It’s coming close to that time. I’m incredibly over hours & the boss wants to sit down & talk about my future. Will I start going home early? Will I do, well, what will I do? I sort of want to just keep on showing up & have that time in my pocket for job interviews. I have been applying like mad all over the place.
Yesterday when I came home from work I applied for every TSO opening available. Even the part time jobs start at around 30K. I can live off that. The TSO jobs however require a test. The extra hours would be nice to take a day & go to a testing facility.
I applied for a historian job in Springfield. That’s a job I can spend my life at, especially if it comes with an ash tray & a coffee machine. Lock me in a room & set me loose. It’s all research & achieves & breaking down information so other people can understand it. I already do it habitually, I already do it for recreation. I just brought a book about post Roman England, just to sit down & kill a few hours at a time checking the sources & figuring out what is gospel & what is not….you know…because I am the most boring individual on earth.
Some of the jobs, like the TSO jobs come with odd questions. Questions that make you wonder just where you stand in a country, or more specifically, where I stand with an organization like this. It’s a vague question here & there that makes me wonder.
“Have you ever been convicted of sedition?”
That question brings serious emotional questions to mind. It strikes an intense visual cord. When you read that you can’t help but think:
Sedition? Seriously? We convict people for that? I can remember three instances in American history were sedition was taken seriously. The first was with John Adams & his Alien & Sedition Act. In that little incident, accusing Americans of sedition lost him a second term. It made him one of the most hated men in early America.
We had, after all, just gone to war with a country that targeted our news papers & imprisoned our journalists. We had, in his lifetime, passed the 1st Amendment. We had, in no uncertain terms, made sedition and dissent legal actions. In the United States you could be as seditious as you wanted.
The second was under Wilson & I’m working in Woodstock, the town that housed the most famous American accused of sedition. Only it wasn’t exactly sedition that they locked him up for. The third, well the third was HAUC, the third gave us plays like The Crucible. The third was a witch hunt that ended the career of a certain unnameable Junior Senator from Wisconsin after he turned his witch hunt on the president himself.
History gave HAUC a black eye. It gave it a serious black eye. You don’t look on things like that favorably unless, well, unless you are a fascist. HAUC is only a positive if you want an authoritarian government. It’s only good if you are a supporter of totalitarianism. There are horrible isms that are attached to that support of anti-sedition laws.
“Have you ever been convicted of sedition?”
No, I have not.
The thing is though, I’ve been accused of sedition many times. I have been accused of sedition, I’ve been accused of dissent. I’ve been called nasty names. I have been called a “communist-fascist,” I have been called “un-American,” “un-patriotic,” & a laundry list of things even worse. It has been suggested that I go back to Russia, or that I go back to China, or France. I have been told over & over again to just get out of America & I have been accused of just hating this country. I have even been called a terrorist.
Sometimes, it has been some pretty important & influential people that have called me these names, & to my face. Most of the time though, it was people that I’ve never met.
I was in Michigan Avenue, among thousands, for that first push against the War on Terror. I sort of drew that line in the sand right away. You have to. Instinctively, when anyone says “you are either with us or against us,” you have to reflexively answer “against you.” You have no choice, statements like that require immediate resistance.
I didn’t know it at the time, but taking part in that march led me into seven years of total fear of detainment & arrest. One thing led to another & before I knew it I was so involved I couldn’t walk away. Things like that you either get in front of or, well, or you’re an asshole.
Of course, this was all a long time ago. Back then if you asked questions like “what does Iraq have to do with 9-11?” People would call you those names. If you were anti-war people would call you those names. If you questioned WMDs, people would call you those names. If you protested the war, if you were not a Republican, if you opposed the USA Patriot Act, or if you simply didn’t agree with absolutely everything that the White House said, then you would get that label.
I had the police called on my university, multiple times, because of overheard anti-Bush conversations. Melissa Bean told me to get out of America for disagreeing with her over the right to burn the American flag in protest…she was a Democrat.
Those were frightening times, especially for those of us actively involved in the anti-war movement. Sometimes it felt that we were only a signature away from getting rounded up on HAUC charges, brought before the senate, & asked to name names.
“Do you presently or have you ever disagreed with the War on Terror?”
That, thank God, has changed a lot. But the question still remains, have I ever been convicted of sedition?
No, but I think there were points in my life where that could have gone either way. Had they passed H.R. 1955 I would be in jail on terrorist charges. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed on that one.
No I haven’t been convicted on sedition, because that part of America held strong. There were still people out there that believed that Free Speech was a black & white issue, one of the few things that you are either for or against.
Everyone is for the freedom of speech, when it is speech they agree with. Even Goebbels supported the free speech that supported him. It is only the wise among us that understand that hate speech is still free speech, even if you don’t support what is being said. You can be anti-racism all you want, but you better damn well support the KKK’s right to march in your community. If they don’t have that right, then yes, I would have been found guilty of sedition, while protesting the war.
Today that has changed completely. It used to be un-American not to support absolutely everything the government said or did. Today it is the opposite, today you are un-American if you support anything the government does & its the same people that use that term today that used it all those years ago.
No, I have never been convicted of sedition, but I was a stone’s throw away from it for seven long years.
