Tuesday, May 8, 2007

MIAMI by Joan Didion

[Events from March 1986]

"It appeared that many eggs had been hurled, and some rocks. It appeared that at least one onion had been hurled, hitting the president of the Dade County Young Democrats...

"From noon of that Saturday until about three, when a riot squad was called and the South Florida Peace Coalition physically extracted from the fray, the police had apparently managed to keep the Alpha 66 demonstrators on the Alpha 66 side of the barricades... The two thousand Alpha 66 demonstrators had apparently spent the three hours trying to rush the barricades, tangling with police, and shouting down the folksingers with chants of 'Comunismo no, Democracia si,' and 'Rusia no, Reagan si.'

"The mayor of Miami, Xavier Suarez, had apparently stayed on the Alpha 66 side of the barricades, at one point speaking from the back of a Mazda pickup, a technique he later described in a letter to the [Miami] Herald as 'mingling with the people and expressing my own philosophical agreement with their ideas - as well as my disagreement with the means by which some would implement those ideas.'

"'Unfortunately, they have the right to be on the other side of the street' was what [Xavier Suarez] apparently said as the time, from the back of the Mazda pickup... but the fevers of the moment continued for some weeks to induce a certain exhortatory delirium in the pages of the Herald.

"'I was raised to believe that the right to peaceful dissent was vital to our freedoms,' one such letter read, from a woman who noted that she had been present at the Peace Coalition demonstration... 'Apparently,' she continued, 'some in the Cuban community do not recognize my right.... Evidently, their definition of human rights is not the same as that of the most native-born Americans.'

"Voltaire was quoted, somewhat loosely ('I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'), and even Wendell Willkie, the inscription on whose grave marker ('Because we are generous with our freedom, we share our rights with those who disagree with us') was said to be 'our American creed, as spelled out in the Constitution.'

"A Herald columnist, Carl Hiaasen, put the matter even more flatly: 'They have come to the wrong country,' he wrote about those pro-contra demonstrators who had that Saturday afternoon attacked a young man named David Camp, 'a carpenter and stagehand who was born here, and has always considered himslef patriotic... They need to go someplace where they won't have to struggle so painfully with the concept of free speech, or the right to dissent. Someplace where the names of Paine and Jefferson have no meaning, where folks wouldn't know the Bill of Rights if it was stapled to their noses.'"


[Didion, Joan. (1987). Miami. New York: Simon and Schuster.]
[Miami-Dade Public Library - FLA 301.4537 d556m]

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