Tags: Crush | Conscience

To Crush a Conscience

Monday, 23 June 2003 12:00 AM

Families often have political disagreements, but they usually don’t end with one of them in prison.

Imagine: A father and son in Miami are arguing about President Bush. The father, a Bush supporter, says that intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq enhanced American security and liberated millions of people. “Bush only intervened there because he’s a tool of the oil barons!” the son responds.

FBI agents come to the home the next day and arrest the son for “disrespect” against Bush. After a closed trial, a tribunal sentences him to two years of “rehabilitative labor.”

This of course isn’t the reality of America; criticism of Bush is daily and ardent here. A recent cover of The New Republic featured him below the headline “He’s Still Lying,” and books on Bush include “Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta” and “The Bush Dyslexicon.” (Forthcoming books include “Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America.”)

While one may not share these opinions, to prohibit them would be violent and anti-American. As Thomas Jefferson observed in 1809, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”

But go a little bit south of Miami, and you will find a place where conscience is a crime.

Last fall, 24-year-old Cuban history teacher Alain Gómez Ramos was asked to sign an initiative that makes “the economic, political and social system consecrated in the Constitution of the Republic … untouchable.” That constitution’s provisions include:

This framework ensures freedom as much as drinking bleach ensures gastric health.

Articles 53 and 62 bring to mind the response of Polish-German socialist Rosa Luxemburg to Bolshevik repression: “Freedom for supporters of the government, only for members of a party – no matter how numerous they may be – is no freedom. Freedom is always the freedom for those who think differently.”

Ramos was fired after he refused to sign the initiative. During an argument with his father (a member of the Communist Party) at their home in October, Ramos said “Down with Fidel” and condemned the impunity with which Castro’s henchmen commit crimes.

For so advocating Cuba’s independence from despotism, a tribunal convicted Ramos on Feb. 12 of “disrespect” against Castro and sentenced him to two years of forced labor. (The independent journalist who covered Ramos, Omar Ruiz Hernández, was sentenced to 18 years in prison during the recent imprisonment of over 75 human rights activists.)

He committed no violence, but massive violence has been committed against him. He committed no crime, but an atrocity has been committed against him.

When he was 16, a military tribunal sentenced Cuban founding father José Martí to forced labor for advocating Cuba's independence from Spain. “I feel as though a son of mine were killed every time that a man is deprived of the right to think,” he later wrote.

Alain Ramos: one more crushed conscience, one more murdered son.

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Families often have political disagreements, but they usually don't end with one of them in prison. Imagine: A father and son in Miami are arguing about President Bush.The father, a Bush supporter, says that intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq enhanced American security...
Crush,Conscience
494
2003-00-23
Monday, 23 June 2003 12:00 AM
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