|Vol. 9 No. 7
APRIL 3, 2014
Publisher & Editor
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran, Theola
Carter, Fabu, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Eileen Cecille Hocker,
Donna Parker, Heidi Pascual, &
Heidi M. Pascual
Louder Political Speech
Before I get to the meat of this issue’s column, I would just like to say that April is National Poetry Month.
While April is National this and that, I feel that it is important to observe National Poetry Month because of
its connection to spoken word and to literacy. And of course poetry is an important way to express the mind
and the spirit, unleashing those pent-up emotions and thoughts within us.
It is important for all of us to express ourselves to give ourselves inner-release from the fault line stresses
that can create the occasional earthquake outburst of anger. Know thyself and one of the important ways —
and quite cheap I might add — to knowing oneself is through writing.
Oftentimes I don’t know what I am going to write until I sit down at my computer and begin to write and the
words just seem to flow of their own accord and voila a column is born. Most of the time, I feel good about
what I’ve just written, although I will write the occasional stinker of a column. So I encourage people to
write, to get connected with yourself and give those hidden thoughts of yours some expression.
In honor of National Poetry Month, we will be featuring poetry in both of our April issues. This issue we
feature Eileen Cecile and Jeffrey Brooks. In our next issue, we will feature students from the UW Odyssey
Project. We all have a writer hidden within us. During this very literary month, find the writer in you.
Imagine that you and another person are standing on a busy street corner with sidewalks filled with
morning commuters and the streets filled with taxis, buses and cars whizzing by. You are standing there,
shouting at the top of your lungs for as long as you can, trying to get people’s attention. Very few, if any,
people are stopping to listen to you and it is impossible for the people in the cars whizzing by to even hear
The other person standing next to you is speaking about the same issue that you are, but is taking the
opposite viewpoint from the one that you are expressing. But this person has a very expensive megaphone
that you cannot afford. The people on the streets can’t help but hear what this person is saying — even if
they don’t like the loudness and brashness of the megaphone — because they hear his message
continuously as they walk down the street and will remember what this person said long after they are out
of earshot. And the people in the buses and other vehicles also hear this person’s message because it is
loud enough to penetrate the glass and to be heard over the music that they may be playing inside.
Now it can be said that both of you have free speech as you stand on that street corner expressing your
views. But is this really free speech when only one of you can buy a megaphone and drowns out what you
have to say? Is it really free speech when only one of you can afford to effectively exercise your free
Of course not! The person with the megaphone will be the one who gets his opinion across and if he is
urging people to vote for someone, he will be the one who is getting his people elected more often than not
regardless of how well their candidate represents their political and economic interest. In fact, their
message can be so loud and slick that they will get you to vote for someone diametrically opposed to what
you stand for.
This very unequal free speech, in my mind, would be unconstitutional in mind because it will cut off the free
flow discussion of policies and ideas during an election. It would be a threat to our democracy. And it could
lead to unhealthy policy choices that harm the many in favor of the few because the few own all of the
Well apparently, the U.S. Supreme Court does not agree with this very rational and practical view of what
free speech is all about. In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the five members of the
conservative majority on the court — I never hear them rebuke the label of conservative — struck another
blow to campaign finance laws. This 5-4 majority struck down the overall campaign donation limits set by
the U.S. Congress and enforced by the Federal Election Commission.
Apparently a $123,700 overall contribution limit was too much of a restriction for some folks who now have
more money than they know what to do with due to the very regressive tax laws that have been passed by
the federal government over the past 30 years. These select individuals want to be able to buy government,
from the local to the federal levels. Coupled with the regressive and antidemocratic voting laws that have
been put in place like the restrictions on absentee voting and the skewed voting districts that keep a
majority of representative districts Republican even when a majority of voters in Wisconsin have voted
Democratic in the past two federal elections, this Supreme Court decision impinges on the rights of all of us
for the sake of the property rights — which say that corporations are people too in the eyes of the U.S.
Constitution — of a select few.
As I heard Mike McCabe recently say, we are headed back to the days when only white landed men could
vote. At the founding of the U.S. in 1789 when the Constitution was adopted, women and people of color
could not vote. We are headed toward these folks’ version of what the “good old days” used to be. And
those “good old days” weren’t so good to many of us.
Now it would be easy to get severely depressed about this state of affairs and tune out to the election cycle
while these select few continue to grab more and more power. Something inside of them will never be
satisfied no matter how much economic and political power that they amass.
But just when life is at its bleakest — think back to the situation the slaves were in before the outbreak of
the Civil War — the onward march of justice intervenes. And justice intervenes only when you and I get
active, when all of us, in the words of Fannie Lou Hammer, “are sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It is
only be revolting peacefully against the extinguishing of practical free speech and the further corruption of
our political process by these Supreme Court decisions. By joining together in organizations like the
NAACP, we can effectively fight back in unity.
I feel that we have no choice in the matter. Large money interests have already brought much of the
research and intellectual output of many of our universities. They increasingly control the financial and
economic centers of this country. And now decisions like McCutcheon will allow them to own the political
field as well. I am afraid that with this very centralized societal power in the hands of a few, decisions will
be made that will threaten the very quality of our existence because they benefit the wealthy few. They could
lead us to oblivion because they now would have the power to do so. We need the ability to sift and winnow
ideas so that effective public policy is produced. These Supreme Court rulings are preventing us from doing
that. Heaven help us all!