**Some 25 years ago, I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when a group of Neo-Nazis made a well-publicized appearance. There was about 15 of them, most of them were men in their 20s. Their “uniforms” appeared to be of the pick-you-own-uniform variety. Other than a brown shirt, a few swastikas, and black boots, they threw on what they had. In contrast to a “movement,” their dress showed a substantial amount of individualism. I remember thinking at the time, that they appeared to have fallen out of a comic strip.
They had applied for a permit and followed a predetermined route through the streets. They had complied with every requirement to peacefully assemble and “parade” a short distance before leaving in their cars. There were no weapons. Even their signs were on thin slats; no effort was made to sneak in a 2 x 4. Their leader carried a bullhorn. Without it, you wouldn’t have known they were there if the crowds hadn’t tipped you off.
Eventually they stopped in the area of Ann Arbor’s Federal building. With bullhorn and without, they pumped their fists, yelled out some Arian race crap, and waited to make a scene to create publicity for their cause.
**In short order, there came a hail of bottles, assorted fruit, and chunks of concrete. Some enterprising young lads, knowing of the final location of the demonstration, came upon a large pile of broken concrete in an adjacent parking structure under construction.
Now imagine the setup. A very small group of Neo-Nazis, and several thousand “onlookers” engaged in shouting. When the large crowd is tired of the small group having had “the stage” too long, the hail of projectiles ensues. Now, FREEZE FRAME.
Like it was yesterday, I recall asking myself a rhetorical question, “I hate the Nazis. But which group is the Nazis?” In short order, I easily picked the larger group of students, teachers, affluent Ann Arborites, and leaders of the various communities within the community.
For a brief moment, I very much admired the small group of comic book characters standing under a hail or trash, much of which had the potential to be lethal. They applied for a permit. They followed their route. They carried no weapons except the hatred spewing from the bullhorn. I didn’t like what they were saying. But it didn’t matter at that point.
I was far more concerned that, in Ann Arbor on that day, they suspended the rights of Assembly and Speech. They suspended those rights because they felt that they had the “right” to determine WHO can assemble and WHO can speak.
For an affluent community of wealthy homeowners, ambitious young students, and a plethora of scholars, Ann Arbor is an incredibly selfish and ignorant community. Let me add dangerous to that list.
It is a liberal area, of course. Home of the University where Bill Ayers’ Weather Underground started. And it is home to a great university. You’d think that this would be an area that would applaud the Neo-Nazis for exercising their sacred Constitutional rights. Regardless of WHAT the Neos were saying. Ann Arbor could have ignored the group and in an hour, they would have headed off to look for an Arby’s. But they CHOSE to go see the Neos, and stop them from speaking.
Are people really so short-sighted that they did not realize that if the Nazis cannot speak today, that tomorrow, it might be them?
Freedom of Assembly is infinitely more important than the group. Freedom of speech is far more important than anything anyone can say over a bullhorn. The Bill of Rights is on thin ice in America when the group in power decides who it applies to.
So, yes. There was a day, when I briefly admired, a “part” of a group of Neo-Nazis. But let me make this absolutely clear. Really. Without the uniforms, you couldn’t tell who they were.
Now come up to 2008. Joe the Plumber is being harrassed by left-wing media, and threatened by left-wing Zealots. The RNC is the intended target of the left-wing, Molotov cocktails and all. Sarah Palin’s e-mail is hacked. A group of Obama supporters attempts to stop her motorcade. Journalism takes a dangerous turn…taking sides.
None of this seems to alarm Barack Obama. The One calls upon John McCain to quell the anger of a few followers while he stands by and watches one assault upon the Bill of Rights, after another. Obviously, “anti-American,” and “unAmerican” are going to pop into peoples’ minds.