The other question I’ve had in some of the government applications was:
“Do you consider yourself a patriot?”
Do I? Well, yes I do. I consider myself a patriot, but you probably don’t. I have been told as much. I have been stopped & searched & gassed & detained for being, what I consider, patriotic.
I was at the RNC in Saint Paul in 2008. I saw Amy Goodmen get arrested for reporting on the protest outside. I saw the tear gas & I saw the police, in full riot gear, arrest the witnesses in the park across the street. I saw Rage Against the Machine pass around a megaphone when they were denied the right to play & I saw the witnesses get arrested. I saw people get arrested just for witnessing the police arrest people.
I have never been more frightened in my entire life. But that was the end, wasn’t it? That was the last battle. After seven exhausting years of war it all ended in St. Paul. Seven years of wondering if I would get arrested, if I would be convicted of terrorism or sedition for using my 1st Amendment right & it all ended in that horrible battle in St. Paul.
St. Paul was really the end. The momentum broke there, those of us who were in it from the start sat down & took a break. Obama was elected president & suddenly that constant fear of arrest was lifted. Even people like me, who didn’t support him, broke down in tears. Obama meant that those seven years of fear were gone. He meant that I could organize an anti-war march & not fear arrest. He meant that I could get in front of a micro-phone again & say whatever I wanted about him & no longer be afraid.
I went down to Grant Park during his inauguration shindig. It felt like a discharge. It felt like my war was over. So now what do I do? Seven years flashed by & now what?
I was twenty-one when I started & I was almost thirty when I finally got to rest. I blinked & my twenties were gone. Most people get to live through their twenties at bars & parties. “I was in college & we were so hammered.” Seven years later, my twenties were over & I have travel stories & just horrible stories of arrests & riot gear. I like the travel stories a lot more.
A lot of the people I know traveled. You can see a lot of America when you are in the anti-war movement, but the real draw is “abroad.” You can really relax when you’re away.
“Do I consider myself a patriot?”
Yes I do. Right now the government does. At the moment the government does, but it was touch & go there for a long time, wasn’t it? No, what I did was patriotic, for seven years of my life, my twenties were borderline terrorist. Today I can go to an anti-war rally & be patriotically exercising my right to sedition. But that wasn’t always the case.
I answer yes to that question when I fill out applications. I had never once thought I was not acting patriotically. I had always thought I was serving my country. It’s just, for a while there, my country didn’t understand that I was acting in its best interests.
“List the organizations you were a part of in college.”
Thank you, no. That I leave blank. I worked for Senior Services as a volunteer a couple of times. I might put that in. Otherwise, it looks like I was lazy in college. It looks like I went to school & that was it.
“List the organizations you were a part of in college.”
The Anti-War Coalition
Human Rights Watch
The Rainbow Coalition
The Black Panthers
The International Socialist Organization
Industrial Workers of The World
The American Indian Movement
Not a single one of those feel safe enough to put on a resume. The Rainbow Coalition sounds nice, until you realize that it was a civil rights movement. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were both considered terrorist organizations by the Bush Administration.
Do you really want to put a human rights organization on a job application?
Do you want to say that, yes, you were an officer in the ISO when applying for a government job? Do you want to say that you had a leadership position in the Anti-War Coalition?
“List any outstanding achievements.”
I was personally involved in organizing a march of thousands of people to protest the invasion of Iraq.
That type of thing will have your job application end up in the trash. There is no question about it. that’s an instant red flag. Sure, you might be able to successfully organize & lead thousands of people, but the situation in which you organized & led thousands of people is a bit of red flag. Just a little one, a red flag about the size of the Pacific Ocean.
Do I really represent the ideals of the post?
I don’t know. I can tell you this, it certainly isn’t the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life. I don’t know if I can really rally around a flag any longer. After seven years of being afraid I could be arrested, after things like St. Paul, I have a hard time with words like “leader.” You can’t really follow without first asking questions.
And then there are those other government job questions:
What is my role as a citizen?
What? In a country where elected officials have told me to get out & go back to Russia? Am I a citizen of the country that had that mass arrest in St. Paul? Am I the country that levied terrorism charges against journalists that reported on the protest & the arrests?
What is my role as a citizen?
Am I a citizen of the country before St. Paul or after? Because citizen means something entirely different before & after that mess doesn’t it?
Can one person make a difference?
Am I supposed to be a cheerleader? No, one person can’t. Trust me, thousands of people can’t either. Been there, done that, & I’ve seen exactly how much difference it made. I went to my first protest in 2001, I started that career in 2001. It is 2014 & we still have troops deployed.
What special skills can I bring to the table?
I’d tell you but I would probably be kicked out of here in an instant. I can tell you what you need to do to pick up a canister of tear gas & throw it back at the police without getting hurt. That is a special skill. That takes talent. You know the people that know how to do that, you can spot them in an instant. They have bicycle helmets with them even though they rode no bike.
I don’t know. It makes me ask a few questions.
Am I still welcome here?
Do you still consider me a citizen?
Would you define me as a patriot?
Am I a welcome part of your America?
Would I be allowed to work for the government?
Has America forgiven me for actively opposing the War on Terror?
Thanks to my past, do I still have a future here?
I don’t think I did anything wrong, but a lot of people still do.