What were some of the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States? Did it give cover for certain forces and cabals to alter America substantially? Have civil liberties been curtailed in subsequent years? Is it fair to call the U.S. “the land of the free”? Have we lost something by torturing, attacking, and jailing both citizens and non-citizens alike? If Lady Liberty had the ability to move, would she be covering her face or standing proud? What do we as citizens need to do to try to halt the slide into a surveillance state in which dissent is quelled and dissenters are dealt with unethically? To help me explore America since 9/11, I interviewed Christine Rose, a documentary filmmaker about her film Liberty Bound: The United States Since 9/11.
The following piece is slated to be chapter 2 in the second volume of Values & Ethics: From Living Room to Boardroom (itself based on an Internet-based talk radio show of the same name I did in times past). My interesting and notable partner in dialogue is Christine Rose. Christine’s words are indicated by the initials CR, and mine are JM. For paragraphs with no initials, assume they are a continuation of the speaker who was speaking in the previous paragraph. Enjoy this interview entitled “A Careful, Critical Look at America Since 9/11.” This interview is also available as a podcast HERE.
“What law have I broken? Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my fathers lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” ~ Sitting Bull
JM: Christine Rose is a director, writer and producer. She started out making films from a deep desire for an artistic outlet that merges her creative core with her technological talents. Focusing mainly on political and controversial themes, her work has been viewed around She has relentlessly pursued diverse and litigious issues that are the crux of social and political life here in the US. Her films range from stage parodies to raw cinema vérité documentaries. She received her B.A. in English literature from Sam Houston University and a Master’s in English from Texas Woman’s University in 1996.
The reason I wanted to have her on the show today is because I’m concerned about America since 9/11. I think there’s been a history of people and government making decisions that tend generally to benefit themselves, and sometimes at the expense of America at large or the military. So I thought she’d be an interesting person to speak with because of her deep experience, her interest – you know, she’s gone out there and “got the t-shirt.
Without further ado: Christine Rose, can you hear me?
CR: I can, thank you for having me on.
JM: You’re welcome. How are you? Did you hear the brief introduction? Is there anything you’d like to add to it?
CR: No, no you hit the high points, thank you very much. I’m excited to talk about Liberty Bound: The United States Since 9/11; It is available for viewing on YouTube. I certainly have a lot to say about it.
JM: Absolutely. Give us a little background on how you came to make these films, how you came to be interested in such things, and what your expertise in regard to that is:
CR: Okay I moved to California when I was about 27, in 1997, and then, already being an environmental activist and a vegetarian – and I moved from Texas (it is very difficult to be a vegetarian in Texas, I have got to tell you).
JM: I heard that in Texas, being a vegetarian is when you only eat chicken!
CR: Yah! Well, I moved to California and discovered that there was something called the Green Party, which until that time, I had no idea existed; that there was an entire political party kind of wrapped around the political values that I lived. So I joined the Green Party and became very active in it locally and I sat on a couple County councils in a couple different places I lived there in California. But after a few years – and after the stolen election in 2000, it seemed that local politics started to become a victim of its own inner turmoil and its own petty bickering and everyone was so upset about the election, we were so distraught, that we became very ineffective.
“Part of Mr. Bush’s legacy may well be that he robbed America of its optimism – a force Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other presidents, like Ronald Reagan, used to rally the country when it was deeply challenged.” ~ Adam Cohen
…Soon thereafter, of course with the first Bush administration, and with 9/11, which shocked the nation (and me included), I didn’t really know what to do, but I felt like I needed to do something more effective to be heard because I just saw what was happening to my America and everything that I believed in and that made this country so great seemed like it was going down the tubes— with the Patriot Act, and then bombing Afghanistan, and then all of a sudden we’re talking about going to war with Iraq— I had to do something.
I wasn’t quite sure at the time what that was because I had no filmmaking experience before. But just the desire to do something and to be heard coupled with seeing Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” — and I saw how well received that was by the public and how people who weren’t really even politically active or politically aware were affected by that film, and it dawned on me: this is the way to reach the American public — through media and through film.
And so I took my consumer grade camcorder and the little bit of savings that I had, bought a train ticket, went across the country, after I had done tons of research on the Internet finding people who had suffered civil liberty violations, setting up interviews with Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti and such. Also, looking at the discrepancies between what the media said and what the alternative media or underground media were saying about 9/11. And so I went off, with nothing other than my desire, really, to find out what was going on and to tell other people about it.
