The problem with the truth, however, is that there so many versions.
Ernst Thaelmann, the famous German Communist, once stated that there is no such thing as the truth, only facts. I tend to agree. I have lived in many places, and on both sides of the Berlin Wall. I can tell you that the Wall may have separated people, countries and political systems, but it did not stop the way those in power deal with opinions that differ from their own.
Political dissent was silenced in the GDR (East Germany) just as it is silenced in the United States today. The freedom of expression is only a freedom as long as you say nothing controversial, or do not pose uncomfortable questions. To me, as a person that has lived under both Capitalism and Soviet-style Communism, there is little difference in the methods of those in power. Just as the GDR government arrested opposition members carrying banners bearing the words of Communist Rosa Luxemburg, American activists are silenced and arrested when they protest in this country, whether it be against drones, Guantanamo or Wall Street.
I freely admit to being an idealist, both then and now. There are worse things one can be. Despite all of the tumultuous events in my life – or maybe perhaps because of them – I am still a staunch advocate of radical social change. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Bloc the world has not become a better place, and it certainly has not become safer. The critical balance of the Cold War is gone; in its place a schizophrenic hegemony of the US and its closest allies keeps the world in a state of constant war and unrest. Just as I once fought against an overtly aggressive foreign policy of the Reagan administration during the 1980s, others like Bradley Manning or Ed Snowden have taken up that thankless task today. And like me, they will pay a price. You can count on it.
When opinions are silenced, and when the truth – or at least the facts – are conveniently removed from public view, we all pay a price. The public has a right to know what their government does in their name, even when that knowledge is uncomfortable.
A final note: all of the pictures and illustration presented here are either my personal property or have been generously provided by others with their express permission. Any unauthorized use, reproduction or transmission is expressly prohibited. You know what that means. Some material may be made available upon written request. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.