Tuesday, August 06, 2013

This Speech Never Loses Relevance

A commenter on Eric Margolis's excellent piece, Are We Becoming What We Once Hated? published on Sunday at The Smirking Chimp reminded me of a favourite clip from a favourite old ABC TV series, Boston Legal. I featured this clip myself in a post in 2010: Boston Legal, James Spader, David Kelley.

Here's the video clip once again. It's from an episode titled "Stick it!" The speech seems even more appropriate now than it did when first aired in March 2006!

In case the video isn't accessible or a passing reader prefers to actually read, here's a transcript, lightly edited to omit remarks from the judge and another lawyer.

Background: Alan Shore (James Spader) is delivering his summation, defending a co-worker, Melissa Hughes, who had sent her 1040 form to the IRS (tax authority) with a Post-it note attached bearing the message "Stick it!" Source of transcript is HERE.
When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out to be not true, I expected the American people to rise up.

Ha! They didn't.

Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure the American people would be heard from.

We stood mute.

Then came the news that we jailed thousands of terrorist suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly we would never stand for that.

We did.

And now it's been discovered that the American government has been conducting massive illegal domestic surveillance on its own citizens. You and me. and I at least consoled myself that finally, finally the American people will have had enough.

Evidentally we haven't.

In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we're OK with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizure, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial - or any trial - war on false pretenses.

We, as a citizenry, are apparently not offended.

There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there's no clear indication that young people seem to notice.

Well, Melissa Hughes noticed. Now, you might think, instead of withholding her taxes, she could have protested the old-fashioned way. Made a placard and demonstrated at a Presidential or Vice-Presidential appearance, but we've lost that right as well. The Secret Service can now declare free speech zones to contain, control, and, in effect, criminalize protest.

Stop for a second and try to fathom that.

At a presidential rally, parade, or appearance, if you have a supportive T-shirt on, you can be there. If you are wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed.

This, in the United States of America. This, in the United States of America. Is Melissa Hughes the only one embarassed?

Really long speeches make me tired sometimes.

Actually, I'm sick and tired.

And what I'm most sick and tired of is how every time somebody disagrees with how the government is running things, he or she is labelled un-American.

Speech in thiis country is free. Free for me, free for you. Free for Melissa Hughes to stand up to her government and say, "Stick it!".

I object to this government abusing its power to quash the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And, God forbid, anyone challenge it. They're smeared as a heretic. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American!

Last night, I went to bed with a book. Not as much fun as a 29-year old, but the book contained a speech by Adlai Stevenson. The year was 1952. He said, "the tragedy of our time is the climate of fear in which we live, and fear breeds repression. Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind, are concealed under a patriotic cloak of anti-Communism."

Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism.

Stevenson also remarked, "It's easier to fight for principles than to live up to them."

I know we are all afraid, but the Bill of Rights--we have to live up to that. We simply must. That's all Melissa Hughes was trying to do. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room and speak for her.

Much as I loved The West Wing and its cast of brilliant actors, there was never a speech to match this one from Boston Legal in the whole series. Credit has to go to David E. Kelley first and foremost, for the writing of it, then to James Spader for its superb delivery.


Jude Cowell said...

Thank You for posting this video and reminding me of the speech.

mike said...


THE tame bird was in a cage, the free bird was in the forest.
They met when the time came, it was a decree of fate.
The free bird cries, "O my love, let us fly to the wood."
The cage bird whispers, "Come hither, let us both live in the cage."
Says the free bird, "Among bars, where is there room to spread one's wings?"
"Alas," cries the caged bird, "I should not know where to sit perched in the sky."

The free bird cries, "My darling, sing the songs of the woodlands."
The cage bird sings, "Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of the learned."
The forest bird cries, "No, ah no! songs can never be taught."
The cage bird says, "Alas for me, I know not the songs of the woodlands."

Their love is intense with longing, but they never can fly wing to wing.
Through the bars of the cage they look, and vain is their wish to know each other.
They flutter their wings in yearning, and sing, "Come closer, my love!"
The free bird cries, "It cannot be, I fear the closed doors of the cage."
The cage bird whispers, "Alas, my wings are powerless and dead.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

Twilight said...

Jude Cowell ~ Hey! My pleasure!
I've thought about it often, and glad to have the opportunity to post it once more. :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~ Lovely, sad poem! There have to be millions of "powerless dead wings" in the U.S. of A. now.

Use it or lose it!

mike (again) said...

Twilight, I wouldn't limit the dead-wings only to the USA...most first world countries are implicated in the re-defining of privacy and free speech in the name of national security. Many third world countries already had freedom limitations and are quickly catching-up to the newer technologies available at their disposal to further erode the liberty.

I think that the notion of human rights is up for re-negotiation as the world experiences the Uranus-Pluto square. Many of the world's governments have re-defined their power and privilege and such isn't known until the governed question their individual human rights...usually instigated via a whistle-blower or the obvious restrictions upon the citizen.

Astrologer Leigh Oswald stated, “We are shocked when we suddenly have discovered under Pluto in Capricorn, that the power bases often tacitly sanction a prevailing culture that is much less than fair or sensitive to all. What is the definition of a civilised society? That is a big question now and it is not a question that is asked, as we assume we live in one, whilst not questioning the criteria.”

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Yes, sure, I agree. I suppose my mind was on the USA due to the video/speech above - and recent events. But we're not alone. UK and most of Europe isn't much different as regards surveillance etc. On other matters, such as use of drones, and constantly getting involved where we are not really needed or wanted those are peculiar to the USA though - and people seem okay with it.

I'm not sure what it'd take to get the whole nation riled up....and if something did, how successful any national protest would be. Things could have reached the limit of possibility of We the People having any voice at all, even if voices, and bodies were raised in significant numbers....strikes, boycotts etc.
The Powers That Be have been allowed to become too powerful, through powerless wings (or apathetic, lazy uncaring ones).

As you say, there's no doubt some astrological correlation to it all - in which case we have much more of the rough terrain to pass through before anything changes.

Chomp said...

It is normal that “we” have become as what we “fought” for when you beat someone you take the rsponsability of the defeated, that you like it or not. And you “import” even many of the things of the “defeated” ones.

This is a law of History as it functions.

Twilight said...

Chomp ~ Oh my! Well that's something I'd never considered - and a rather scary thought it is too; but it does seem to happen, now I come to think of it.
Thanks for pointing that out, Chomp!