Eyes Wide Open Film Series
Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties
June 16, 2005
The fourth and final documentary of the Eyes Wide Open Film Series Spring Season 2005 was presented on 16 June at the Linux Club. This was yet another showing made possible by the generosity of film producer Robert Greenwald, who donated the film to us and allowed us not only to show it but also to reproduce and distribute it free of charge.
The documentary shown was Nonny de la Peña’ s Unconstitutional, which presents the USA PATRIOT Act and other administration policies in the wake of 11 September 2001. The film concentrates on the personal stories of several individuals affected by the implications of this act, which was passed by the United States House of Representatives and Senate on 26 October 2001 (for details and a wealth of websites related to both the film and the PATRIOT act, see the handout distributed during the evening).
Those attending the screening included individuals of several nationalities, with a majority of Italians and Americans, and the discussion after the film provided an opportunity to exchange personal experiences of going through US airports over the past few years, being questioned about bank accounts by US officials, having to justify living in Rome to authorities in the US before a flight, and so on. A major part of the discussion centred on the very serious implications of the official, deliberate “sleight of hand” perpetrated on the United States Congress by having them vote on a totally different version of the PATRIOT Act than the one endorsed in the House. The emotional bullying that was used to force the Congress to vote too rapidly on the act seems unbelievable now, although various people in the audience recalled the weeks following 11 September and how it had been possible to sway people for emotional reasons. Recalling Michael Moore’s statements in Fahrenheit 9/11 that Congress had passed the bill unread, it was interesting to watch the sections in Unconstitutional that show how this came to pass. The members of Congress thought they were voting on another text, namely one that they had endorsed, and someone else substituted the PATRIOT Act that we have today in place of the original law that was supposed to have been passed.
A copy of the US Constitution and Amendments was made available for those who wanted to examine the various paragraphs and clauses that are being expressly infringed by the PATRIOT Act, and the point was raised that the gradual loss of civil liberties in the current US context could be compared with a certain number of historical precedents in which fascist or totalitarian dictatorships were established in countries where fear of enemy attack was used to convince populations to surrender their individual rights in the name of “patriotism” or “national pride” and so on.
This final film in the Eyes Wide Open Film Series closed what has been an informative and energizing experience for many, and the US Citizens for Peace and Justice are very grateful to the Linux Club for their support. The showings would certainly have been much more difficult (not to say impossible) without the wonderful facilities and convivial environment of the Club. We are looking forward to the possibility of continuing to show provocative and interesting “off the beaten track” films and documentaries in the future.
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