Among the many absurdities one might have witnessed in Washington yesterday, I was particularly amused by the ban on sticks for the protesters' signs. The justification (as it was for everything) was homeland security. C'mon. Have you seen the sticks that one uses for a handheld sign? I suppose you could (as our mothers would warn) poke the eye out of the protester standing next to you if you started waving your sign around with too much enthusiasm, but I am having a really difficult time figuring out how you would use one of those sticks to commit a terrorist attack.
I presume that the people who promulgated the rule knew that it was ridiculous. But homeland security has given them the power, and if you're responsible for security, obviously you want total security -- no loopholes. I'm sure that managing the Secret Service, for example, has always been extremely frustrating because of the compromises that one has to make in an open society. But now, since we are giving up being an open society, one no longer has to make those risky compromises. The stick on the sign of the protester is now equivalent to the improvised explosive device smuggled in by a suicide bomber and we will treat all threats with the same degree of seriousness. We are now a very serious nation.
The Washington Post reports a case in which someone carrying oranges had them taken away because they were a "throwable device." Large sections of bleachers were empty because those who had tickets were not able to make their way through the security lines before the parade passed by. It's hard to know who to feel sorrier for -- the well-meaning and completely marginalized protesters, or the Bush supporters who didn't get to see their guy pass by because they were caught in the same security net.
Bush gave a stirring speech, repeating the word "freedom" over and over. If he is to be believed, he sees no conflict between the erosion of civil rights, the imposition of detention without charge or trial, the justification for torture, the disrespect for the rule of law both at home and abroad, that characterizes this administration, and his stirring rhetoric of freedom. His most solemn duty, he said, "is to protect this nation and its people from further attacks and emerging threats." We must be saved from oranges.
The scenes around the capital yesterday made it clear -- to preserve our freedom, he will put our liberty in chains. The election made it clear that we will welcome it.