In response to Francine Less’ queries (“Insult to injury,” Front Porch, Aug. 16) “How did this start? When did freedom of expression get carved away from our Constitution?,” the answer is: It started right after 9/11, with the rapid passage of the so-called PATRIOT Act, and our country has been heading down a very slippery slope into totalitarianism ever since. The Bush administration, which considers itself above the law and immune to checks and balances from Congress or the courts, has made a hollow sham of the First and Fourth Amendments of the Bill of Rights. We no longer have freedom of speech, press or assembly as those might be measured meaningfully, i.e., freedom to criticize the government in any peaceable manner, in any numbers and at any location.

We now have “protest pens” far from those being protested against, peaceable critics thrown out of meetings and arrested, and army veterans arrested for wearing peace T-shirts at the VA–to say nothing of not-so-extraordinary rendition to torture from our own state of North Carolina. Attempts to promote justice, or even sanity, are met with “war on terror” and “national security” as blanket denials of all that has been best about our country.

Fortunately, there are movements working to regain our civil rights and liberties, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committees. The excellent national BORDC Web site is at, and there are active local chapters in Orange and Durham counties. We would love to have you join us. In Durham, call me at 403-2712; in Orange County, call Margaret Misch at 942-2535.

Joan F. Walsh

Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee