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King George Abuses 1st Amendment
Published on Thursday, October 28, 2004 by the Capital Times / Madison, Wisconsin
King George Abuses 1st Amendment
by John Nichols

The true American revolutionaries - Tom Jefferson, Tom Paine and their kind - always argued that the rebellion against King George III was unfinished business. Jefferson went so far as to suggest that the tree of liberty would need to be watered every 20 years or so with the blood of patriots.

When another King George brought his royal tour to southwestern Wisconsin Tuesday, high school students in Richland Center got a powerful lesson regarding the difficulty of stamping out the regal impulse in the lesser leaders of our age.

The Bush-Cheney campaign rented the local high school and applied the divine right of kings - or at least one ill-prepared and inarticulate boy king - to what had been a public school. Richland Center students were informed that they could attend the audience with His Highness only if they donned approved apparel: a Bush for President T-shirt or so-called "neutral clothing." What they could not wear was any clothing that promoted the cause of any dissenter to the rule of King George.

If they showed up dressed inappropriately, students were warned, they would be removed from what was perhaps the biggest-ever event at their school.

What could justify such an abuse of the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly? The principal of Richland Center High School - whose boss, the superintendent of schools for the city, is the wife of Republican congressional candidate Dale Schultz - had no problem eliminating a few basic liberties because, as he put it, students were being given a rare opportunity to spend time in the presence of their king, er, president. The principal needs to review a few American history books.

The American Revolution was fought, in Paine's words, to "establish a new social order." Central to that new order's philosophy of being was the notion that every American must be endowed, as Jefferson explained, with "the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion."

That right was denied in Richland Center by the Bush campaign and school officials who do not understand or respect the ideals that inspired the American revolution against King George - who Paine dismissed as the "Royal Brute" - and against the warped values that claimed God wanted power to pass from a wealthy and privileged father to a wealthy and privileged son.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that the Bill of Rights was torn up to make way for a royal visit to Wisconsin by the current King George. During previous regal tours of Wisconsin, a man who held up an anti-Bush sign as His Highness passed was arrested in Platteville, peaceful demonstrators were denied access to a space they had reserved in La Crosse because there was an outside chance that their objections might momentarily be seen or heard by the visiting king, and an Outagamie County official was hustled out of a royal rally in Ashwaubenon because he was wearing a T-shirt that mentioned the name of a foe of the boy king.

This King George is no more open to dissent than the previous King George.

What to do?

The last Royal Brute's excesses inspired Tom Jefferson to argue "that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to (the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government ..."

In light of the current Royal Brute's excesses, it would seem only appropriate Tuesday to water the tree of liberty with - if not the blood of patriots - then certainly their votes.

© 2004 Capital Times


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