“If the free exchange of ideas is temporarily suspended in the interest of “supporting our troops,” (as though all soldiers are of one mind about foreign policy), then what is the gift we bring to the Iraqi people? Old Navy fleece? Stuffed-crust pizza?” ~ Anna Quindlen
JM: Wow that is an interesting story. You mentioned something about the Patriot Act; maybe people don’t have a solid opinion about the Patriot Act— can you give your opinion about it? Maybe even a definition of its, and how you feel about it, and how it has changed America since 9/11.
CR: Oh my goodness, the Patriot Act was a very oppressive piece of legislation that was pushed through very quickly within a month after 9/11, and interestingly, most of it was written before 9/11. It was, I forget, something like 500-1000 pages long, and given to Congress the day before they were supposed to vote on it; no one actually got to read it. Many things in the Patriot Act might have value, but there are other things in there such as the FBI being able to go to any library and find out what books you are checking out via your library record and the librarians can’t tell you that they’ve been checking up on you— these kinds of things. It made it legal for basically illegal search and seizure—to not only monitor your house but to come in your house while you’re not there, go through your things and not ever have to let you know that they were there just based on suspicion that you have some kind of terrorist connection.
The list goes on and on; it’s frightening. As you will see in (my documentary) Liberty Bound, from the beginning there has been a list of towns and counties and states who have refused to acknowledge the Patriot Act locally. I don’t know what the list is up to now, but when I finished “Liberty Bound” in December 2003 it was up to 250 I believe, but there are entire states like Hawaii and Vermont who have said, “we will not – will NOT — honor the Patriot Act.”
JM: What is it about the idea of it being only suspicion that would allow the FBI to surveil citizens that is bothersome to you?
CR: Oh, because there is no proof needed; they could just, for whatever reason, surveil you. I have heard stories of the books that are suspicious include ones like 1984 – which is ironic because I’m sure you’ve heard many Orwellian comparisons over the last couple of years — but, any book by George Orwell, and if you can believe it, the U.S. Constitution! If you are in a library reading the US Constitution you are suspect. In addition, on the web, Carnivore and other such things… it basically it violates your right to privacy. Suspicion by the FBI or the CIA could be based on anything, no matter how circumstantial, and your right to privacy is gone— out the window— and you have no protection.
JM: Let me ask you about this “right to privacy.” It’s in the news a lot these days because of the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. In regard to a woman wanting an abortion, one of the ways that a woman can defend that right is to say, “I have a right to privacy to do with my body what I think is appropriate and no one has a right to impinge upon that liberty.” It turns out that the right to privacy is not specifically granted by the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. So, tell me about your belief that a citizen should have the right to keep things private from the government, and if that has changed much in America since 9/11.
“America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. At the moment, the idea of Jesus has been hijacked by people with a series of causes that do not reflect his teachings. It’s hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq. We have made golden calves of ourselves – become a nation of terrified, self-obsessed idols.” ~ Bill McKibben
CR: Well, I think it is a slippery slope; as you will see in Liberty Bound, I explore fascism— the actual definition of fascism. When someone says “fascism,” it evokes images of Hitler and concentration camps and so on, but if you look at the actual definition of fascism it is the union between corporate and state power. That is basically what we are experiencing here in the United States. It is a slippery slope because our legislators are supposed to be representing the people— that is what we have here, we don’t have a democracy, we have a representative republic, officially. That means our representatives are supposed to represent us, the voters. But when you have corporate interests and lobbyists who are, in essence, buying representatives, then they become representative of corporations and the corporate interests rather than the interest of the people. And if this is supposed to be a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” but the corporations are the ones who are controlling and pulling the strings, then the people lose out.
Of course in a democratic society – although this is not a democracy, we have a Democratic way of ruling – we cannot have a representative republic or true democracy with an uninformed, uneducated public. Really needs to happen is we need to educate.
As far as privacy goes, whenever government starts coming into your own lives, you lose a bit of safety, especially when the government is not representative of you, but rather, representative of the corporations. If anyone has not seen the film The Corporation, I highly recommend it. It’s quite an eye-opener. What I mean by slippery slope is, if you start giving the government rule over your life, whatever that may be—you mentioned abortion— you start letting them legislate morality, and if it is those who have the money who are funding the legislators, it is their belief system that is being legislated. Their belief systems might not equal your belief system. We have freedom of religion in this country for a reason; it is so that people are not forced to believe or forced to follow the beliefs of someone else if that is not what they individually believe. I suppose we have less in America since 9/11.
