This clip makes me wonder if I should start watching Boston Legal. It’s the closing arguments from a recent ep, with a fantastic, impassioned speech by James Spader. Huzzah.
Here’s a transcript, in case you can’t listen to it at work.
After the prosecution’s arguments, Spader’s character gets up and says:
When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up. Huh! They didn’t.
Then when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.
Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorist suspects, locked them up without 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 the executive branch has been conductinhg 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. Evidently we haven’t.
In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is, we’re okay with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizures, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial or any trial, war on false pretenses. We as a citizenry are apparently not offended. There are not demonstrations on college campuses, in fact there’s no clear indication that young people even seem to notice.
Well, Melissa Hughes noticed. Now, you might think instead of witholding 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 the right to that 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 Presidental rally, parade, or appearance, i f you have on a supportive tshirt, you can be there. If you’re 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? [pause. He sits down in the witness chair and there’s some fussing by the judge, which he ignores.]
Long speeches make me so 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 “UnAmerican.”
[the other lawyer interrupts, “Evidently it’s speech time.”]
And Speech in this country is free, you hack! Free for me, free for you, free for Melissa Hughes to stand up to her government and say, stick it!
[The other lawyer objects.]
I object to government abusing its power to squash the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And god forbid anybody challenge it, they’re smeared as being a heritic. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American!
[judge tells him to get to the point]
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 day 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 the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism.” Today, it’s the cloak of anti-terrorism. Stevenson also remarkecd, “it’s far 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 say. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room and speak for her.
Now, paying your taxes is important. I may not approve of the war or the executive branch, but I sure as shit approve of things like road upkeep and the pensions for army widows and the countless little things we don’t even realize the feds do for us. You gotta pay your taxes. But protesting somehow is vital. What’s being done in our name is appalling. Kudos to Boston Legal for saying so.