Are You Afraid of Your Government?

There are probably two reasons for Americans to not be afraid of their government.

price-of-dissent

One of them is that they are just good, clean, honest people who can’t find it in their heart to think ill of others. The other is that they probably just never did much of anything.

Those who have stepped, even a tiny toe, outside the ring of expected behavior have probably been spied on and  recorded at the least. They may have also been intimidated, smeared, fired from their jobs, blacklisted, beaten, shot, and/or murdered.

Our government, local and national, has been doing those things all along.

Book review: Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz, editors, “The Price of Dissent. Testimonies to Political Repression in America.” University of California Press, 2001.

The book is a collection of original testimony from people who stepped outside the ring and found Big Brother waiting there. It also mentions things that happened in earlier times, such as the wholesale murders, whippings, arrests, deportations, and illegal persecution of labor activists throughout American history. The chapter titled “The Unrelenting Campaign against the Industrial Workers of the World” is especially enlightening.

The first hand explanations from activists of the 1950s-1980s, though, aren’t just history lessons. They are up close and personal, hard hitting and sometimes a little difficult to read. Witnesses to the Black Panthers murdered in Chicago, the students shot down at Kent State, and civil rights victims of murder and mayhem in the American South are especially effective. I don’t know why they left out the time that the Houston police fired 1,000 bullets into the dormitory at Texas Southern University and the police sniper who killed Carl Hampton a few blocks away, but I guess there were just too many episodes to fit into one book.

Texas isn’t left out completely, because they interviewed my good friends Jose Rinaldi and Linda Hajek about the FBI agent in our Dallas CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) anti-war group. Agent Frank Varelli was commissioned by the Dallas FBI to do nasty things to our friendly little group of peaceniks. Among the horrors he committed was informing the murderous death squads in El Salvador about the names and arrival dates of deported Salvadorans and visiting Americans from here.

He told us his name was Gilberto Mendoza, and he gushed gratitude to our group for standing up for Central Americans. As I remember it, he gushed that over and over again, every time he showed up. I got tired of him and thought he was an idiot, but I didn’t spot him as an agent. In fact, I interviewed him for The Hard Times News. I never look for agents, I just ask everybody I know to do a lot of work. Agents never want to do any actual work.

In 1987, the Dallas FBI got behind on Varelli’s paychecks. To pressure them, he went to the Dallas Morning News, and they ran a full front-page expose! I think Varelli liked the notoriety, because the next thing you know he came to one of our meetings, without his Mendoza disguise, and explained the entire thing!

Varelli did ugly things, and most of the folks were shocked. I wasn’t, because I had already participated in an ACLU lawsuit against the Houston police and a national lawsuit against the Justice Department. I wanted to sue the pants off the FBI over Varelli, but was outvoted.

Our government does ugly ugly things and always has, but they always say, as the book shows, every time they get caught, that they won’t do it any more.

–Gene Lantz

Hear “Workers Beat” on 89.3FM in Dallas and knon.org everywhere every Saturday at 9 central time. If you want to know what I really think, click here.

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