Saturday, August 26, 2006

September 17th, 2006 -- Our Day of Infamy

On Sunday, 17 September 2006, we would like to commemorate the 219th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution with an act of True Patriotism: a reprinting of the "Ten Characteristics of A True US Patriot" in both physical and electronic form.

Please join us to help make this event a memorable one.

Our nation, now more than ever, needs to be reminded of the fundamental beliefs that underlie one of the most important documents of our short history.

Our goal is to have hundreds of copies of the original Constitution, along with copies of the "Ten Characteristics of A True US Patriot," inundate our national and state government offices. We want to make it impossible for the Congress, the Republican majority and the Bush Administration in particular to walk through the day without having to face the core tenets of our nation.

Please help us make this happen. Help take back our nation by reminding those who claim to act in the national interest to act in the interest of the people and support their oaths of office.

Whether you print out a copy of the Constitution (and Bill of Rights) along with a copy of the Ten Characteristics, or simply email them, make sure that your state representatives in Congress get them. Freeway bloggers can put up signs that say "Google 'Ten Characteristics of A True US Patriot'" or "USPatriotsUnited blog" -- anything to get the word out. Here are some ideas:

Have a block party (get proper permits of course) if you don't live near a statehouse or in the nation's capitol.

Have a candlelight vigil, where the Constitution and Bill of Rights are read aloud, followed by the Ten Characteristics. Call your local news media and have them cover it.

March on Washington DC, culminating in a meeting where the Constitution and Bill of Rights are read aloud (via megaphone directed at that nice white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), followed by a reading of the Ten Characteristics.

Don't let the day and the importance of the anniversary that it commemorates go by unnoticed by those who dare to flaunt their violation of their oaths to uphold and defend our Constitution. Let this be our own personal "Day of Infamy" -- by the numbers. Get organized. Get permits. Get commitments to march, or read the documents aloud.

We'll be back shortly with more information about how we'd like to accomplish this. Stay tuned. And drop any ideas you have on how to accomplish this into comments.

It's time to exercise our collective voice. Let freedom ring.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Welcoming Guests

In order to ensure continuity and variety, we have begun to bring guest bloggers onboard. Between and betwixt the posts developed in concert by the team at USPatriotsUnited and PatriotsAll, the entries by our guest bloggers should help spice things up.

We have been delayed in posting some entries that were made available to us at the times of their original release, and are backfilling -- including adjusting the timestamps -- in order to ensure proper continuity. All posts that are backfilled in this manner will have a notation at the bottom to indicate their adjusted nature.

Thank you all for you patience during the rather long and unexpected hiatus to the normal updating process.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Intolerable Acts: (Re)Birth of a Nation

There is a phrase that I'm sure we've all heard in one form or another which is peculiarly significant at this point for the citizens of the United States. It is simply this:

"History repeats itself because nobody listens the first time."

In general, this phrase depicts the familiar echoes of recurrent historical themes as they cycle back in a renewed form, changed a bit in each incarnation but carrying with them similar lessons that humanity may not have fully comprehended the first time. Some have even gone so far as to embody the concept of the phrase into a definition called "cyclic history". Whether based on coincidental observation or actually extant within one's beliefs, we are now witnessing a recurrence of two major themes playing out across the world stage that should cause us to sit up and take notice: the "Intolerable Acts" of 1774 that spawned the birth of our nation, and the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s that led to World War II.


For those of you who may be a little rusty with regard to your US history, let's review the "Intolerable Acts":

from "The Intolerable Acts of 1774: Road to Independence by Elizabeth J."

King George III was determined to control the colonies by imposing a new tea tax. In 1775, he demanded that three shiploads of surplus tea be unloaded in Boston. The Bostonians did not want the tea and decided not to pay a tax that their Assembly did not vote on. They dumped the tea in Boston Harbor, believing England would then leave them alone. King George III was furious! He, and many in Parliament, believed the colonies should be punished for insulting Parliament and interfering with trade. To punish them, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, called by the colonists, Intolerable Acts.

These acts overturned the principles on which the Massachusetts colony was founded in the charter of 1691. Without consultation and without legal proceedings, the charter was changed. The colonists were outraged!

The Boston Port Bill was intended to close down completely the Port of Boston until the East India Company was paid for their tea and Parliament was paid the tax due on the tea.

The Massachusetts Government Act declared that members of the Massachusetts Council would be appointed by the Governor, not elected by the Assembly. Also, town meetings could take place only with the Governor's permission. This act gave the governor full power to appoint local officials and the judiciary, and decreed that in the future, juries would be appointed by the sheriffs, not elected.

The Administration of Justice Act provided that any British official serving in the colonies, who was accused of a capital offense could be removed from the colony and sent to another colony or to England for a fair trial.Through a new Quartering Act for the British Army, colonial citizens would be required to house and feed, in their private homes, British officers and troops.

