canarypapers

Posts Tagged ‘protest

The Answer to Sarah Palin’s Rhetorical Question: Book Burning

with 5 comments

This post is part of “The Sarah Chronicles: A straight poop compendium of questions answers on Sarah Palin.” Today’s installment is on CENSORSHIP. 

 

Sarah Palin’s defense for twice asking the Wasilla City Librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, about removing ‘certain’ books’ from the library was simply this: “It was just a rhetorical question,” the implication being, “Sweet Lord, no! I would never ask the librarian to burn books!”

 

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect, without the expectation of a reply. — Wikipedia

 

The rhetorical question defense (RQD) is a handy one, applicable to all sorts of occasions, such as when a psycho husband asks rhetorical questions of a hit man, or when a pedophile rhetorically asks a little girl if she’d like to take her panties down. I beg the readers’ pardon for such graphic comparisons, but Ms. Palin’s RQD is deserving of a strong and unambiguous rebuke, for her effort to sanitize and render harmless her outright attempt to coerce the librarian into banning certain books. While the RQD defense may not be admissable in a court of law, it has sufficed for some 46% of the American voting public, who say, “Oh, hell yeah! I’d vote for Sarh Palin in a heartbeat!” to become president, should McCain keel over dead. These are the same Americans, of course, who would froth at the mouth, were they posed the rhetorical question: Would you like to see America become more like, say, Marxist Russia, where our government bans books they don’t want us to read?”

Sarah Palin would like us to believe that she was merely engaging in philosophical discourse, even as her rhetorical questions were raised not once, but twice, as Palin approached librarian, Emmons two weeks before and two weeks after Palin assumed the duties as Mayor of Wasilla on October 14, 1996. According to Emmons – -who is also the president of the Alaska Library Association — she responded in the negative on October 1, when asked by Palin if she could live with censorship of ‘certain books.’ When asked, again, on October 28, if Emmons would object to censorship, “even if people were circling the library in protest about a book,“ Emmons again refused, adding that the ACLU would step in at that point. According to Emmons’ statements: 

” I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves…. This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,” Emmons stressed. “She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library…. She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied ‘Yup’. And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would get involved, too.”

Palin, when asked who might picket the library, said that she, “had no one in mind,” and then re-explained the nature of her rhetorical question. “Again, the issue was discussed in the context of a professional question being asked in regards to library policy.”

Palin subsequently attempted to fire Emmons, stating that it had nothing to do with censorship or the fact that Emmons supported Palin’s opponent in the elections, but that she felt Emmons’ hadn’t given her full support to Palin’s administration.  A strong citizen protest erupted — threatening Palin’s position as Mayor — as the group, Concerned Citizens for Wasilla, stormed City Hall to protest Emmons’ firing and demand a recall of Palin’s mayorship. In response, Palin was forced to withdraw her letter of termination against Emmons. Palin saved some face by explaining that she now felt she had Emmons’ support. ”You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you,” she said. 

 

There is much historical precedence for book-burning. One notorious instance was the Nazi book-burning campaign (the above photo shows one such collection burned in Nazi Germany, which included many authors, such as Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller and Jack London), as Hitler was determined to rid the country of all books he deemed “un-German.” Upon the occasion of one such burning, Goebbels announced, “The soul of the German people can now express itself again. The flames not only illuminate the end of the old era, they also light up the new.” Hitler’s campaign didn’t arrive overnight, just as Democracy doesn’t disappear overnight. It is eroded away, bit by bit, aided & abetted by a willing people.

 

Naturally, many people are now wondering exactly which books Sarah Palin would have proposed banning. Some people have surmised authors and titles such as: Harry Potter, Judy Blume and The Catcher in the Rye. While these are good guesses, they are just that — guesses. In truth, the specific authors/titles are of no importance. The importance lies in the fact that our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom from government censorship are among the most important and enduring hallmarks of our democracy. This same democracy protects people like Sarah from people like me, were I to abuse some power of authority and demand the burning of each and every copy of her current runaway seller (see below) on the basis that it offends my sensibilities. 

