I have always had strong political opinions. Throughout my life I have written letters and editorials, posted on blogs, passed out materials and worked on elections. In November of 2000 I went into shock. I didn’t come out of it until Dean woke me up to `take back our country’. We all know what happened next.
Perhaps we have gotten the government that we deserve. There is no doubt that “Freedom isn’t free.” However it’s not just some anonymous member of the military that needs to pay the price. It is you. And me. No exceptions and no exemptions.
The underpinnings of the changes in our country over the last five years are all based on anxiety. Remember the dread of the Y2K predictions? The national anguish and despair after the 2000 elections? The stunning distress of 9/11? These combined to establish a culture among us of angst, unease and dread. And it created a national paralysis that has come close to destroying the groundwork of the American way of life.
Fear undermines civilized behavior. It makes the unknown more frightening than it really is. Its effect is often aggressive action. And as Marilyn Ferguson once said: “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.”
A people divided are easy to destroy. We have let ourselves become alienated from our neighbors and manipulated by those in power. We need to stop thinking of each other as Right Wing Nut Jobs and Bleeding Heart Liberals.
The media, government and corporate entities are masters at hitting the right buttons of each group. They easily distract us with shell games of threats–be it attacks on our nation, fears of medical plagues, or suspicion that `the other guy’ is trying to destroy our way of life.
The ironic aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union is that we lost our common enemy. It has been replaced by apprehension of what the other person who looks or thinks differently is going to do to us. The common enemy we face with fear is now our neighbor.
Yet one of the foundations of every belief system is essentially to `love your neighbor as yourself’. When nearly everyone is a potential threat, how can that occur? It can’t. And that is what keeps us demoralized and exploited.
Life is uncertain. There will always be the stress of not knowing what will happen next. There will always be people willing to kill others to gain power, money and domination. We are all potential victims. Every one of us is going to die.
- We can no longer cover ourselves with a blanket to hide from the consequences after we run away.
Perhaps our greatest enemies are complacency and complicity. It is so much easier not to delve into what is happening. To believe whatever pundit or politician that speaks what we want to hear. Yet, once we acknowledge our problem we gain the power to put it past us. We cannot beat it until we face it down.
There are more of us around this country than there are terrorists around the world. Why have we let ourselves become so fearful? It can’t just be the randomness of terror. Nearly all things in life are haphazard. You might be born into wealth or poverty. You might survive an unexpected illness, or be destroyed by one. A car accident, a fall, eating the wrong food–all can kill you pretty quickly.
The people we hired didn’t do their jobs.
It is overwhelming at times. All three branches of government have let us down. The `check and balance’ system isn’t working. We can’t even trust the New York Times to offer a timely report on a story that could have changed the 2004 election results.
Bobby Kennedy would not know what country he was in if he came back today. Richard Nixon would be impressed.
It is hard to grasp how we are now the country that defies the Geneva Conventions, advocates torture on prisoners who have not been tried, and ignores its own hurricane victims. That spies on its own citizens, allows oil companies to set energy policies, and no longer believes in caring for the weakest among us.
What happened to courage? Leadership? Oversight? Outrage?
Is the system so corrupt? Are we as a people so weak? Can it be true that the shock of one attack on one day will be what began to destroy everything the Revolution was fought to create?
9/11 didn’t happen because of lack of Intelligence. It happened because they didn’t properly interpret the Intelligence that they already had obtained.
There are those who assume that anyone who is wiretapped or arrested must deserve it. Despite knowing that people are falsely arrested, that justice is not always just. The government now has the power to arrest, jail and keep you without the rights and protection that the Constitution offers. If that isn’t a potential problem for every citizen, why do you think they devoted part of the Constitution to protecting you from it?
Remember the lesson of our most recent past:
“In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
(this is one of several versions).
You Can Be A Hero. Yes, you.
We admire courage. Whether it is the Brits facing the bombing of London, or the young man facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square.
We fought to preserve freedom all over the world during the twentieth century. Yet here, in the twenty-first century, in the land of the free and the home of the brave we are letting it slip away.
We have allowed ourselves to be distracted by pretend attacks on “Christmas” and flavor of the month fears of epidemic terrors and plagues. Or to hide behind the flag because “we must not be negative it will hurt the morale of our troops.”
Where is the morale boost in watching a buddy die? In being crippled for life? In living in a day to day hell with an enemy everywhere? Of being short of needed gear or using defective equipment? There will be no pride of mission accomplished in this quagmire. If we really want to boost morale we should get them out of there.
The Administration has acknowledged that there are more terrorists now than before 9/11. Our reactionary and violent behavior has done nothing to stop the growth and spread of people who hate the United States. Our conduct has instead swelled the number of our enemies.
The only way to stop this madness is turn away from our fear and ignorance. It has only made us ugly. The next generations are not growing up with the view of Americans as liberators. They are seeing a people who torture, spy, kill with chemicals, falsely imprison, manipulate, lie, cheat and steal. All in the guise of the `end’ justifying the means.
We should be mad as hell. We shouldn’t take it anymore.
You and I can no longer abdicate personal responsibility. We cannot allow the principals of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be destroyed. The men who wrote these documents faced losing everything they had to fight for liberty. They would have been executed as traitors if they lost.
Taking on the strongest military power in the world was a huge risk. They were not the obvious victors in the struggle. Yet when they signed the Declaration of Independence they “pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor”. They put everything they had on the line to obtain their autonomy.
Aren’t we willing to do that today?
We have better nutrition, medical care and standards of living than those early revolutionaries. All of us have the benefit of education and the lessons of history. We have the edge, the advantage of knowing that it can be done.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
As the New Year approaches we have a mess on our hands. Too many have remained too silent for too long. It is time for us to clean up and move on. Forgive ourselves and each other for the mistakes of the past. Progress beyond fear and anger.
If we deserve to live in the bastion of freedom and democracy it is time to open ourselves to risk. To fight to keep all that we have taken for granted. It might be scary and inconvenient. It might be uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Unlike the early settlers we won’t have to move thousands of miles away. Unlike the soldiers at Valley Forge we won’t have to freeze or eat our shoe leather.
Historians will assume that people who wore tights and powdered wigs were tougher than us.
Otherwise our legacy to history might be that we became victims instead of victors. That we were willing to let Americans die to `protect’ freedom all over the world–and let it slip away in our own land.
My Gift To Myself
Today I joined the ACLU as a Christmas gift to myself. I have always taken them for granted. In fact I have barely paid attention to them. This group has been fighting to protect our Civil Liberties and the fundamentals of our Constitution. They aren’t always popular. Now I realize how desperately we need such advocacy, and how grateful I am that they still exist. Because as Hillel once said:
- “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
posted at my blog:
cross posted: Booman Tribune,Daily Koss, Mydd, TalkingPoints, Political Cortext