Finally, the Quebec Act was tacked on to the Intolerable Acts. It gave Canada's Catholics civil equality and guaranteed religious tolerance. It also gave the French vast territories west of the Appalachians. The colonists saw this as an attempt to renew their battles with both the French and the Indians.

The issuance of these acts and the resulting outrage led to the formation of the first Continental Congress. The first steps toward freedom and independence of the American colonies were taken, and the path was set. Several years later, a new nation was born, founded on the concept that "all men were created equal" and endowed with certain "inalienable rights" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The United States Constitution was created to lay the operational foundation for this new nation. Critical to the acceptance of this pivotal document was the requirement by several of the newly-formed states that a "Bill of Rights" be immediately adopted to ensure that certain rights and freedoms be explicitly defined. Several of the first key Amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights were direct responses to the violations incurred by the Intolerable Acts – particularly the third and fourth amendments:

Amendment III: Quartering of soldiersNo Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV: Search and arrestThe right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

There was concern that later courts and incarnations of the government would interpret the express enumeration of rights as an exhaustive list, resulting in the possibility of draconian limitations. Knowing that they could not hope to foresee all the possible permutations of rights and freedoms of the people, and not wanting to expressly limit the rights of the people – as these rights are "inalienable", and hence not subject to the whim and fancy of the original framers – a key amendment was inserted to ensure that the people retained all rights justly due them, beyond the ken of the ones listed in the Bill:
Amendment IX: Rights retained by the PeopleThe enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The ninth amendment.Often overlooked and played down as insignificant, it is perhaps our most powerful claim to the rights that we have to realize may be violated through the machinations of a leadership run amuck. The tenth amendment is similar, and in theory protects us from the powers of a unitary runaway Executive Branch:
Amendment X: States' rightsThe powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
With the new nation guided by this enlightened document, the government of the people, by the people and for the people felt secure in their belief that this nation would not perish from the earth.

Time passed.

As with all nations along the course laid through history, new laws were codified, reviewed, passed and sometimes repealed. Our heritage as a nation of, by and for the people became rich and rife with struggles as we expanded and defined our definitions of rights, of people and of freedom.

King George III was the first "King" that our nascent colonial founders had looked to. The king and his supporters had imposed intolerable requirements upon the colonies, and were cast off. The new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, was born.

Now we are at a crucial point in our history, where we have another "George" lording it over our nation. Not crowned a king, yet acting very much like one in claims of "Executive Privilege", our second "King George" has echoed the events of the past. Over the last few years, the Bush Administration and their Republican supporters have passed not one but several Intolerable Acts of their own. They have undermined the safety, security and Constitutionally founded tenets of our nation, squandered the treasury and ignored – and openly violated – their oaths to support and defend the Constitution.

We have come full circle. The events of the past that marked a cornerstone in our history have cycled back to us, entreating us to recall our history and the blood, sweat and tears of those who have fought and died to preserve the promises forged by our founding fathers.

Whether one believes in Fate, Destiny, a higher power or guiding light, or simply in the capacity of the human spirit to strive and overcome challenges, the time has come for all good people to come to the aid of their country. We are now in the midst of a Constitutional crisis. We must not fail in our resolve to set right our path, or the chaos and bloodshed that has stained our nation through the efforts of the Bush Administration and the Republican majority will forever mark the efforts of all those who have come before as doomed to failure.

We dare not rest in our efforts to recall to mind in our brothers and sisters the principles upon which this nation was founded.

But what of the other recurrent cycle, now surfacing in our midst? What could that be, and what need we learn from history in order to circumvent the ultimate threat to our nation and the security of it and the world?

In complete violation of the attempts to negate the association, I cannot help to call out the similarity in the rise of fascism in Hitler's Germany to the rise of similar nationalistic pride, narcissistic arrogance and draconian restrictions upon our people. Combined with the near-perfect repetition of the dictatorship of King George, this trend toward the violation of our national principles, fostered through a climate of fear, can destroy our nation. Let it not be so.

The current Administration is bent on a course of destruction, and maneuvering to limit our capacity as a nation to halt their efforts. They are allied with multinational corporate interests that seek not the preservation of our nation, nor the protection of the inalienable rights and freedoms that our citizens hold, but to the narrowing of the benefits of wealth and power to the hands of their "elite" brethren.

If we don't act now to force Congress to rein the Administration in, they will precipitate and initiate another war of aggression. They are already spying upon us, not to protect us from terrorists but to protect themselves from us.

"History repeats itself because nobody listens the first time."
Well, is there anybody listening this time?

Can you hear me now...?

This post was not originally updated to this blog and has been backfilled into proper chronological sequence. We apologize for any inconvenience. - The USPatriotsUnited Team

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lincoln, Bush and the Lyceum Address

[Crossposted on DailyKos and ePluribus Media]

A little background: A recent thread by Kos (Prepare the noose for William F. Buckley) coincided with some light research I'd just completed on a couple Lincoln quotes. Originally intended to be a short comment with a quote, it ballooned. There was simply too much quality content to avoid excerpting it.

