His name was Adam, and he was a wonderfully bright, active young man. He had his moments, of course, as every parent knows, and occasionally did things that made us shake our heads in exasperation. He wasn't perfect: he said foolish things in anger sometimes, and lied to us when he thought he could get away with it, even though we knew. We always knew.
But he was a good kid, and had always been friendly and outgoing. When he was eight, he won the student council election for class president after we encouraged him to run, which I suppose set him up for the rest of his time in school. Five years ago, he had just been elected student body president of the high school when the D.C. bus bombing attacks happened, and I suppose the students looked to him for leadership. He made a speech.
And he made me so proud, I thought my heart would burst.
Instead of simply mocking or disparaging the government, as many did, he had always believed in fighting for the future he wanted. So he made a speech about coming together instead of falling apart; he asked the Muslim students to come up and tell the school more about their faiths and how they were nothing like what the terrorists preached.
He got a standing ovation.
Adam was always writing editorials and making speeches, pleading for everyone's support in what he believed in. He campaigned for many things in these last few years — some I didn't agree with, but he was following his heart. Gay rights, anti-abortion, simplifying the tax code, harsher penalties for drugs; it seemed like there were a million things he wanted to change, and he was active about every one.
Then, two years ago, there were the stadium attacks. Islamic extremists again, who had refined their targets. I guess the government decided enough was enough and instituted the Protecting America From Extremists Act, requiring them to take polygraphs, loyalty oaths, things that I never thought America would’ve accepted, but that’s what fear does to you. At least we didn’t throw them into internment camps.
Adam would have none of it.
The speeches, the rallies, the protests, whatever they were before, they had always gone smoothly, and when they were done, he would come back and say, 'This is what the people believe. This will happen'. But today, last year, he was protesting against the Protecting America From Extremists Act, and the government decided that it wasn't okay to do that.
Someone decided that day that he was a threat to the security and stability of America, and executed an order to have him taken away for questioning. He was taken away, without his lawyer, without being read his rights, and most of all, without doing anything wrong. He was exercising his fist amendment rights. I, his parent, only knew because his friends told me of the van with Homeland Security license plates that bundled him into the back and drove away.
My local police had no information; neither did the state. The FBI told me that he was a person of interest, suspected of helping terrorism, and wouldn’t give me any more information. No, that’s not strictly true — they gave me a six hundred page act to read through, where it outlines where they have gotten the rights to do what they want, whenever they want, to whoever they want, and then they told me to go away.
I haven’t heard from him since.
How could it have come to this? Who said, suddenly, that protecting ourselves meant it wasn’t okay anymore with disagreeing with the government? When did we decide that the steady erosion of rights was okay, that foreigners didn’t have rights, that our mail could be read, that our phones could be tapped simply because someone thought it’d be a good idea?
In retrospect, I ask myself sometimes, how did we not see this coming?
I have learned from my son, my bright-eyed, tousled-haired child that I raised for twenty years. I am flipping a soapbox and standing on it, and I’m hoping to make the change that I see in this world. I’m sending this as far and wide as I can, and I’m asking that we stop accepting this police state we’re becoming. I ask that we reclaim our rights, and stop accepting that the ‘government knows best’. I ask that you join me, today, in doing what is our given right.
Assemble with me here, upon this street corner, and spread it to every street of America. We will not go home until those who were taken are returned to us. We will not stop until our rights are restored. And we will not accept the sacrifice of freedom for security.
Do what Adam would’ve done.