Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Bernadette Devlin...

When I was growing up in Brookyn, NY, Bernadette Devlin was a heroine to all those Irish-Catholic kids I jumped rope with on the playground at Holy Innocents School. Devlin appealed to their working class, church-going and recently-emigrated parents, who for the longest time didn't question aloud. Devlin took no gruff from the Protestant Brit colonialists and she dared to dream of a free Northern Ireland. Many an Irish-Catholic cop, firefighter and laborer discovered a voice in Bernadette Devlin. It's been a long time since I've thought of Devlin and that community of people who found hope in her message.

Last night, I dropped on over to MaxSpeak and there I learned of Bernadette Devlin's recent US deportation.

Bernadette Devlin McCaliskey, the world-renowned Irish civil rights leader was refused entry into the United States of Ashcroft. At Chicago's O'Hare, she was told that she presented a danger and wouldn't be permitted to step foot on American soil. She begged them to recheck their computer. She insisted there had to be a mistake. She told them she came in peace. They said that Tony Blair's British government had told them by fax a different story. They said she was a risk. Yes, this is the same Devlin who at 21 became the youngest MP elected to Parliament. Deported.

Last Friday's arrival in Chicago wasn't the 55-year old grandmother's first visit to the US. Hell, no...she'd been here some 30 times before in as many years. She had come this time on a visit with her daughter and didn't expect trouble. Why on earth should she? Devlin had never before encountered difficulties, but never before was America ruled by Aschroftian justice.

Bernadette Devlin was next intimidated and harrassed before being led to a flight back home.

Here we have another big story that's left largely untold. Here again, the media is silent. Other than Jimmy Breslin and Amy Goodman, where is the American media?

Is the obvious too painful a truth to reveal: that America under George Bush has gone off the deep end?

Do we have here one of those stories that languishes for the right patriotic "hook"... or is this another case where there simply wasn't enough room in the media lineup for a true-take on crushed liberties?

So why WAS Devlin deported? Is it because she spoke out against US-British plans for a war on Iraq? That does seem to be the common demoninator in locking up or deporting activists and academics these days. Her story reminds me of Eugene Angelopoulos, a professor at the National Technical University of Athens. Have you heard about Angelopoulos' recent adventures in the Big Apple? Fasten your seat belts for this one...

Last week, Eugene Angelopoulos arrived at JFK enroute to New York University, where he had been invited to speak at a conference on Philosophy and Politics. The Greek academic was instead detained at the airport, shackled and interrogated. He was asked to explain his views about an American war on Iraq, and immigration officials demanded to know if he was "anti-American." Ultimately, he found his way back to Athens, but his NYU stint was not to be, and he was shaken to the core.

Have you noticed that the Bush administration doesn't easily tolerate an alternative view to their own? If not, where have you been? Their message is clear: life would be so much simpler if the millions of anti-war protesters, the Devlins and Angelopoulis' of the world would simply shut the hell up.

Do you recognize this America?

I sure as hell don't. Seems to me we are deluding ourselves when comparing Bush's wholesale attack on civil liberties to the McCarthy era. Goodness, these fellows at Justice and 1600 make McCarthy look like a decent chap. We've a real police state in the making, now don't we?

This morning, the Feds are claiming that Devlin's visa had expired and that's the reason for her deportation. It's interesting to note that Devlin's papers had been checked in Ireland before she embarked for the US, and no flags were raised then. Something smells...

You know, I used to believe what my government told me. I used to move unquestioningly throughout the day. But that was long ago. I learned a thing or two from those Irish-Catholic kids on the playground, not the least of which is that patriotism is not defined by blind allegiance.

crossposted at RuminateThis

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