So it’s a bit dismaying to see that 46% of American voters find these rights unimportant. This is nothing new. These are the same voters prone to vociferous flag-waving, yet, who will raise nary a word of protest, should the most fundamental rights represented by that flag fall under threat. Take our books! Wiretap our phones and computers! Spy to your heart’s content! Lie to the American people — take our sons and daughters to an illegal war! We won’t protest, Mr. President, we promise. Just don’t take our flag — it’s everything we stand for!

It is only fitting, then, that this same 46% voting bloc would choose a candidate whose political record is pocked with constitutional assaults. It is only fitting that these voters would vociferously defend Sarah Palin’s political record — even as her good record has turned out to be riddled with lies, and her bad record is proving to be staggeringly factual. It is only fitting, then, that her own party should censor Sarah Palin’s voice, until such a time she can be tutored to deliver the correct script. In a country that has come to respect pomp and circumstance over substance, an icon like Sarah Palin may very well be the perfect candidate.  

 

____________________

by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers

____________________

For more on this topic:

A Letter From Someone Who Has Known Sarah Palin Since 1992 – Excerpt: “While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.”

Anchorage Daily News: Wasilla keeps librarian, but police chief is out (a re-print of the Feb. 1, 1997 article)

Librarians Against Palin!

Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman  (Wasilla, AK): Palin: Library censorship inquiries ‘Rhetorical’ (re-print of a Dec. 18, 1996 article)

Atlantic.com: Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Dish: Another Dubious Firing

LA Times: Sarah Palin — aspiring book banner?

Prescott e-News: Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings

Wikipedia: Nazi Book Burnings

ushmm.org: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Book Burning

Advertisements

The tragic case of Aafia Siddiqui: How each of us can help

with 4 comments

NOTE: The post, below, is from October 2008. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

There are pitifully few answers to the flood of questions surrounding the case of Aafia Siddiqui and her three children. We know this much: their five-year disappearance began in April 2003, at precisely the same time the FBI announced (then quickly denied) arresting her.

Aafia Siddiqui’s family, attorneys, human rights groups and others charge that she spent at least some of these years imprisoned at Bagram, the U.S. detention prison in Afghanistan, notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners. It is also alleged that Aafia Siddiqui was Prisoner 650, known as the Grey Lady of Bagram. If this is true, the fate of her children is, for some, too haunting to contemplate. At the time of their disappearance in 2003, her children were aged 7 years (son, Ahmed), 5 years (daughter, Miriam), and 6 months of age (son, Suleman). Her two younger children have not been seen since their disappearance in 2003. Her eldest child — Ahmed, now aged either 11 or 12 — was with Aafia at the time of her arrest last month.

The Story of Ahmed

Ahmed is a U.S. citizen, born in this country. According to the FBI, he is currently in the custody of the Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS), an agency that is, according to Human Rights Watch, “notorious for its brutal treatment of detainees.” The NDS is Afghanistan’s equivalent of the CIA, and is alleged to work in collaboration with the U.S. intelligence agencies in a system of secret detainee prisons and torture in Afghanistan. The FBI recently performed DNA testing to confirm Ahmed’s identity. They have also interrogated Ahmed several times. Ahmed is said to be confused about his identity and about his own whereabouts since 2003. Aafia’s attorneys, along with human rights groups throughout the world, are protesting the illegal detention of 12 year-old Ahmed, decrying his treatment as a criminal suspect, and demanding that Ahmed be freed and released to the custody of relatives. While the FBI has obviously had contact with Ahmed in recent weeks, they claim he is under the control of Afghan authorities, his whereabouts unknown.

