"You're All Going to Hell"

January 23, 2009

Those were the words shouted at me and several hundred other people as we were walking to the National Mall to attend Obama’s inauguration. (More about our petition action there in Zeke’s post). Those words were yelled by some protesters who were unhappy with the views espoused by Obama and concerned about the policies they expect he will implement.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take some offense at being told I was going to hell simply because I was walking toward an event that made those people unhappy. But I was also¬†glad to see the protesters. They were there on the curb with their signs and their slogans, and no one was bothering them. No police were shooing them away, much less beating them or throwing them in jail. And when I was on the Mall collecting signatures for our 100 Days petition, no one stopped me or tried to arrest me either.

How lucky we all are–me, you, those protesters–to be able to express our opinions without fear of reprisal, imprisonment, or death. So many of our priority cases are not so lucky. If you’ve lived most of your life in places where freedom of expression is “no big deal”, it can be easy to take that right for granted. Has anyone spent time in a place where it was dangerous to express your views? What was it like to live under those conditions?