JM: So there is a distinct libertarian aspect to your belief system, I am understanding…
CR: You know, it’s interesting that you say that because although I consider myself a very far, far left progressive, in Liberty Bound I meet a lot of far-right conservative and libertarian individuals who tended to agree that when it comes to constitutional rights, when it comes to privacy and keeping the government out of our private lives… In fact, I was interviewed by many people on the far right and it was interesting – we had a lot of agreement on several issues, but on others we were totally opposite. So, I think it’s like a big circle – I’m on the very far left and libertarians are on the very far right, and they kind of meet on certain issues.
“Shall free speech and free assemblage, shall criticism and opinion…be destroyed? Shall it be a shadow of the past, the great historic American past? Shall it be trampled underfoot by any detective, or policeman, anyone who decides upon it? Or shall free speech and free press and free assemblage continue to be the heritage of the American people?” ~ Emma Goldman
… I think there is an element to liberalism— the state of being a liberal— that seems as though what liberals sometimes wish for would be a big, benevolent government to hold everybody’s hand, create one huge community. But I think in a way, liberalism is not about “big government” as much as it is about a competent government and a government that is limited enough to let one live the life that one wants to live. It’s Kantian and Rawlsian liberalism, to put it specifically.
It’s almost like, in the middle of the political spectrum, you have folks who think it’s okay for government to interact with us in certain heavy ways, but on the fringes you have the far left and the far right and those people are fearful of government—perhaps for disparate reasons. You have someone like Noam Chomsky who I think would say that government is very troublesome and ought to be limited and perhaps fundamentally changed (and you think of him as being on the “left”), and then you have somebody like Terry Nichols or whatever who would blow up the Oklahoma City Federal Building because he feared government, and obviously you wouldn’t consider him to be on the left. So it’s an interesting phenomenon; it’s as though you either believe that government does a good job and ought to be trusted, or you are more skeptical of the government. My hope is that the farther left you
So it’s an interesting phenomenon; it’s as though you either believe that government does a good job and ought to be trusted, or you are more skeptical of the government. My hope is that the farther left you go, the more legitimate and responsive and honorable the people’s representatives are, but, alas, that seems like a mere dream because politics nowadays seems almost bereft of “statesmen/women.”
“President George W. Bush meant well when he tried to start a domino effect of democracy in the Middle East and end the awful hypocrisy of America coddling autocratic rulers. But the way he went about it was naïve and wrong.” ~ Maureen Dowd
CR: Absolutely, I think it really does come down to that. Someone said to me at a protest once: the fundamental difference really is when you get down to it, it’s basically whether you trust the government or you don’t. If you trust the government and you trust their judgment and their opinions, then you don’t question going to war with Iraq; you don’t question the Patriot Act because you trust them, inherently.
And then there are those like myself who inherently don’t trust them. I don’t trust them personally because I have seen so many lies before, and it’s the old adage “if you lie to me once, how do I know you won’t lie to me again?” I’m not sure it’s always for our own good; the government treats the populace as though we are children, to “protect us.” That’s the excuse.
JM: Let’s take a break, and we’ll be right back here on Values and Ethics: from Living Room to Boardroom.
Welcome back. I’m discussing America since 9/11 with filmmaker Christine Rose. Christine, you are a director, writer, producer, and also a woman who studied English quite extensively.
CR: Yes, well, that was many, many years ago. Perhaps a bit distally related to my current focus, but I think if you look hard enough you can find a connection between almost anything.
“The most powerful special interest group in America is the media.” ~ Charles Lewis
JM: Right. So, I think the way that you feel about the government probably informs one quite a lot about what kind of beliefs you might have. I am imagining that there’s a person out there who is quite skeptical of the government and I wonder if they are also, in a way, skeptical about other, more general symbols of power or authority, such as parent, or church, or God, or what have you. And then there’s probably a person out there who is more accepting of, maybe a little less skeptical, more faithful, based on their social ecology and their unique psychology. Probably reflected in their relationship with their parents. Maybe they think a homeowner’s association is more desirable than maybe another person would. They are thoroughly embedded in community, as Michael J. Sandel would probably put it.
