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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1917: Democracy at Home

1917: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and fellow suffragists are imprisoned for protesting for the right to vote. When they go on hunger strike to protest the conditions of their imprisonment, they are force fed. Paul states: "We do not make any plea before this court. We do not consider ourselves subject to this court, since as an unenfranchised class we have nothing to do with the making of the laws which have put us in this position...We are being imprisoned, not because we have obstructed traffic, but because we pointed out to the President the fact that he was obstructing the cause of democracy at home, while Americans were fighting for it abroad." *

2012: Arizona attempts to join North Carolina, Nebraska, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma as states that prohibit abortions (with no exception for rape or incest) past 20 weeks.

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1922: Ricardo Flores Magón, a Mexican anarchist influential in the Mexican Revolution, dies in a U.S. prison.  He was arrested and sentenced to 20 years for obstructing the U.S. war effort during the Palmer Raids, which sought to arrest and deport leftists.
  • 1969-73: Members of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union form Jane, an abortion service that provides over 11,000 illegal abortions. None of the members were trained physicians.
  • 2005: Cindy Sheehan sets up Camp Casey outside President Bush's ranch in honor of her son, a soldier killed in Iraq. She is arrested in 2005 while attempting to deliver an anti-Iraq war petition to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She is arrested again in 2006 for keeping Dick Cheney's motorcade from entering the president's ranch. Her work is paralleled by the ongoing protests of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo—a group of mothers whose children were "disappeared" during the Argentinian dictatorship of the 1970s. 

Discussion Questions:
  • Should people who live in a country where they can't vote be held to the same laws? Why or why not?
  • Alice Paul and Gandhi were engaged in civil disobedience and hunger strikes/public fasts around the same time.  Compare and contrast who they were in relation to the powers they were fighting. What are the similarities and differences?
  • What, if anything, does a country owe the people or families of people who have died due to war?
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