Friday, May 8, 2009

Right-wingers have valid beef (for once)

Recently, the Obama administration released a memo warning Homeland Security agents to be on the lookout for "domestic rightwing terrorists." (Read the full memo, here.)

Those who self-identify with the right wing of the conservative movement but who are not terrorists are, understandably, miffed that the government seems to be singling out a certain brand of belief as leading to terrorism. I imagine it's similar to how many Muslims feel.

Notwithstanding the facts that recent major domestic terror attacks (Oklahoma City, for example) have been by folks from the militant right wing and that the memo deals with these militant persons rather than conservatism as a political ideology, conservatives in general have plenty reason to be angry.

Any form of repression aimed at a certain bent of political thought (even if that repression is only monitoring and even if that political thought is kooky) should be headed off by the First Amendment. Freedom of association and speech and all that.

Terrorists and terrorists-in-planning, after all, can be prosecuted no matter what their motives are. It's the action or planning, not the ideology, that is illegal.

Lefties should be sympathetic. This is eerily familiar to the George W. Bush administration using the Patriot Act to snoop on antiwar protesters and groups that didn't toe the Bush ideological line. (Although, it is ironic to see conservatives support Bush's actions but recoil in horror when Obama turns the tables — something some of us warned could happen if such power was given to the Executive Branch.)

I'd like to think we can remain vigilant and alert without squelching freedom of thought. Remember, you can only claim to support freedom of speech if you protect the speech you disagree with.

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