Saturday, February 16, 2008

John Adams quote spray postmark

A number of current USPS spray postmarks contain the John Adams quote, "Let us dare to read, think, speak and write," as part of the "Power of the Letter" promotion. In a country in which all of these are restricted, to a greater or lesser extent, and some even viciously, are we to take this as sick humour, or a hypocrisy so towering it is difficult to know where to begin? When the FBI can and does (under the pretext of "fighting terrorism" but really with this the purpose for which it is most seldom used, the chilling of political and philosophical dissent playing a major role) "investigate" what you are checking out of the library or buying or reading at the local bookstore, might your daring to read be tempered? When the USPS or perhaps FBI or CIA slits open your mail and then is so stupid to return it to you, or returns to you by the dozens or hundreds letters clearly and unambiguously addressed to others (and purposely misdelivers mail apparently for the purpose of reducing attendance at your art opening and crippling the success of a show and then swearing at you when you dare to object), when customs stands on its right to open outgoing mail, might you think twice about what you are writing or reading? When a "presidential" spokesman warns you to watch what you say, and the FBI and Secret Service back this up with all the viciousness and vigour of secret police agencies, doesn't it take a lot to continue?

I have elsewhere, extensively, shown how certain thoughts are de facto outlawed by such legislation as the Michigan Mental Health Code (not as thoughts per se, clearly, because there are, at the least, very few occasions in which others can discover anything about your thoughts except from some sort of expression of them [though this might include expressions that are sometimes subconscious such as body language], and when the method of such discovery -- leaving aside the extent to which it is accurate -- includes your speech, writings or artwork the First Amendment becomes an issue).

That an agency that has to some degree forced readers, thinkers, speakers and writers to muster much greater daring to continue would employ this quote in a promotional way is, to put it mildly, rich.


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