censorship
Censorship imperils cultures and civilization. When governments and elites prohibit speaking or writing without threats, shaming, or epithets meant to shut down discussion, free thinking dies. People also die.

A censorship industrial complex grew around Covid hysteria, which began as a war on a virus. New full-blown wars, with guns, bombs, tanks, and planes, and thousands dead now explode around us as free speech is lost in wars' rubble, and propaganda buries truths.

With money and massive influence, private for-profit industries like pharmaceutical companies, capture US agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, that then bolster industry profits rather than protect public health. Similarly, captured politicians help corporations profit from wars, as Marine Corp Brigadier General Smedley Butler notes in his book, War is a Racket and as Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in his 1961 Farewell Address. Corporate and government elites get rich from wars based on lies, such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and they sit rich now in retirement.

What truths might we uncover, sifting through wars' rubble? Children and young people didn't need Covid shots as they were at little risk from serious illness from Covid, and some countries stopped recommending them. Yet, vaccines are a main source of revenue for pediatricians. A "pandemic of the unvaccinated" never happened though entertainers, highly paid media figures, and politicians viciously maligned those who waited or declined a Covid shot.

Most people contracted Covid anyway, whether they got multiple shots or not. Shots did not prevent transmission. Thousands of Covid vaccine-injured people have been bullied into silence and rendered invisible. These are all statements we have been forbidden from making in the last few years; those who dare utter them faced rancor or ridicule or worse.

Don't talk about Covid shots, school and business closings, or the many beloved businesses and churches that closed for good because of bureaucratic mandates.

Don't talk about vaccine injuries or deaths or children's learning losses or epidemics of addictions; don't talk about child and teen suicides.

Don't talk about Robert F. Kennedy Jr's astute observations that Haiti and Nigeria had the some of the least restrictive Covid policies on earth, had about a one percent Covid vaccine rate, and have had some of the lowest Covid death rates in the world, observations noted in his book, Letter to Liberals.

Don't talk about how Covid shots may cause Covid, or how Pfizer's own product literature states that Covid is one of the side effects of the shot. When we talk about these topics, listeners often stiffen and bristle, their eyes may go blank as they dismiss us with pity or contempt before we even complete a spoken paragraph. Now, new disasters and traumas affect the world, and many insist we not talk about them to avoid snarling and insults or worse.

Violence and war exploded in the Middle East recently, and more unutterable statements come to mind. For instance, criticizing the policies of the Israeli government does not equal anti-Semitism. Great Britain, the same colonial power that colonized and divided the African continent and other countries like poker chips among winners, made The Balfour Declaration in 1917 that declared a "home for the Jews" in Palestine, where Palestinians already lived.

Was this presumptuous and elitist for the British to declare?

Is a single, open, and democratic state in Israel with equal rights for all the best solution to the conflicts and violence, as Israeli American writer, activist, and Israeli Defense Force veteran Miko Peled has stated? Peled is the son of an Israeli general and grandson of one of the signers of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His father was an Israeli war hero turned peace maker. He changed his thinking on Israel; so did Miko Peled. Peled writes his story in his book, The General's Son and shares his views in talks and interviews, such as this one on the Katie Halper program.

In spite of how propaganda bombards us, we may note as Miko Peled does, that Palestinians are not simply evil barbarians, beheading babies and raping women. Islam is not a religion of fanatics and terrorists, in Palestine, or anywhere else, as the media often portrays it. It is one of the world's major religions. The word, Islam, means "submission to the will of God." The Arabic word, "salaam" which means peace, is part of the common greeting among Muslims all over the world.

Spreading peace is a requirement of the faith. Similarly, sharing God's peace is expected among Christians and Jews.

Christians have been criticized for their views on Israel. An older and much more well-read peace activist friend shared with me that some evangelical Christians who support Israel, stand with Israel, do so because they believe Israel is the final launching pad for the Rapture when Christians will be zapped up to Heaven, and Jewish people will be too if they convert to Christianity. Jewish people who do not will perish.

What do Jewish people think of this scenario? What if they do not want to "accept Jesus," but simply wish to remain Jewish? It is confusing. Plenty of the world's worst violence has been committed and continues in the name of or under the cover of religion.

Statements we are not supposed to make call us to make them now. Statements I make above could be wrong. Many may disagree with them. However, censorship kills with its shaming epithets meant to shut down discussion and thought, like the labels "anti-Semitic" or "conspiracy theorist," "science denier" or "anti-Vaxxer."

