On A Parent’s Death And Minding Your Tongue In The U.S.A.

I’ll be quite frank. I’m never completely comfortable in discussing certain persons, such as Fidel Castro, on the phone, nor forwarding e-mail content concerning them, such as his Visiones Alternativas – Reflections of Fidel:The moment of truth about the recent Copenhagen events. Certainly, it would be so much easier to simply avoid certain topics altogether in communications because there so often are direct or indirect repercussions for involvements in particular matters, as is inferred at Ex-Snoop Confirms Echelon Network60 Minutes — CBS News:

“Everywhere in the world, every day, people’s phone calls, emails and faxes are monitored by Echelon, a secret government surveillance network. No, it’s not fiction straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. It’s reality…”

We learn more fully about this spy activity from a transcript of 60 Minutes on Echelon:

KROFT: … Is it possible for people like you and I, innocent civilians, to be targeted by Echelon?

Mr. FROST: Not only possible, not only probable, but factual. While I was at CSE, a classic example: A lady had been to a school play the night before, and her son was in the school play and she thought he did a–a lousy job. Next morning, she was talking on the telephone to her friend, and she said to her friend something like this, ‘Oh, Danny really bombed last night,’ just like that. The computer spit that conversation out. The analyst that was looking at it was not too sure about what the conversation w–was referring to, so erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady and her phone number in the database as a possible terrorist.

KROFT: This is not urban legend you’re talking about. This actually happened?

Mr. FROST: Factual. Absolutely fact. No legend here.

(Vintage footage of Fonda; Spock; King; congressional hearing; the Capitol building)

KROFT: (Voiceover) Back in the 1970s, the NSA was caught red-handed spying on anti-war protesters like Jane Fonda and Dr. Benjamin Spock, and it turns out they had been recording the conversations of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King in the 1960s. When Congress found out, it drafted strict, new laws prohibiting the NSA from spying on Americans, but today, there’s enough renewed concern about potential abuses that Congress is revisiting the issue.

Representative BOB BARR (Republican, Georgia): (From C-SPAN) One such project known as Project Echelon engages in the interception of literally millions of communications involving United States citizens.

(Footage of Barr; NSA sign; Goss and Kroft)

KROFT: (Voiceover) But even members of Congress have trouble getting information about Echelon. Last year, the NSA refused to provide internal memoranda on the program to Porter Goss, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee…

Meanwhile, my mother, who died last month, knew of the prospective backlash for stating certain taboo words of the sort that Danny’s relative, who was discussed above, had used. She, also, knew of outcomes for being outspoken or involved in social activism. So she repeatedly asked me, during her last several years, about whether I was making sure that I was being sufficiently self-protective when passing along information on the internet or phone.

As a former friend of left-leaning individuals like Howard Fast, Andy Goodman and other remarkable martyrs, she knew well about the tragic consequences stemming from one’s bucking the status quo. In addition, she, over the years, became increasingly worried for others’ well-being when they did so because it was her opinion that the U.S.A. was likely turning into a fascist police state.

She had further reasons to be apprehensive since she well remembered the U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and had refused to sign loyalty papers while serving as a junior high school teacher during the Second Red Scare. Similarly, she realized that huge amounts of funds were currently being transferred by the federal government to internet service providers and telecommunications companies in exchange for records of their customers. Further, she was aware that such collected information is stored in perpetuity to build profiles, as can be deduced from the report at FISA – Salon.com:

This summer, on a remote stretch of desert in central Utah, the National Security Agency will begin work on a massive, 1 million-square-foot data warehouse. Costing more than $1.5 billion, the highly secret facility is designed to house upward of trillions of intercepted phone calls, e-mail messages, Internet searches and other communications intercepted by the agency as part of its expansive eavesdropping operations. The NSA is also completing work on another data warehouse, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.

