Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A community should not support a faulted exercise of freedoms

The Michigan branch of Americans for Prosperity received a lot of attention Monday by posting fake evection notices on hundreds of homes Detroit’s Delray district. The words “Eviction Notice” were in very large print on yellow sheets of paper. Americans for Prosperity are against the State of Michigan building a second bridge across the Detroit River. The fake notices claimed that their homes would be taken to make way for the new bridge. This was their attempt to get the attention of the residents in the Delray district.

Businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun is the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. He is strongly opposed to the state building a new bridge. It would obviously draw traffic and business away from the Ambassador Bridge, where Moroun makes money by charging a toll to use the bridge. He has been running television ads making some very outrageous claims about the cost of the new bridge to the taxpayers of Michigan.

Americans for Prosperity, reported to be a conservative group, is based in Washington, D.C. with offices in many states around the country. The group that peppered Delray with the eviction notices is Michigan based. Scott Hagerstrom is the official spokesperson for the Michigan group. He said that he could not say if Moroun’s company, Detroit International Bridge Company, supported the action. The company did issue a statement that said they didn’t support the tactics of Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity have committed a faulted exercise of the freedom of speech and it should not be allowed. Buried deep in the story is an issue that needs to be explored to understand why it should not have been allowed. Hagerstrom said that the membership of Americans for Prosperity is secrete. Even though they are involved in the political process, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in error that membership in such organizations can remain hidden.

A representative democracy doesn’t work that way. That isn’t the way it worked over 200 years ago when we separated from England with the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock did not believe that. A wealthy shipping businessman, he could have had much to lose if the events of the day went wrong. It is clear that every British authority of the time knew who he was because of his business and wealth. But, there in the middle of the document is his signature. Many others also signed the document such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Roger Sherman. They wanted their names displayed on this document to show support for the movement at the time.

A country, a community, cannot be based on hidden agendas and secrete societies. It must be based on open government. If someone, anyone, takes a political stand on the issues they need to come forward to announce their views and sign their name. That provides everyone else with the opportunity to make informed judgments about the issues and the arguments for and against.

To Moroun’s credit, he is staking a sizable portion of his wealth by working against the building of the second bridge, not unlike John Hancock. While his assessments of the issue are suspect, at least he has signed his name to issue. Knowing who he is and what is at stake for him, his family and the Detroit International Bridge Company, we can make a better decision to either support or not support his position.

Every freedom comes with a responsibility. In this case, the concept of freedom of speech would have supported the fake eviction notices circulated by Americans for Prosperity. But, with that freedom comes a release of the supporters of the organization. Since the membership remains hidden, Americans for Prosperity have committed a faulted exercise of freedom. They were wrong in circulating the fake notices.

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