those who should be more informed such as teachers, professors,
the clergy, elected officials --
why should they?
the parade was a sea of red-white-and-blue, many
events were neutral: voluntary firemen showing off their
equipment ( men and women who are themselves representative of the
rural social commons, now threatened by budget cuts).
patriotic floats were run by the fundamentalist churches. They
and a few others speaking
Our silence implies acceptance. The spiral of silence*
– except in a few places like the cities in Massachusetts, and
Berkeley and Ann Arbor which have passed resolutions rejecting the
USA Patriot Act.
we break the spiral of silence, next year at this same time, it’s
my view that we
will be arrested for asking annoying questions,
not just asked to tone them down.
They Thought They Were Free:
The Germans 1933-1945 This
crucial book tells how and why ‘decent men’ became Nazis through
short biographies of 10 law-abiding citizens. As Harpers
Magazine noted when the book was published in 1955
(U. of Chicago), Milton Meyer’s extraordinarily far-sighted book
on the Germans is more timely today than
Spiral of Silence:
Public Opinion – Our Social
Skin, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, U. of Chicago Press, 1984