Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh, How The World Has Changed

This YouTube got me to thinking about the Bush/Obama "free speech zones," and how far we have come in just one generation:

And then there was this:

I was a freshman at the University of Michigan in the 1975-76 school year when Gerald Ford decided to announce at his alma mater his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President.

The event was held at the basketball arena not too far from Central Campus. I, and thousands of other U of M students and local residents, flooded the streets as if we were going to a sporting event. I remember reaching the door to the arena and being surprized that every single person was given a once-over and a bag check before being allowed inside. They even took my umbrella and examined it closely (it was a rainy day). I'd never been exposed to official paranoia before. I remember thinking how silly it was.

The arena was packed. I don't remember exactly, but I think it held about 15,000, and since this was not that long after the Nixon pardon, it was not a friendly crowd. When the president finally appeared at the podium for his speech, the place went nuts. There was little chance of actually hearing Ford over the screaming, yelling, chants, insults, and general mayhem. At one point, someone lit a string of firecrackers (remember, Ford had been the target of two prior assassination attempts) and Secret Service agents came out of the woodwork, tackled Ford, then dashed out into the audience to look for the perpetrator. A half minute later, Ford stepped back to the podium and continued speaking through the renewed chants and cat-calls.

I'm sure Ford could not have picked a worse place to launch his candidacy. The opposition to him was fierce. He must have left Ann Arbor with a very bad feeling about his political future.

Contrast that event 35 years ago with the Bush/Obama era of "free speech zones." Shunted off to fenced-in locations blocks away from the President, the protesters shout but no one hears. They wave signs, but no one sees. How in heaven's name is our government to know when the people are angry? This cannot end well.

I'm afraid our children will come to think of this as normal.

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