From: "pedro martori"
Subject: Crush a Conscience
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 08:30:57 -0400
NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 08:30:53 EDT
Crush a Conscience
by Myles B. Kantor
June 24, 2003
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
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:
--"The Communist Party of Cuba . organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is
the superior leading force of society and the State, which organizes and
orients the common efforts toward the high ends of the construction of
socialism and the advance toward communist society." (Article 5)
--"The State organizes, directs and controls national economic activity
conforming to a plan that guarantees the programmed development of the
country, with the end of strengthening the socialist system. ." (Article 16)
--"Freedom of speech and press are recognized for citizens consistent with
the purposes of socialist society . the press, radio, television, cinema,
and other mass media are state-owned or socially owned and can never be
privately owned. ." (Article 53)
--"None of the freedoms recognized for citizens may be exercised against the
provisions of the Constitution and the laws, nor against the existence and
ends of the socialist State. ." (Article 62)
--"The defense of the socialist homeland is the greatest honor and the
supreme duty of each Cuban." (Article 65)
This framework ensures freedom as much as drinking bleach ensures gastric
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
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.