A.N I wrote this last fall as an assignment for a US History class. I'll admit that it is rather one sided, but it was intended to be an editorial. Constructive criticism and rebuttals are welcome.

"It is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right to free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world." ~~Eugene V. Debs, 1918

It is a strange irony that we are most willing to allow our rights to be taken from us when we are fighting for those very rights. In his speech at Canton, Ohio, Eugene Debs denounced the United States of being an imperialistic society dominated by Wall Street that was using patriotism to facilitate picking off leaders of the Socialist Movement. This movement's position on the war was best summed up by Debs himself who stated that he would rather be shot for treason than to support a war which, according to him was designed to further the ruling class. For his eloquent commentary Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison. (In an even stranger irony, the movement that Debs defended would that same year begin policies in Russia which would quell free speech beyond anyone's worst nightmares.)

The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Amendment of 1918 raped the Bill of Rights under the pretense of protecting her. The First and Fourth Amendments took the worst blows.
Freedom of the press was limited to those newspapers which supported the war effort. Newspapers and journals which allotted space in their publications to anti-war views were denied postal circulation or blatantly forced to shut down by lawsuits. The Masses, a socialist journal was closed down because of articles and cartoons that had been printed were determined to undermine the war effort. At least one of the writers-Max Eastman-was sent to jail for expressing his opinion. Amazing, David Lipscomb's Nashville based Gospel Advocate didn't suffered a repeat of the Civil War when it was suspended due to it's pacifist slant.
The right of the individual to hold an opinion was destroyed as well. Propaganda encouraged people to spy on their neighbors. Everyday citizens reported the eccentric behavior of their neighbors which could be interpreted as 'unpatriotic' in any way, form, or fashion.
Those who suffered the most from these policies were those from whom the government had the least to fear. Four hundred and fifty conscientious objectors were jailed for their belief. That action went far beyond protecting the United States from treason. These were pacifists. To go fight for the Central Powers would have been against their mantra. They posed no threat to the United States-except as a group which would bring to the attention of the public the drawbacks of the war.
Socialists were the other group to suffer. Many, including Debs, would have fought if they had felt that it would help usher in the new Socialist Era they sought to create, but again they weren't about to go enlist in Germany's army. At this time Germany was still under the rule of a Kaiser. An imperial country, the ultimate antithesis of their idealism!
This insanity was the direct result of a government's and a people's fear. Members of Congress and the Executive Branch realized that there case for war was a delicate house of cards. One strong voice in opposition could have caused that house to crumble. By silencing any threatening voices, the stage was set to allow war fever and blind obedience to swept the nation. A people's fear of perceived threats to their security allowed these acts to pass. Dissension became the ultimate crime and the atmosphere embodied Fang Lizhi's statement: 'Patriotism can mean many things, ranging from the purest of emotions to the dirtiest of politics.

Couldn't happen today? Don't be so sure. September 11, 2001, awakened a sleeping patriotism that can be used for good or evil. Don't be so confident that it won't be used for evil.
The United States as a whole is suddenly scared again. We've realized that other nations don't love us; in fact, many strongly dislike us. We've been asked to give up rights already , and, in some cases, the public is just begging the government to take civil rights away. Airplane security for example, every time I turn on the TV someone else is whining that it just isn't enough. Well, the only thing left to do is to strip search everyone who steps on the plane! And woe to the person who opposes this. He or she will be assailed by peers informing him or her that he or she is on the same level as a terrorist.
The USA Patriot Act (the name itself scares me) was signed into law October 26, 2001. Changes made to laws by this act are huge. It allows the FBI to check internet searches, e-mail, chat, or anything else that it's little heart desires to check on. Even more troubling, this Act allows the FBI to tap phone lines at any time-without a court order.
George W. Bush had proposed a program that would encourage ordinary citizens to call in and report the unpatriotic behavior of other citizens. The TIPS program would use your next-door voyeuristic neighbor with binoculars to spy on you! This is just asking for trouble. What 'unpatriotic' has come to mean lately would send any guilty of not selling their souls to the government in the lock-up, or anyone who thinks the 9-11 sensationalism is insane, or anyone who places their God above their government. Depending one who you're living next to, unpatriotic could be reciting the Lord's Prayer. "Thy Kingdom come..." Why look! There's a regime change right there.
"War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength." Is the United States moving towards a 2084? If we are to avoid becoming a nation based in myth, we must defend liberty. Not with guns and missiles on some foreign front but with voices, pens, and keyboards on the domestic front.