Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Osama Spectacle and the Silencing of Dissent

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am one of a growing number of Americans who have serious doubts regarding the official conspiracy theory of what happened on September 11th, 2001.

I have written about this before and you will find links to those posts and to other resources at the bottom of the sidebar.

I have joined other religious leaders such as David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Walter Wink, Carol P. Christ, and Marvin Ellison, in signing this statement. The above are religious authors who I respect for their theological work and now respect even more for voicing their dissent.

And now Osama bin Laden (we are told) has been killed in Pakistan, his body DNA tested, and buried at sea all before you can say 'media circus'. The bonus is that this all happens after Obama trumps Trump over the "birther" nonsense. Now the "birthers" and the "truthers" can be linked together as tinfoil hat wearing moonbats. If you see no difference between the two, then there is little I can say.

I don't expect, you, my progressive friends, to go there with me. It is a dark place. I have no interest in losing friends and allies surrounding those things we share in common. I don't insist on my views even as occasionally I feel the need to share them.

However, perhaps you have felt a pit in your stomach the past few days. Maybe it is the jubilation. Maybe it's the media frenzy. Maybe it is all of the dead left in our wake the past decade in supposed search of this individual and others in our endless "war on terror". Maybe it is the ongoing feeling of being duped but you aren't sure how or when. Maybe it is the feeling that if you express these feelings and don't chant "USA! USA!" your family members, friends, co-workers, or boss will stuff an American flag in your mouth.

A Tale of Two Tweets

What I find disturbing is the silencing of dissent. I have two stories. Both have to do with tweeting. Yesterday, Jeff Wattrick of MLive.com reported on a tweet by John Conyers III, the son of Congressman John Conyers. The son of the congressman sent the following tweet:

IF YOU BELIEVE THAT OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS SOLELY BEHIND 9/11 AND THE US HAD NO INVOLVEMENT OR KNOWLEDGE. YOU ARE A FOOL.
Wattrick followed up on that contacting not only the congressman's son but the congressman himself. The congressman's office had no comment. This seems reasonable. As embarrassing as it may be for a congressperson, I don't think it is the business of elected officials to be responsible for things their relatives say. Wattrick wrote:
So, why does this matter?

For starters, yeah, it’s big deal when the adult son (with his own leadership aspirations) of a powerful Congressman claims the U.S. government was complicit in the bloodiest foreign attack ever on American soil. Try to imagine Senator Arthur Vandenberg's children claiming FDR had prior knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack during or after World War II.

And for the record, MLive didn’t go looking for John Conyers III’s opinion. This isn’t “gotcha journalism.” We didn’t ambush him with a tape recorder or camera. He made the decision to broadcast his views on a public social media site for the whole world to see.

Conspiracy theories, particularly Conyers III’s brand, are becoming something more than mere nuisance. Skepticism is virtue, but not at the expense of reason.
What caught my eye were these last two sentences. If they "are becoming more than mere nuisance" then what are they? What are "more than mere nuisance"? Crimes? Is free speech "more than mere nuisance"? What are we to do about these nuisances who exercise their first amendment right? What exactly are you proposing, Mr. Wattrick?

We may not like "conspiracy theories". I certainly am no fan of the government's conspiracy theory. But people do hold them. If they hold them, they have the right to express them and as far as I am concerned, I have an obligation as an American citizen to defend that right.

The second tweet was featured in the sports section of today's Johnson City Press. Rashard Mendenhall, a professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, tweeted:

“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
I am with you, Mr. Mendenhall, along with nearly 1500 architects and engineers. Apparently, the Steelers felt the need to respond.
On Tuesday, team president Art Rooney II released a statement.

“I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments. The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”
What is happening here? Now Mendenhall and his tweets have turned into a media frenzy. Have we come to a period in time when not even sports figures are allowed to express dissent? Do those who fail to cheer the Osama Spectacle dishonor the family members of those who died on September 11th, 2001? Are those who express doubt and dissent regarding the government's storyline no longer Americans?

I hope we are not coming to that, but you might want to read the latest from David Ray Griffin before you decide.

I am thankful today for 911 widow and activist, Kristen Breitweiser and U.S. Military Officers for 9/11 Truth, and the many, many others who are bravely voicing (and tweeting) their dissent.

These are the people who give me hope.
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