At the same time, she knew about many of the actions undertaken against peaceful individuals and groups, and remembered the march in NY discussed in my essay “Who’s A Low Level Terrorist? Are You?”:

… Indeed the participants of the first antiwar protest against the Vietnam incursion, put together in the mid-1960’s by peaceable Quakers and FOR members after having discussed Gandhi’s Salt March as a model for a nonviolent demonstration, faced government operatives filming them face by face from rooftops as they moved en masse down Broadway to the UN Plaza. (My mother, a pacifist married to a World War II Conscientious Objector, and I, a child at the time of the march, both were in attendance. When the film crew focused on us, she stood tall, faced the agents with their telephoto lens, glared in disdainful defiance and, simultaneously, throw the corner of her coat over my face. Afterwards, she muttered, ‘How dare they try to intimidate us!’)

All things considered, she understood perfectly well the reason that members of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) would attack an oil pipeline operated by international oil giants Shell and Chevron. Yet she, also, recognized that, incredibly, someone in the USA does NOT have to carry out any attacks whatsoever to be a target of one.

As such, she wasn’t surprised one bit that Bette Hoover, the sixty-one year old Clerk (religious leader) of a Quaker Meeting that one of our relatives attends, was in trouble with law enforcement agencies, as THE ENEMY WITHIN – Victims of Md. State Police spying still uneasy explains. It’s simply par for the course and, on account, it was equally hard for her to be astonished that members of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), recipient of the 1947 Nobel Peace award, were harassed, as well as investigated by eleven federal agencies, including the FBI and the CIA.

In fact, any individuals or groups at all could have a serious problem if they somehow managed to upset members of particular federal or State agencies tasked with maintaining the social structure going forward exactly as planned. No one is to disrupt that process and certainly not peace advocates or picayune troublemakers pointing out an inflammatory report discussing the United States’s agenda by a despised rebel named Fidel Castro.

So it is with reluctance that I passed along the text of his evaluation to friends even though my mother asked me, on her deathbed, to promise that I would continue to work very, very hard to ensure that the Earth in the future would be a fit place for habitation by humans and other forms of life. While envisioning the world carrying onward without her, she was less concerned about her personal existence ending than furtherance of the underlying purposes to which she had dedicated her time while alive.

In other words, she wanted to be sure that I would carry on to try to improve the quality of life on this planet and was more focused on this matter than her rapidly approaching demise. In such a spirit, one become obliged, as a matter of conscience, to inform others about critical subjects, like Castro’s critical and insightful assessment, despite any ugly ramifications connected to the action.

As my mother deeply understood, it is one’s undeniable duty to carry on that sort of undertaking. Educating others to weigh important issues from many diverse vantage points and towards the aim of correcting wrongs cannot be set aside for the next generation to take up when they reach maturity.

Without a doubt, it would, tragically, be too late by then to begin addressing climate change, the growth of police state tactics and so many other urgently pressing issues impacting us all. Clearly, the world just can’t wait and, as my mother’s activities indicated, neither can we.

Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts. She can be reached at: EHSpence@aol.com Read other articles by Emily.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Leslie Jones said on December 21st, 2009 at 10:19am #

    I find this tragic.It must be difficult to reconcile for a compassionate activist that they might be a threat to know for those nearest and dearest.
    I an sure such invasions and Big Brother tactics would make targets suffer with a sense of isolation, and that while watched and intruded upon-they are “toxic material” to know and love.

    Strong precautionary methods as mentioned seem to be the best defense.

  2. joed said on December 21st, 2009 at 11:55am #

    well, this is why i sometimes write, “do no kill the president” in my email subject line. you guys have the govt you deserve. if you are not willing to sacrifice and endure hardship and risk all you got then just continue to ignore the nsa and hsa and the bsa because they already got your number. “do not kill the president”.
    also, them cubans know how to get along and survive. there is a wonderful video out about cuba and community and food.

  3. Emily said on December 21st, 2009 at 5:30pm #

    Thank you both for your comments. They’re appreciated.

    Leslie, it is a sad pattern, of course. However, it serves as a great motivator to be mutually protective and involved in outreach.

    For example, there was my girlfriend Mary H., who was, in the 1960’s, peacefully demonstrating with others outside of a particular kind of research facility in MD. Then, roughnecks came and started smacking people around, especially an obviously gay man who was a stranger to my friend. So she, instinctively, threw her body on his as she knew that the beaters would be less prone to bloody-up an obviously middle class, white college student, a female who was well dressed.

