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Browsing through my links, as I often do, I came across the following video on a couple of different sites.
The video, produced by the American News Project, a new venture aimed at independence in media and truth in reporting. They also have a bias toward the underprivileged. In this case, they are following one of the protests related to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. As you can see, they stumble upon some curious tactics by the police in response to their efforts to be heard.
For a while, it seems like the US has been becoming an increasingly fascist state. It feels like more and more of their enshrined rights are being eroded in the interest of government control over the day-to-day lives of the citizens.
I think it's plausible to consider that no one imagined having to look after 450 million people in one country. People point to China's human rights record with disdain (including me, as a human rights advocate), but how do you reasonably operate in a country with 1.3 billion people? How do you make it work? In Canada we panic over the thought of Quebec separating; East Timor split from Indonesia (after a prolonged military occupation); very recently, fighting broke out in "break-away region" of South Ossetia. When people within a nation disagree, especially when it comes down to cultural groups, governments tend to react strongly to any attempt to secede. It perhaps makes sense, then, that governments would react strongly before it gets to that point, especially when the dissenting group is lamenting a loss of "what used to be" and the government is trying to stringently implement a new status quo.
Of course, this is simplistic. But at the same time, it feels more and more like a monoculture is the only way to ensure that things run smoothly. Of course, I think that it depends on what your definition of "smoothly" is. Mine includes people not trying to impose their beliefs on others, but not everyone works that way. Some people beliefs include imposing their beliefs on others. So, we find ourselves in a paradox.
There is no definitive answer, however, it seems to me that the only option is to keep fighting for the freedom to speak out and be different and want different.
(For more on South Ossetia, check out Matthew Good's recent musings on their independence.)