At a festival called Peacestock in Wisconsin last weekend, I met a woman who lives in Little Falls, Minnesota. That city had forced her to take down signs in her own yard, signs that said "Occupy Wall Street," "Back the 99 Percent" and "Boycott Monsanto."
But Robin Hensel noticed that the city itself was displaying, in violation of the same ordinance, a banner reading "We Support Our Troops."
For anyone who's been visiting outerspace for the past half-century, "support our troops" is, of course, a phrase meaning "support whatever wars our government engages in." Thus, we ocassionally see signs reading "Support our troops: Bring them home," a message that is understood to reverse the common meaning of "support our troops" by giving it a literal interpretation.
Well, Hensel proposed that the banner come down, in compliance with the law -- acting on the idea that even bad laws should be enforced fairly.
And then came the death threats.
These kinds of incidents -- and I've been through them too, and can testify to the viciousness the threats can take on -- expose the darker meaning behind "support our troops." That meaning is "death to the other side." Needless to say, the work of troops is killing. Those on the other side in a war are supposed to die. The official bragging about how many have died, so common during the Vietnam War, has not been entirely absent from the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Hensel placed herself in the enemy camp, in the minds of some war proponents. And therefore she needed to die. The threats flooded in.
Hensel was also turned down by the city in a request for permission to set up an Occupy encampment, but corporate groups were permitted to do everything she'd requested and more.
Hensel is now suing Little Falls in district court, with help from a local attorney and from former associate deputy attorney general of the United States Bruce Fein, who can be expected to denounce the city's assault on the First Amendment in the most powerful and eloquent manner. The complaint filed states:
"The city of Little Falls has no excuse in law for wrongfully harassing a 58-year-old grandmother because she colorfully expressed an unpopular viewpoint on her own property. And that is exactly what the Defendant City did. Indeed, at every turn the Defendants brandished their government authority to suppress or burden Plaintiff's viewpoints because of hostility to their ideas and to facilitate and promote viewpoints they found agreeable."
Little Falls' city government needs an overhaul, and Robin Hensel is going to run for office.
Our mental slavery needs an overhaul as well. The idea that by murdering large numbers of foreign Muslims we expand our "freedoms" coexists with radical curtailment of our rights. Our rights shrink in direct proportion to military spending. We can be spied on without warrant, locked up without charge, or murdered -- all as a result of the latest war for "freedom." We can also be locked in free-speech cages for protests and see our freedom to speak, assemble, or petition our government shut down -- all in the name of the war that is supposed to make us free by killing people.
The only bit of truth to echo through the Orwellian hum of our militarism is that "freedom isn't free." That's right. It takes struggle. It takes exactly the kind of risk that Robin Hensel is engaged in.