    So they all got hauled off to jail and her parents, shocked with her behavior, disowned her after bailing her out of jail. Indeed, they told her that they didn’t pay for her college tuition for her to become “a radical nut”. So, they took away her college funds and, literally, threw her out of their home. Then, she found the Quakers (although she was a Catholic), who got her a job, housing and free tuition (through a work-study program) at Columbia University. (How uplifting and how necessary an action it was as she didn’t know where to turn elsewhere and otherwise for help to continue onward in her life!)

    For another instance, a relative of mine was driving down a highway to take her teenaged girl to a soccer game. She saw two teenaged boys vigorously kicking and beating another one in a ditch on the other side of the four lane highway. So she went up to the next intersection and turned her car around to go to them. Her daughter, meanwhile, was stating comments like, “Please don’t do this. I am embarrassed as they might know me. It is not your business, Mom. Let them work it out. I’ll be late for my game…” and so on.

    So my relative, quickly and grimly, handed the cell phone to her daughter, got out of the car and locked the doors behind herself. Then she said to the injured boy (rightfully so, as he hypothetically could have been in bad shape with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen or whatever else could be wrong), “Are you all right? Do you want me to call 911? My daughter, in the locked car, has a cell phone.” (This was her way of informing them all that, if they would start to beat her for interfering, her daughter would call the police and the daughter couldn’t be reached by them since the car was locked.)

    He replied, “No, I am not. Call 911.” Meanwhile, his shirt was all torn off and he had bloody cuts and swollen bruises all over his body, including on his head.

    One of the two other (the ringleader, the most aggressive beater and kicker) said, “Lady, just leave. This is not your business.”

    My relative firmly replied, “No, I won’t leave and, yes, it is my business. Anytime that one human is hurting another human, it is DEFINITELY my business. Get off him now!”

    The two attackers did so and my relative asked again whether she should call 911. The hurt boy said, “No. I’ll just go home and I’ll have my mother call my doctor or take me to the hospital if I need to get medical aid.”

    Meanwhile, my relative watched the worst bully slink away into a nearby house. So she drove to its driveway and rang the front door bell. Then the boy opened it and she asked him whether his parents were home as she wanted to talk with them.

    He replied that they weren’t and that he was very sorry about the situation, but had gotten carried away in the heat of the attack. She, in turn, told him that, if he and the other aggressor hadn’t stopped when she’d entered the scene, they could have put the boy in the hospital or have killed him. As it was, they might be faced with a lawsuit, court date and jail time. Therefore, they have to always try to avoid such actions and try peaceful ways to resolve differences as a first and only measure. She also suggested that he talk with his parents or school guidance counselor about anger management, as well as consider asking the harmed boy to please not press charges and find, with him, ways to provide restitution, apology, amends for the assault.

    So Leslie, we carry onward and are especially mindful to protect others since there are so many potential pitfalls. It’s par for the course, I guess.

    Joed, You can read a bit about my background in the following two pieces to see about the “type” of person that I am and the way that I act in terms of my being an American. Whether you do or don’t read the essays, I am curious on these points:

    How is it that Leslie, I or any other potential victim of a possibly abusive governmental system deserves wrongful treatment? Why would anyone deserve to be mistreated? Is this your sense of rough justice? For what sort of actions would Leslie or I warrant receiving oppression and harm?

  4. Emily said on December 21st, 2009 at 5:33pm #

    Joed, here are the links to the aforementioned essays:

    Hiroshima Maidens and Gandhi’s Admonition http://thomaspainescorner.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/hiroshima-maidens-and-gandhis-admonition/.

    Democratic Underground – Raising Progressive Offspring … http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18396.h. …www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=…
    == http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=389&topic_id=1876324&mesg_id=1876324

  5. joed said on December 21st, 2009 at 6:59pm #

    perhaps “deserve” is the wrong word. after more thought i would rather say that the govt you have is the govt you have allowed to exist. you have brought it on yourselves.
    i did not want to say anyone “deserves” to be assulted. i meant no offence. not much chance of things getting any better untill/unless a lot of folks shut down the neighborhood for a few days but i don’t see that happening either. I will look at the links you provided, here is a link for y’all,
    http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/
    it is possible the only “western” religion that has done more good than harm is The Quakers.