It’s probably not that different than what George Lakoff was referring to with this paternal/maternal thing. Have you heard of that – the idea that Republicans tend to be more “paternal” and Democrats tend to be more “maternal”? For example, someone who is more paternal is more likely to give in to or acquiesce to authority because they have a belief that authority is acceptable, that it is good, it’s benevolent, it’s something that “I must do.”
Conversely, Democrats would tend to be a little bit more maternal in their orientation – maybe choosing to prioritize equal opportunity, the welfare state, government protecting citizens in the deepest sense of the word. You can see that certain people, based on their personality, probably appreciate certain things about a political party or a certain philosophy. So that’s interesting to think about. I’d like to do a study about to find out how the relationship that people have with their parents correlates to political affiliation. I’m quite sure that the people who were gung-ho about Ronald Reagan were not the same “types” of people who were into McGovern, or today, Paul Wellstone or Bernie Sanders.
“To be born free is an accident; To live free a responsibility; To die free is an obligation.” ~ Hubbard Davis
CR: Political and religious beliefs, I think that would be a very interesting study indeed. I think what you’re talking about— beliefs— whether it be community or religious or political, the way I see the difference is that you either believe what you’re told without question, or you question it and you look for yourself. I was raised Catholic; I was raised simply accepting that I was a Democrat because my parents were Democrats and I never really thought seriously about politics at all until I was about 20, when I first got into animal advocacy and not into politics proper as far as governmental politics until I was about 27. It was never something I thought about because my parents my parents never thought about it. It was something that just was.
Like I said, I grew up in Texas, and Texas is kind of fundamentally-Christian-oriented; a lot of Southern Baptists in the area. Whatever kind of organized religion you follow, you follow it in a way that has been dictated to you since birth and throughout your childhood. And I think it takes not only a level of consciousness, but sometimes, a great deal of courage, to question that and to look outside of that because if you have learned something from birth— that “this is just the way that it is”— whether it is politics or society or or governments or whatever, to look outside of that box to see something else can be extremely frightening. It can upset the very foundation on which your life is built.
“Democrats – and moderate Republicans – now have woken up and found ourselves in an America ruled by people pushing forward intolerant, discriminatory policies – anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-civil-liberties – all in the name of God.” ~ Howard Dean (with Judith Warner)
JM: The representative from Ohio or Pennsylvania John Murtha recently came out against being in Iraq; let’s say, he is in favor of a withdrawal, and so you have Dick Cheney going as far to question his competence as possible. I know representative Bob Barr, who is certainly on the right, has been somewhat skeptical and has broken party ranks and lobbied for transparency and true libertarian principles. What does that say to you?
CR: The Bush administration, from the very beginning, and especially, they really kind of drummed up after 9/11, is just disrespecting and oppressing any dissenting opinion – and that is what this country is founded upon. This country is founded upon dissent, saying, “Hey wait a second, that doesn’t seem right, let’s talk about this.”
But in every instance, right after 9/11 it was very much like a totalitarian state there for a few months – where if you even mentioned anything outside what the “official story” was, you were a “terrorist sympathizer,” you were an “anti-American.” And that has continued to a lesser degree up to this time. When you see that Dick Cheney is still to this day, after everything we’ve seen, after all the lies that even the mainstream media have pointed out, exposing the CIA operative and such, even after all these things, they still have the gall and the arrogance to say that “something is wrong with you if you think we should pull out; you are anti-American, you are incompetent.” The arrogance of this administration never ceases to amaze me.
JM: Well here is something that probably won’t amaze you then either; you may recall Jerry Falwell saying that, “I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, people for the American way, all of them who tried to secularize America, I point the finger in your face and say, ‘You helped this happen’ [September 11th].”
CR: (laughing) Yes, we should all believe Jerry Falwell, that “turn the other cheek Christian,” who called for the assassination of a world leader, he’s someone whom we should all listen to!
“I know no class of my fellowmen, however just, enlightened, and humane, which can be wisely and safely trusted absolutely with the liberties of any other class.” ~ Frederick Douglass
JM: As funny as that may sound when you put it like that, seriously though, is there a coincidence that you have somebody like Dick Cheney being absolutely recalcitrant with his beliefs and the lines that he gives to the media and somebody like Jerry Falwell who will, on the one hand, say it’s because of the lesbians and then on the other hand, talk about the assassination of a head of state not being a bad idea— is it a coincidence that those folks would seem to be on the same side in a way?