Censorship imperils us when we are forbidden to speak without threats and insults, such as when we were told, "You don't care if others die of Covid" if we decided not to wear a mask or to move about freely in 2020 and 2021. Similarly, we were told, "You deserve to be excluded from society if you decline a vaccine" even when some of us had natural immunity or didn't think we needed it. Even worse, some of us were told, "You deserve to die - or lose your job or friends or education โ€” if you don't comply."

Many said such horrible things in the last few years.

Slogans and advertising language often replace free speech and obliterate open thought, as they did during the Covid period, as they do during all wars. Should we be wary of sloganeering and pre-packaged language like "wiped off the map," "Israel's 9-11," "rid the world of evil," "mushroom cloud," "weapons of mass destruction," "pandemic of the unvaccinated," - sloganeering that stops empathy and reflection, closes debate, and whips populations into war frenzies? Should we question slogans and manipulative phrases?

What questions might we ask about slogans like Israel's "right to exist"? What does that mean? After a suicide bomber killed his niece in Israel years ago, Miko Peled asked questions. He joined dialogue groups of Israelis and Palestinians and changed his thinking.

US military veteran suicides have been at epidemic levels after soldiers returned from multiple deployments in disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ignited by sloganeering after 9-11 and the launch of the so-called "war on terror," which was to "rid the world of evil." How might those veterans react now, hearing this same kind of language about "Israel's 9-11"? This past week, I learned of another veteran who committed suicide.

Can we keep our minds opened, our hearts softened to alternative perspectives? During Covid lockdowns, rigid thinking and censorship caused the US to harm its own children relentlessly as their suicides, addictions, developmental delays, learning losses, and despair increased. Children around the world starved, were abused, exploited, and enslaved because of lockdown policies we were forbidden to question. Has an entire generation of young people been harmed?

Free societies do not ban statements and opinions. Free societies permit questions and debate. Statements above may be phrased as questions as well. For instance, do Covid shots work? Have they worked to stop transmission and illness and death? Was discussion of early Covid treatment suppressed, as Dr. Peter McCollough noted early in lockdowns? Are Covid vaccine-injured people silenced? Where may we find their stories?

Should western cultures have shut down in 2020 in an attempt to avoid a single pathogen? By what authority did bureaucrats suspend the US Constitution in 2020 and forbid assembly, speech, protest, group worship, and community gatherings? What were the harms? Who benefitted from lockdowns and Covid shots and how? How much money changed hands? Who wrote the checks and who got paid?

Why are Palestinians fighting? How do we end the violence and build peace? Should the US fund violence in Israel the ways it does? What has life been like in Gaza and the West Bank of Palestine for the last few decades? Could lockdowns have made life there worse?

Israel has been criticized as one of the most repressive countries in the world for Covid restrictions and Covid shot mandates. Protesting Covid policies is a privilege Palestinians in Gaza would not have had. They have lacked basic medicines, clean water, and schools free of bombings for years.

Was the Balfour Declaration a good idea? Conservative Jewish Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, speaking at a Let the Quran Speak conference, supports Palestinians and criticizes leaders of the state of Israel on religious grounds.

Documentary films like Occupation 101 and Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land provoked my thinking when I helped organize public showings of them while working with peace groups. We led discussions of these films along with War Made Easy, a film based on Norman Solomon's book by the same name, and The Ground Truth, a film about the horrific effects on the eight-ten percent of the population, sent on multiple deployments to fights those wars.

In the last few years, the same US government that sent military members to fight and die in catastrophic wars forced Covid shots on them until refusers struck down the unlawful mandates.

Stories from outsiders and whistleblowers may teach us, stories from former insiders in the military, in industry, in governments. Soldiers sent to fight disastrous wars may have lost limbs or memory or cognitive function from IEDs. They learned and changed and spoke - what we were not allowed to say.

Describing this latest violence as "Israel's 9-11" is especially dangerous as we recall the unfathomable destruction and carnage that such language unleashed on the world more than twenty years ago with the launch of the so-called "war on terror".

What did we learn? Outsiders and independent thinkers โ€” who have said what was forbidden โ€” have often changed history. From the so-called "war on terror," the war on a virus, the current war in Israel and Palestine, perhaps they will now.
Christine E. Black's work has been published in Antietam Review, 13th Moon, American Journal of Poetry, New Millennium Writings, Nimrod International, Red Rock Review, The Virginia Journal of Education, Friends Journal, The Veteran, Sojourners Magazine, Iris Magazine, English Journal, Amethyst Review, and other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Pablo Neruda Prize.