  6. Josie Michel-Brüning said on December 22nd, 2009 at 7:05am #

    Dearest Emily Spence,
    I am appreciating your article very much and considering translating it into German for my friends and hopefully for others, as well,
    because of our troublesome German history, which most of us seem to have forgotten while not realizing that we are approaching those fascist times again, this time headed by the so-called land of the free, the United States.

  7. Emily said on December 22nd, 2009 at 9:19am #

    In terms of the social and governmental structures becoming more draconian over time, I blame anyone who happily capitulates regardless of his nationality and, meanwhile, the transnational elites, who have no sense of loyalty to any country, somehow manage to simultaneously manipulate government reps across the entire world to fulfill their aims towards unbridled self-enrichment. (All the same, most of us are, also, to blame to some small extent for the underlying ills, as Mordechai Vanunu points out in I Am Your Spy at http://vanunu.com/poems/mvpoemspy.html, since we, directly or indirectly, support dysfunctional systems — i.e., by buying goods made in sweatshops, paying taxes that are used for armament purchases, etc.)

    In any case, we are dividing up into a two tiered world, as I mentioned in Dissident Voice : The Widening Gap In America’s Two-Tiered … (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/the-widening-gap-in-americas-two-tiered-society/), The Worsening U.S. Failure (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12931) and a number of other essays. Further, the sheeply masses largely can’t help their supportive role in the process as they have been bamboozled by years of deliberate propaganda via the MSM, many iconic leaders, the ad industry and other sources. In addition, many of them have been recipients of poor public education that leads to lack of imagination to see and seek out alternatives to the wrong structures. Similarly, they’ve been inundated via many other forces oriented to encourage apathy, self-centeredness, conformity, unbridled consumption, greed, passivity and other unfortunate outcomes.

    Besides, it is hard for any group to move forward into new possibilities, anyway, when the power, wealth, crowd control weapons, resources and so forth are concentrated to primarily serve one small set of people at the expense of everyone else. Of course, too, members of the latter group would not want to support much by way of meaningful change as it would cut back on the huge financial and other sorts of gains that they currently receive from the status quo being as it is. (Former Senator Fritz Hollings explains part of the underlying situation well in They’re All Against Jobs at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-ernest-frederick-hollings/theyre-all-against-jobs_b_397405.html).

    So, people in many nations need to be warned and warned again about the further mess that is coming to us all if we don’t identify the underlying problems and, then, start figuring out feasible ways to address them. This is the reason that, as a first step, we need to ASAP reach out to inform many others everywhere about the critical matters that confront us all!

  8. Deadbeat said on December 23rd, 2009 at 2:38am #

    So, people in many nations need to be warned and warned again about the further mess that is coming to us all if we don’t identify the underlying problems and, then, start figuring out feasible ways to address them. This is the reason that, as a first step, we need to ASAP reach out to inform many others everywhere about the critical matters that confront us all!

    I agree that people need to be informed but there seems to be an awful passivity in explaining how Capitalism truly functions especially by progressive authors. Not once did you use the word in your piece and provide a critical analysis.

    In addition “consumption” seems to be getting a bad rap. In fact you claim that American are engaged in “unbridled” consumption. That would come as news to most working people who are struggling with unemployment and flat real wage growth for the past 30 years. What I think writer like yourself need to understand is the type of consumption that Capitalism imposes on working people.

    For example HOUSING which is vital to survival is a commodity under Capitalism and landlords can “own” as many homes as they can afford and extract wealth out of people’s real need for shelter. Health Care is a commodity and Capitalist stand in the way of a real HUMAN need. Child care is expensive as more household members are forced into wage slavery. Transportation is expensive as people are mandated to purchase auto insurance while they have to move further away from their jobs to find an affordable place to live with no mass transit facilities. And finally tax burdens have been shifted onto workers as government rely on regressive taxation.

    Americans have to work more hours just to maintain themselves in this society thus binge buying is not the behavior of most Americans. Housing, health care, education, child care and transportation costs coupled with regressive taxes are the real drain on American wallets.

    Misrepresenting that dynamic in many ways demonstates a LACK of compassion towards the millions of American workers, exemplifies why the “Left” is seemingly out of touch with working people, and why the Right appears popular to many in the working class by comparison.