‘With-us-or-against-us’ mentality hurts America’s democracy

How much is this presidential election affecting the individual and collective freedoms of Americans? The rivalry between candidates George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry is putting the freedom of ideological diversity among Americans at risk. The world is witnessing America’s lack of tolerance of political differences, exemplified through our system of intolerance that threatens our freedom to protest.

It is a big paradox: America is the country that carries the emblem of world democracy and claims to be the land of freedom where everyone has the right to choose, agree and disagree.

Yet, it seems most people in this country are forgetting that disagreement is also a right. Is it a crime to protest, to think differently?

The Cold War has ended. Now we are in a war against terrorism. During the Cold War era, opposing the government was considered a Communist action — a crime not only in America, but in other countries as well, including Latin America. Nowadays, opposing Bush can be considered unpatriotic or even terrorist in nature.

As most of you know, the Republican National Convention took place in New York City, a place that marks a before and after in history. This is the city where the world witnessed how the World Trade Center was destroyed and thousands perished.

New York is the symbol of our new era. This is where this new chapter in world history originated, and it seems to be the place where the future of America and the world will be defined.

New York is also a place where Democrats outnumber Republicans. The purpose of holding the convention in this city was to give tribute to those who died. Was this a risky move for the Bush administration? Was it risky as far as security? Maybe it was not.

FBI agents visited at least six states in August, asking political activists questions. Activists were asked what their intentions during the convention in New York were. Does this mean someone who does not like Bush is a terrorist? Isn’t this intimidation of individual and collective rights to be an active member of a political party?

It seems this land of freedom is creating a great divide between political affiliations. You are either a Bushist or a terrorist.

So, if I want to protest against Bush, am I a terrorist? Is this true? I do not think so. Is it possible that we are going through times where a “black list” will be filled with the names of those who are active members of political parties that oppose Bush’s ideology and policies? What kind of democracy is this? Is this the democratic model America wants to export, the democracy that debates whether the torture of war prisoners is legal in order to get information?

In the case of the Republican National Committee, an enormous security infrastructure was prepared. At least 10,000 policemen, soldiers, secret agents, trained dogs, armor-plated vehicles and helicopters were ready for New York City. Most of this was to suppress the voice of New York, the many who attended the programmed protests. According to CNN, more than 1,800 were arrested in convention-related protest activities.

Political disputes for the presidential elections are getting intense and dirty. We are living through historical events that are marking the way many people think and act. So several elements are coming into play: How do we stop the endless war against terrorism, the opinion polls and the negative campaigns? All are suppressing the critical dimension to express diverse ideologies and ideas.

Florencia Pezzutti, Daily News, Ball State University.