CR: No, I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that they get the most press, that they get the loudest voice. I think there was a study done by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! in her great book, The Exception to the Rulers, she did a little comparison: leading up to the war with Iraq, how many people a certain news organization had in favor of the war and how may people they had in opposition to the war. And come to think of it I don’t even think it was one news organization I think it was all news channels over a two-week period. There was something like 43 in favor of the war to three in opposition to the war. And so we are seeing something with the corporate-run, mainstream media giving voice to this right-wing, propagandist agenda. And we hear it from Jerry Falwell and we hear from Dick Cheney and we hear from all those beating the same drum.
JM: And so you are now including corporations in what is now “a triumvirate of manipulation!”
“The cost of liberty is less than the cost of repression.” ~ W. E. B. DuBois
CR: Oh yeah, absolutely. I said earlier they are virtually controlling the government – not the people. They are in control of the legislators and the media. And if your listeners haven’t listened to Noam Chomsky, please do. He’s got a great book called Propaganda: The Control of the American Mind. Also, Manufacturing Consent. I mean look at Greg Palast and his book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, I mean, these are things that every single American should know about, but they are buried by the mainstream media. They are buried on page 13 in the corner, if covered at all.
JM: So you’re saying that truth is somehow relegated to a secondary status in favor of some other value in America since 9/11?
CR: Yes. I think that the media has actually gotten better over the last couple years; the first year or so after 9/11 it was frightening. They’ve gotten better, but not much. What we’ve got here is a media who report really only one side, and underreports (or doesn’t report at all) the other side. I mean, you’ve heard things where they cannot show or refuse to show any flag-covered coffin coming home from Iraq, and the one lady who violated that and published a picture was fired!
“Conservatives want to narrow the definition of security to mean only protection from domestic criminals and foreign terrorists. But Americans understand that protection of our health and well-being is also security.” ~ Bernie Horn
…They don’t want to show us images of war, they don’t want to show us the truth of war, they want to show us only the propaganda. And the word “propaganda” is an interesting word in that it is often thrown around; if you look at the definition of the word propaganda, it, like fascism, brings up images of Hitler and World War II because that’s when propaganda really got a bad name, but the meaning is “to put forth information that supports a belief, especially political or religious.” That’s paraphrased, but it’s close. That’s the actual definition in the dictionary of the word propaganda.
So, the evening news, and everything this government is putting out, for that matter into my film or Michael Moore’s films, or any single thing that has editing involved – and I mean anything that has editing involved – would by definition would be called propaganda, because when you edit you pick and choose what you want in there and the way in which it’s in there. Even if you’re doing it under the umbrella of objectivity, there’s always, even if you don’t intend it, something in there that is going to show what you want everyone to see (that is you the editor, producer; the person who is behind the controls at the news center…).
What’s interesting is, if you’ve ever been interviewed by the news, as I was, especially when I was in the Green Party and sitting on the County Council, I would be interviewed at protests and so forth, and I would go on a big spiel or whatever, I would say all these things about what was going on at the time, and they would pick the most insane thing, out of context, that I said and put it on the news. And you could see how badly it was chopped up, you know?! I’ve been interviewed for newspapers where they have literally made up things and claimed I said them. I mean, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that I would have said that, but I never said those words, and they put them into quotations as though I had. And what the public has to understand when they read the newspaper or see the news is that it’s done to sell papers; it’s done to keep ratings up. They edit these things in a way to make it the most interesting, the most sensational, the most whatever, so they can make money – because it’s always about “the bottom line” where corporations are concerned.
“Remember the hours after September 11th, when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland? We drew strength when our firefighters ran up stairs and risked their lives so that others might live; when rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon; when the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation’s capital; with flags were hanging front porches all across America; when strangers became friends. It was the worst day we’d ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.”
JM: That’s a quote from Senator John Kerry. I think it’s illustrative of the potential that was inherent in September 11 – all the potential for change and for adopting the types of values in America that we really do want to have. We could have changed the world in America since 9/11; I think we’ve squandered that opportunity because of this quadrivium of government, religion, media, and corporations that Christine rose and I are speaking about. I think they sell us out; well, let me say, those factions sell us, the people, out when they come together and ruin the golden opportunity that was presented on the dark day of September 11, 2001.
