I want my daughters to have FBI files. I want them filmed by hostile government agents during mass protests against injustice. If they get lucky, they’ll be tear-gassed; not so much to do damage, just enough to make a good story. Like I was tear gassed as a child. Just like my mother wanted it.
When I was eight my mother led our whole family into the marches against segregation in Chicago. The FBI spied on us then, too. In the sixties, the Bureau claimed to be looking for “communists,” now they’re hunting “terrorists," but they look for enemies among the same group of Americans: protesters, we who dissent. At civil rights marches there were countless guys in suits taking movies and snapshots of us all. Sometimes it was the FBI, sometimes the Chicago Police Department’s in-house anti-subversive unit, the Red Squad. My mother taught us to smile a wave at the camera. Even at eight we understood they meant to scare us. I was in Catholic schools at the time so I was well acquainted with the notion of stuff going on my “permanent record.”
But my mother wanted protest on our permanent records. She insisted that she and her children be counted among those whom bullying law enforcement did not scare.
I am overwhelmingly proud of my childhood dissent. I wear the suspicion of the FBI as a badge of honor. I long to be included on Bill O’Riley’s enemies list.
When my daughters are little old ladies and their grandchildren ask, “Where were you guys when the rebels saved us from Bush?” I want them to brag, “We were in Chicago, Washington, San Francisco. We’re not lying, check our FBI files!”
I want my daughters to know the joys of rebellion, the delights of fighting out-gunned and against the grain. I want them to breathe deeply the electric air outside the main herd. That the other side has the FBI just makes the fight more romantic. A ragtag band of news junkies, partisans, and assorted kooks against the great media/industrial death star, Morpheus against the Matrix, rebels against the state, like in 1965 and 1776.
I had despaired that my children would have no great monsters to slay, no forge for their mettle. But there ain’t a greater call to American action than a warning from the FBI to shut up. Conscience makes rebels of us all.
I haven’t been to an anti-war march in a few months, but I’ll be at the next one I hear about, with my daughters. If the FBI is there filming we’ll all smile and wave for their cameras. But to save the bureau time and effort: my name is Aaron Freeman, two “a’s, two “e’s”. Please print it out in seventy-two-point font. That King George might read it without his spectacles.