Friday, February 23, 2007

What I don't worry about and what I do

The BBC (and lots of other news sources) are running a story about Abdel Kareem Soliman who was tried in an Egyptian court and sentenced to four years in prison, three for insulting Islam and sedition, and one for insulting the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Soliman is supposed to have done these things on his blog.

News like this reminds me how amazing freedom of speech is. It's no secret on this blog that I think Bush is inadequate, unqualified to be president, unethical, unthinking, and so forth. And yet, while I joke sometimes about men in dark suits and highly polished shoes being at my door, none are. That's not because I'm in super deep cover and totally anonymous. I figure it would take someone who cared and had the right technique and equipment maybe 12 minutes to figure out my identity, and that's if their connection were slow that day. Another three minutes to get the local police to my door, and voila.

But there's no local police at my door.

And in fact, were I to be in a room with the president, I expect I could tell him what I think, and so long as the secret service agents didn't think I was threatening, no one would do more than try to yell louder or turn away. I wouldn't be tried and put in jail.

(But in reality, I'd be too intimidated by the formality of the situation to say anything, bravado aside. I'd be more likely to try to avoid being in the same room so that I wouldn't be confronted with even the possibility of "having" to shake his hand. Deep down, I might want to refuse, but in the moment, confronted by all the conventions of politeness and manners, it would be impossible for me to refuse, I suspect. But not because I think I'd be put in jail.)

Nor, despite my questioning here of Christianity, and my open atheism here and in general, I don't really fear that I'll be put in jail. I can openly say that I think the Catholic Church's attitude toward female ordination and birth control is absurd and stupid. I can openly say that I think Billy Graham's (or any other figure you name) belief in a benevolent god is wrong without worrying that I'll be tried and jailed.

I realize these freedoms aren't at all unique to the US, and indeed, I would guess that people in some countries have even greater freedoms.

Nonetheless, when I read about Mr. Soliman, I know that through no doing of my own, I'm exceedingly lucky to have been born in a place where I have the freedoms and opportunities I have. I worry about those freedoms being degraded in the name of "security." I worry that we do jail people because someone in the current regime feels they're a threat, without benefit of due legal process.

I do fear that women's ability to obtain and use birth control is threatened. And I worry about that issue a lot, because it's sort of a synechdoche for me of all women's rights.

But I'm not worried that I'll be arrested because I said that. And I won't be arrested because I blogged for choice.

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