Art Buchwald: An Upright, Locked Position, May 6, 2003

The Constitution guarantees everyone the right to freedom of speech and the government a right to keep everything you say in a database.

For example, the federal marshals at the airports have a list of protesters. It is called the "No Fly" list and has been very helpful in finding people who are against the war in Iraq. (I did not make this up.)

Obviously, the list is quite useful in tracking down opponents of President Bush.

George Mayberry, a federal marshal at Reagan National Airport said, as he made me take off my shoes, "The No Fly list is the only way we can tell who the protesters are."

"I'm not a protester," I said, as he searched my shoes with a wand. "I think President Bush is the greatest president we've ever had."

"Your name is on the list."

"That's another Buchwald," I protested. "He is a known agitator and they always mix up our names."

Mayberry said, "Stick out your arms. Have you ever used free speech to advocate overthrowing the government?"

"Never," I said. "Not even when I went to dinner in Georgetown."

"If you were a card-carrying protester, could you give us the names of other protesters?"

I said, "I don't know anybody. Ask Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell or Richard Perle. They make me proud to be an American."

Mayberry asked, "What have you got in your pocket?"

"A photo of Vice President Cheney. I always carry it next to my heart. Can I go now so I won't miss my plane?"

"We're not finished with you yet. Stand over there with the other No Fly suspects."

I went over to the area assigned to the outspoken protesters.

Martin Sheen said, "I think Bush and his war plans are a disgrace."

Susan Sarandon said, "I have a right to say anything I want to, even if my mother doesn't agree with me."

Tim Robbins said, "I have to get back to a peace rally in San Francisco."

A man who looked like an FBI agent was videotaping all of us.

The Dixie Chicks sang, "Ain't going to go to war no more."

I felt terrible to be put in the same class with peacenik movie stars and singers.

"What about you?" Mike Farrell asked. "What are you in for?"

I replied, "I can go either way. I don't think we should bomb innocent people, but if that is what it takes to conquer another country, I say do it."

I could see looks of disappointment in the No Fly faces, so I tried to say something positive. "Of course I am for freedom of speech. On the other hand, we must have time to find weapons of mass destruction before we start charging the White House with not doing the right thing."

My remarks didn't fly. Sheen said, "Why won't they let us get on the plane?"

I said, "Because even if you are in show business you could still be a terrorist."

Sarandon cried, "I am an actress, not a terrorist."

I said, "These are difficult times. Americans have to put up with a lot. Removing your shoes and missing your plane is a small price to pay to guarantee every citizen his freedom of speech."