Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hush-ocracy or Progression with a capital P?

My interest in this blog is to explore Bruce "Utah" Phillips' FBI file, and what I believe to be the implications of the existence of such a file for a 'democratic' country in his time.

In the Phillips' FBI file it says the following: "_____, University of Utah, announced that _____ and ______ who were present at the meeting, had been named by the SACB as communists. He [Presumably this is referring to Bruce Phillips] denounced the FBI and the witnesses who had testified against these two men. He suggested contacting various prominent individuals to get them to state that a person's private political beliefs are his own and no one else's business. _____ also said that if anyone asks whether or not the UPFP has any members who are communists, the answer is "Yes," but if anyone asks whether or not the UPFP is a communist front, the answer is "No," ______ suggested that the UPFP organize a Defense Committee on behalf of the two accused individuals" (FBI File pg. 23)
Whether or not the ____ in the last sentence is referring to Bruce Phillips is up for question, but it is apparent that he was going to attend the 'National Convention of the Peace and Freedom Party" at the University of Michigan on pg. 20. It is also apparent from him being supported in his plans to run for senator by the UPFP, that he was a central figure who would be noted making comments such as the following. Bruce Phillips is noted also on page 27 to be saying that he didn't agree with the communists "...causing rather than solve problems" (27).
From the following I am going to infer that Phillips was not associated with the communist cause, but that a few communists might have belonged to UPFP, of which Phillips was a part. The interesting part about Phillips' FBI file is not that it noted some protests and activities in which he was involved, it is that the whole 40 pages is dedicated to expounding a diatribe of Phillips' association with communists. He is a real "threat." He stands up for principles of truth, in which his convictions are not waning. He led marches. He stands against US involvement the Vietnam War. He even was a part of a demonstration opposed to vice president Hubert Humphrey. He was a thinking individual, an individual who cared about the wellfare of the laborer, soldier, and broadly conceived, the human.
The question to ask ourselves now is: "If Phillips was persecuted/tracked by the FBI for being associated with communists and more importantly for standing up for what he thought 'right', then what is this saying about the democracy that existed in his time (and presently)?" If someone cannot voice their opinion about an issue or state of affairs then how far have people really come since Socrates 470 B.C. (in Phillips' time and our own present time)? If we cannot discuss what we think in the public sector through protests, etc., then how democratic is our country really--are we a sort of hush-ocracy? In Phillips' time it is clear that open opinions were not openly discussed due to the harsh threat of accepting the Marxist/Communist rationale. If there is a place for open discussion of other viewpoints then it should be within our society, but in Phillips' time this was unacceptable. Communism was shunned. Human understanding/reason was shut down. Perplexed obedience was forced. Where are the people of in the democracy of Phillips' time? Where are the 'demos' (Latin meaning: people, citizenry)? In order for people to be present we need to hear the rationality of each individual who has questions. Not just hush them. Phillips lived in a time where opinions were oppressed and thinking individuals were hushed for fear of spreading the "red" (communist control). It is unfortunate that his message couldn't have been more widespread.
What can we say of our present time? Is opinion still being oppressed? How far has democracy come since Phillips' time? Progression is inevitable. Time happens. And the days pass. But what about progression with a capital P(rogression)--where we are actively engaging in society and the issues arising therein? Stand and don't shake. Cite the first amendment and move forward. Democracy is for the people, and that means that you have a crucial part that you cannot underestimate. Opinions are respected in the university and college, and I think that our society has ideologically shifted to a more opinion-inclusive (no assumptions of perfect inclusiveness need be had here) atmosphere. But we still have opposition to gay-rights, and the list here goes on. Thus, there is room for improvement concerning the openness of hearing another's rationale, and opinion. Step up. OPINions are like pins that we wear on our intellectual, and more importantly practical blazer that we wear EVERYWHERE. We should all collect these pins of opinions--this includes being open to others' opinions. Why else were we given a mind, or the ability to reason. Utah Phillips here would most likely encourage the development of mind. Catch a thought. Think about it.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the general thrust of your post, and also that a degree of government hostility toward people practicing democracy still contributes to oppressing dissent in America today, but I'm gonna run in a slightly different direction:

    Suppression also happens within and by movements and groups struggling for public acceptance. As a member of a misunderstood/discriminated-against minority group, some people feel a lot of pressure to be the "ideal" member. That makes it hard for people who belong to multiple stigmatized groups (for instance, someone with a mental illness who is also in the LGBT community, or queer in the disabled community) as well as people who don't fit the group's narrative (for instance, someone who feels like they chose to leave the heteronormative path instead of being born that way and needing to if they were every going to be happy).

    Recently I've been reading radical queer complaints that the mainstream gay marriage movement erases queer culture and forms of love, sex, and relationships other than the monogamous, patriarchal traditional model.

    I think a similar thing happens to people with their political opinions: "I'm not a communist" (don't put that stigma on me), "I'm not an anarchist," "I'm not a feminist." (Or: supporting everything liberals support and nothing conservatives support or vice versa.)

    I think we'd need a culture that actually presumes differences are benign rather than dangerous to overcome these issues--and then the political and economic powers might still be problematic, because clearly there are losers in the campaign for economic justice and some other movements.