What were you trying to do in Liberty Bound, and what were you trying to discover?
CR: My motivation was that I wanted to, for myself, feel more effective in my own activism, in my own life; feel like I was doing something positive in trying to make my audience aware that there are things that aren’t reported on the evening news. So, my main goal in Liberty Bound was to show people what they did not see on CNN or their local news channel; to see the civil liberties violations of people like the one whom I called “Winston,” whom I literally walked in on during my train trip from Sacramento to the East Coast.
We stopped in Denver, Colorado and I had just gotten back from calling my husband and I walked back to the train and there was a group of police officers standing around outside, which I thought it was odd. So I boarded the train and as I went into my car, there was a gentleman there was being interrogated by the police, and my first instinct was just too turn around and leave, like “I don’t want any trouble.” But I thought, I’m a citizen, I have a right to be here, I bought my ticket, and so on. I was two seats behind where he was being interrogated, and moving to my seat I heard what this conversation was about, and they were basically threatening to eject him and worse if he didn’t promise to keep his mouth shut. Apparently, he said something in a private conversation to another passenger.
I was amazed because this is exactly what I was going across country to do – to talk to people who have suffered civil liberties violations in America since 9/11, who were oppressed for expressing themselves and so forth. So, I sat down and I flipped my video camera on, put my headphones on so it looked like I was minding my own business listening to music or something, and taped the conversation.
“When we speak of peace, we must also speak of freedom.” ~ Angela Y. Davis
…It has always been the part of the film that people say “Oh my God, Christine, that man on the train – I just can’t believe it!” because most people haven’t had a run-in with the police, most people haven’t suffered it or witnessed it firsthand like that. That was quite something; I mean, it’s one thing to hear someone talk about a violation or when they felt oppressed by an authority for expressing themselves, but it’s another to actually witness it.
We also had Jeff Seaman, who was expelled from the Coliseum and threatened with arrest if he didn’t leave quietly because he had turned around when President Bush was giving the commencement address for a graduation at Ohio State University in June, 2002. They had this thing where they were going to do a very silent protest called “Turn Your Back on Bush,” and a few did in fact do it (though everyone who was graduating was threatened with expulsion if they participated). Jeff and his wife and daughter, who weren’t going to school there, turned around, and Secret Service agents escorted them out and threatened to arrest them if they did not leave quietly.
And then you heard of Michael Moore— not the filmmaker, but the veteran – who sent an email out to some friends voicing his various passionate opinions about what was going on, and he was visited a month later by the Secret Service. They came to his house and they interrogated him for an afternoon; got all these addresses and phone numbers of his loved ones and such. You know, you hear these things and they are quite frightening, and there are dozens and dozens more; I could make a string of documentaries just on the civil liberties violations since 9/11 – and before.
In today’s paper – the New York Times – Kirk Johnson says, [paraphrasing]: Two people who say they were ejected from a taxpayer-financed appearance by President Bush in March because of an anti-war bumper sticker filed a federal lawsuit here on Monday charging that event staff members and federal employees broke the law.
“President Bush condemns the terrorists as evil, mistaken about God, etc. And America is generally in favor of these criticisms. However, it is my contention that, by and large, we do not, especially up at the level of President, use an ethical theory that is clearly superior to that which terrorists use. Sorry! Wish it weren’t true, but I think it is.” ~ John A. Marshall
CR: Oh, absolutely, that is nothing new. That has been happening since he took office. You basically have to sign a waiver that says, “I completely support this president and the government and their agenda” or whatever, or they won’t let you in. Just think of that— it baffles my mind that this is happening in the United States. But I think the main thing is that people don’t hear about it or it’s underreported and they just don’t notice, or the oh-so-often-repeated lament, “It’s a shame; it’s really too bad, but what can we do?”
My answer is always: “SOMETHING!” You can do something. Whatever that is— write your Congressmen, stand on the corner with a sign, donate to some group who is actively doing something such as civil/human rights attorneys like Michael Ratner (who was featured in my second film Internationally Speaking). You can do something, however small it might seem to you; it is a part of making things better.