“Something is really dirty here. Everything about the government’s story smells…. Whatever happened to this woman is terrible, and it’s incumbent on us to find out what it was.”  — Elizabeth Fink, U.S. attorneys for Aafia Siddiqui

The reports on the arrests of Aafia and Ahmed Siddiqui by U.S. and Afghanistan officials are contradictory, except in the fact that Aafia Siddiqui was shot twice during her arrest. The Bush administration alleges that she was involved in a terrorist plot, and that she was arrested on July 17, 2008 outside Ghazni governor’s compound in Afghanistan with manuals on explosives, maps to NY landmarks, and ‘dangerous substances in sealed jars’ on her person. She is alleged to have grabbed a gun and shot at U.S. officials during the interrogation, a scenario that contradicts the Afghan reports on her arrest. She is now charged with attempting to murder U.S. officials, and is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Aafia Siddiqui’s Medical Condition

According to her attorney, Elizabeth Fink, Aafia’s condition has grown critical, as she has not received proper medical care for her gunshot wounds. Fink is demanding hospitalization for Affia’s physical and psychological injuries. Fink also charges that Aafia continues to be subjected to invasive strip searches in violation of international law, the U.S. Constitution, international human rights norms and standards of decency. The Pakistan National Assembly has issued a resolution demanding that the U.S. authorities provide urgent medical care, including hospitalization, and to provide a female doctor, in consideration of Affia’s religious beliefs.

Those of us following this case feel helpless. Where to direct our voices?  The following needs are vital:  (1) that Aafia Siddiqui receive proper medical attention for her wounds, and (2) due process that reflects the values of our pre-Bush system of justice in America, that conforms to international laws for the treatment of prisoners, and (3) a full investigation into the events surrounding her disappearance in April 2003, when the FBI announced (then denied) her arrest, and (4) a full investigation to determine where Aafia Siddiqui and her three children spent the past five years, (5) a full investigation into the current whereabouts of her 3 children.

__________________________

Here’s how each of us can help Aafia Siddiqui and her children:

(1) Demand an independent investigation into this case by calling your Capitol Hill representatives via the Capitol Hill switchboard at 800-828-0498. Ask for your representative, by name. You will be transferred to either voice mail or an aide. Leave a message that you, as a concerned American, want an independent Congressional investigation into the case of Aafia Siddiqui (pronounced AUF-ia    Sa-DEEK-ia) and her three children, and that you request that her current medical and legal needs be met according to U.S. and International law regarding prisoners.

(2) Sign and send the letters of protest at the Asian Human Rights Commission site. These letters are forwarded to President Bush, to NATO headquarters, and to various authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is important that these officials know the world’s eyes are focused on this case.

(3) Attend her court hearing in Manhattan on September 3rd, 2008. Protests are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Her hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. at the United States District Court (U.S.D.C.) for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y), located at 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan. It will be held in the Magistrates Court, 5th floor.

(4) Send mail, publications or money to Aafia Siddiqui. There are specific regulations regarding these, which can be found, along with contact information and addresses, at the muslimmatters.org website. There is also contact information for her attorney at this site.

____________________________________________________________

From the Asian Human Rights Commission statement on Aafia Siddiqui:
“We uphold supremacy of law, an independent judiciary and condemn in unequivocal terms all transgressions of law, abduction, illegal incarceration, and transfer of prisoners from one territory to another without due process. We demand a thorough investigation by independent UN- mandated agencies into the whole affair and that all the agents of injustice and law- breakers be brought to the International court of Justice at The Hague.”

ADDITIONAL LINKS ON THIS CASE:

cageprisoners.com page with updates on protests/campaigns to help with this case

dictatorshipwatch.com article containing the text of a Human Rights Watch letter to President Bush, regarding the illegal detention of Aafia Siddiqui and others in secret CIA prisons.

Human Rights Watch article on demands to free Aafia Siddiqui’s 11-year old son, too young to be treated as a criminal suspect.

Christian Science Monitor article, “The case against Aafia Siddiqui, who has been missing since 2003, raises questions about illegal detention centers across Pakistan”

muslimmatters.org article: The Grey Lady of Bagram: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

muslimmatters.org info from August 26, 2008 press conference on Aafia Siddiqui

AP news report: NY charges for womann in Afghan military shooting (Please note that Aafia Siddiqui is a neuroscientist, not a microbiologist, as often suggested in U.S. media reports. Also, note the discrepancy, in this story, between the Afghan and U.S. accounts of her arrest).

canarypapers post, August 25, 2008: What did the Bush Administration do with Aafia Siddiqui and her three children?