There are many lessons to be learned from the recent tasering incident in Florida and we should take some time to examine them together.

For those of you at Kennesaw State University living in tents behind the Social Science building , a student at the University of Florida was savagely and repeatedly tasered by campus police after lobbing some hard questions at former presidential candidate John F. Kerry. A few videos of the incident appeared on CNN and YouTube.
The student, Andrew Meyer, is a Skull and Bones conspiracy theorist and a semi-professional political agitator but also a young college student like many of you. In this time, when so many people criticize students and young people for being politically apathetic, Meyer is tuned in to the world of politics and working to be the change he wishes to see in the world. I personally think he is one of the lost Looney Tunes, but at least he is reading something more substantial than GQ, Cosmo, Sports Illustrated, or Slut With a Poodle Digest.
People on both sides of the issue have, predictably, polarized the discussion and stopped listening to each other. The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper for Colorado State University, published a four word editorial on the subject: “Taser this… Fuck Bush.” They are of course under fire for the method of their stand, but are they really in the wrong? Was Meyer?
Honestly, my first reaction to the video was shamefully apathetic. The kid was being disorderly and somewhat resisting arrest. You get what you get. However after thinking about it for a few days and watching the video more closely, I think I need to revise that position.
There were seven campus cops subduing Meyer. After his microphone was cut, he was dragged to the back of the room and forced to the ground before he was tasered. One hand appears to have been cuffed already. The overweight campus cop sitting on Meyer was apparently not aware that he was on camera when he looked up and smiled the sick, gleeful smile of a little boy pulling the wings off a butterfly.
Of course a full investigation has been launched and heads will roll, but why were the cops intervening in the first place? Kerry is a decorated combat veteran and, presumably, a big boy. Can’t he take a little heckling? Gosh it was only a few years ago that we were reminded daily of how Kerry was such a virulent activist himself. In the video, Kerry tells Meyer to continue asking his questions but then is clearly audible in the background, moving on with his speech as Meyer is being tasered.
So what are the lessons we can learn from this incident? Should we sit quietly by while the country goes to hell in a handbasket? Are we really supposed to wait on the world to change? No, I don’t think that’s it, but there are a few basic things that no one has told you.
Being right does not give you carte blanche to act like an ass. There is certain decorum to be observed in situations and the key word to remember is respect. You don’t mouth off to cops because whether they are right or wrong, they are armed and will almost certainly be supported by their chain of command when they shoot you –with a taser or with a 9mm.
In the wake of a lackluster response to the incident, it seems as though many have forgotten that freedom of speech, especially political speech, is one of the basic rights that we enjoy. It is the cornerstone of a truly free, truly democratic nation and there is not another place on Earth where average citizens have and exercise the ability to harshly criticize their government and its officials. Meyer’s speech was unnecessarily abridged and his university’s police compounded the situation by using excessive and sadistically brutal force in the process.
While President Bush is in no way responsible for the tasering incident, his administration is guilty of abridging our rights, speech among them, and the well-meaning kids at Colorado State summed up my frustration nicely. While everyone is looking to the near East for the next assault on our freedom, the cowardly and sadistic among us are quietly shackling us. Enough is enough, folks.
We should all pile into a school bus and head down to Florida or Colorado to protest, but we won’t. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that a few will write letters or send e-mails to representatives; but more importantly, we should take a minute to think about the freedoms we have and decide if we like them.
In a sick way, it’s kind of funny. Meyer exercises his freedom of speech to make people ask questions about the political structure of our nation and is rewarded with a few thousand volts. Miss Teen South Carolina exercises her freedom of speech to make an entire generation look like a bunch of idiots and is rewarded with appearances on talk shows and awards shows. It sounds a little backwards to me.

*This column also appeared in the KSU Sentinel, the newspaper of Kennesaw State University.

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