JM: Voting. Its remarkable that a lot of people don’t vote, and of course it represents a certain cynicism that “the government does not serve my interests” and, although I would not say to them, “Sir, you are incorrect about that,” I still would suggest that one vote – it probably does change the system slightly. It’s dark what’s going on with voter suppression and oligarchy and such, but a 50% voting rate; voting taking place on a Tuesday, it’s all so pathetic. It would take a monumental arrogance on the part of a politician to not step down if they were voted out of office, and all it takes is a majority vote in certain elections to make that happen. I think we could bring our representatives to heel if we were to make it so that their incumbency was not guaranteed.
“Let America realize that self-scrutiny is not treason. Self-examination is not disloyalty.” ~ Richard Cardinal Cushing
CR: I agree. I have an idea; I think it’s probably not a very viable one, but I would wonder, and it would be interesting to do as an experiment, because everything we talk about are the beliefs that we form based on the information we get. Now, I get information that the average American doesn’t get because I look for it— I look at alternative news sources and so on. So maybe by beliefs are different because they are based on different information.
So, anyway, one of my beliefs is that multinational corporations are really in control of both major political parties in America; Republicans and Democrats are not a whole lot different when it comes to corporate sponsorship. So I have a theory, and it would be so great to get enough people together to see if it would actually work. And that is: the corporations are so very powerful, but as consumers, we ultimately control the corporation if we can organize, and if we can boycott.
Just take Walmart for example— if we could have a nationwide boycott of Walmart for a month, they would be on their knees listening to us; I think they survive because of where we spend our money. All we see is, “Hey, you can get a can of peas at Walmart four $.59 and at any other grocery store you’d have to pay $.89.” We just see the price and one-stop shopping— not having to go to six different places. What we don’t see is where our money is going; we don’t see it not stay in our communities; we don’t see the violations in labor laws, etc. Walmart is just an example; you name it – Starbucks is basically the same.
JM: That is interesting Christine. We’re out of time, I’m afraid. But I would bet that if one were to see your films or go to your website that they would find out a lot of interesting angles, perspectives, and ideas – ones that I think have a lot of merit. I especially like the courage that you show in pursuing your values, and I thank you for spending as much time with me as you did and talking about your both. I hope we can reverse some of the trends that have plagued America since 9/11.
CR: Thank you for having me, Jason.
I will now present a few more quotations relevant to the decay that has occurred in America since 9/11:
“Even before the war on terrorism produced new threats to civil liberties, the United States (as a conservative judge, Richard Posner, has observed) criminalized, “more conduct than most, maybe than any, non-Islamic nations.” ~ Gar Alperovitz
“Some of the worst violations of civil liberties [in the wake of 9/11] have happened without the input or authorization of Congress or the American public. In fact, it often happened with the discussion and the approval of a small number of men in the Executive Branch [of the United States federal government].”~ Anthony Romero
“Both conservatives and progressives feel that America is under grave threat, not from without, but within. The question is, Who is more dangerous to our liberty, character, future, and morals – gays, the poor, and unionists? Or Moral Majoritarians, civil rights magicians, or corporatists?” ~ Jason Merchey
“If we’re fighting for the values embodied in our Constitution, why throw them away? Why would we become more like the people we’re fighting? As a country that considers itself a beacon of freedom, we should be judged by how we treat civil liberties when it’s difficult to uphold them, not when it’s easy to do so.” ~ Alan Colmes
“On issues such as welfare or civil liberties, Clinton even turned to the right of Reagan and Bush. In fact both parties have drifted so far to the right over the past two decades that if they were playing in the NFL, the ball would have to be hiked from the press box.” ~ Sam Smith
“If we take our Constitution and founding ideals seriously, the business of America is democracy. A well-functioning democracy requires diverse and vibrant media to ensure a ‘vigorous, robust, uninhibited democracy.’” ~ Ralph Nader
“The awesome physical damage Osama and company did to us on Dark Tuesday [September 11, 2001] is nothing compared to the knockout blow to our vanishing civil liberties – the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996 combined with the recent requests to Congress for additional special powers to wiretap without judicial order; to deport lawful permanent residents, visitors, and undocumented immigrants without due process; and so on.” ~ Gore Vidal
“We stand strongest in challenging terrorism when we do not give up an inch of our civil liberties.” ~ Dennis Kucinich
The podcast of this interview “America Since 9/11” is available HERE.