Leave it to the completely clueless Bush administration to once again hack into the Constitution it has supposedly sworn to “preserve, protect and defend.” Today, President Bush signed into law the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act,” which prevents anti-war demonstrations from taking place at or near military or Federal cemetaries. From the CNN.com article:
The new law bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before until an hour after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
On one hand, I can understand where this is coming from: families who are trying to bury their fallen children need not have to face the waves of people protesting the war. And, much like many anti-abortion protests, these demostrations can go beyond the pale in terms of taste.
However, freedom of speech and assembly are provided for all citizens of the United States, and not all protests are loud. In fact, the silent ones are often the most potent. And the protests that this law directly addresses were, indeed, the silent kind, with signs and prayer (though they were also homophobic, as the Kansas church group’s argument was that U.S. soldiers were being killed as part of God’s punishment of those who accept homosexuality).
But this law smacks of reactionary jingoism, and is too far-reaching in its scope. Who’s to say that the families of the fallen are all pro-war? Might the families have actually invited the protesters to the funeral, just to point out their own problems with the military and the Bush administration? And if these protesters are standing at the periphery, being quiet and respectful, then why should they be in violation of U.S. law?
And what if a person who’s walking through a cemetary during a funeral is wearing a “Give Peace A Chance” t-shirt or hat – aren’t they in violation of the law? It all depends on the law enforcement personnel at the time of the incident. This law is inherently flawed, and it will likely punish many peaceful, non-hateful people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And that’s something that BushCo and the theocons seem to lack: the ability to think these things out, to look at the long-term ramifications of their binding actions. They are of the “shoot first, ask questions later” school, one that isn’t wisely used in terms of government, especially in areas of military affairs and negotiation.
Of all the things the White House needed to address this Memorial Day, this knee-jerk legislation is not the right way to go. Perhaps they could address our widely-acknowledged failures in capturing Osama Bin Laden, in keeping the peace in Afghanistan, and in rÃ©gime change in Iraq. But BushCo and the theocons continue to walk around with blinders, ignoring the white elephants in the room, and continue to doom their – and the United States’ – fate.
Perhaps the thing I’m mourning today is the loss of the America I used to know, not just its fallen soldiers.