George Bush, through the tireless and unrelenting efforts of Karl Rove and the RWNM, has been vainly casting about attempting to generate a memorable image of himself and his "accomplishments" in a positive light. Ideally, in their minds, this would set his place in history and cement his base in place as a potent supplement to help preserve the power of the GOP. The most recent attempts to create a noble image involves frequent references to Lincoln, and to the GOP as the "Party of Lincoln". But even diehard conservatives are railing against George as any kind of effective leader - the most recent to jump on the bandwagon (at the time of this writing - I'm expecting quite a few more to hop on as it passes by) was William F. Buckley. Kos wrote a diary called "Prepare the noose for William F. Buckley", which spawned the thoughts leading to the diary you now read. Essentially, any attempt to cast George in the likeness of Lincoln - at least in terms of leadership capability - should fail, particularly in the light of anyone actually reading and learning more about the former President.

Lincoln's address to the Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois in 1838, on the perpetuation of our political institutions had a very significant piece to it. One which we would be well-served to repeat, especially in light of GW's constant attempts to reference himself in the mold of Lincoln.

Here's the (IMO) most significant piece:

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
So, given that Lincoln himself would scold the GOP, and take them to task for attempting to "suicide" the nation with their relentless machinations and limits to freedom, he should be dug up and strung up next to Buckley.

There are additional references and excerpts that could further supplement an understanding of just how wrong the NeoConservative-induced GOP mindset is, and they illustrate well - in these words of timeless significance - what we, as a nation of diverse people and ideologies, should guard against.

Failure to adhere to the law.

I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs, form the every-day news of the times. They have pervaded the country, from New England to Louisiana;--they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former, nor the burning suns of the latter;--they are not the creature of climate-- neither are they confined to the slave-holding, or the non-slave- holding States. Alike, they spring up among the pleasure hunting masters of Southern slaves, and the order loving citizens of the land of steady habits.--Whatever, then, their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.
Indeed, these times are well described in words eerily similar to the times in which Lincoln lived.

It is not likely that Abe would approve of the actions of our current Executives, Justices, and majority members of Congress. Indeed, he seemed to foreshadow the coming of such a "danger" to the nation:

I know the American People are much attached to their Government;--I know they would suffer much for its sake;--I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.
He presents the question of how we should seek to fortify ourselves against such an occurrence, then provides the answer:
The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;--let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

So, then, how would Lincoln have responded to our unitary executive, and those who seek to support his actions? His response was included in his address.
When I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me not be understood as saying there are no bad laws, nor that grievances may not arise, for the redress of which, no legal provisions have been made.--I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say, that, although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still while they continue in force, for the sake of example, they should be religiously observed. So also in unprovided cases. If such arise, let proper legal provisions be made for them with the least possible delay; but, till then, let them, if not too intolerable, be borne with.
Lincoln would have told George to follow the law, and work to change it. Not break it, then "fix" it. George is, however, too unfamiliar with Lincoln (or, through his "No Child Left Behind" shenanigans, hoping that none of the rest of us are familiar with the man's history and wisdom), to realize that within the context of Lincoln's Lyceum speech, the dangers of a unitary executive were described, and disdained.
Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would inspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon?--Never! Towering genius distains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.--It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.

Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.

Here, then, is a probable case, highly dangerous, and such a one as could not have well existed heretofore.

Ladies and gentlemen, and my fellow Americans - the words of our forefathers and past leaders, spoken in the hopes that generations both then and now would harken to them, are now come back to haunt us. Dare we ignore them, and ignore the lessons of the past?

We've seen glimpses of the future that our history provided, and indications that we are in danger of allowing those dark visions to take form and become fully realized.

Can we not, now, raise our voices as one and present a challenge to the usurpers of our nation's future?

This post was not originally updated to this blog and has been backfilled into proper chronological sequence. We apologize for any inconvenience. - The USPatriotsUnited Team

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Do Unto Others: Common Sense in Action

It is often said that “variety is the spice of life”, and that phrase is particularly pertinent within the context of the United States. Perhaps one of the best examples, and worst descriptions, of the relevance is the concept of the United States as “The Great American Melting Pot”. The combination of cultures, values, and politics brought together under the concept of a representative government designed to recognize the common humanity of all people and to support the unalienable rights and freedoms of the citizens is less a uniform melting pot than a rough mix of flavors and colors, dazzling in the variety of patterns, textures and tastes that one might find on an international buffet table.

The common threads -- the ties that bind us together as a nation and as families -- center around our rights and freedoms, our capacity for participation in our governing, and our desire to make a better world for ourselves and our posterity. It is, therefore, easy to recognize that this common thread not only ties us together in the here and now, but also extends from the generations past and onward into the future of generations to come.

Our forefathers did not found this nation nor craft the Constitution and Bill of Rights in order to satisfy their current needs alone. They had an eye toward the future, keeping in mind the history that led them to the founding of this nation while they planned for its continuation and future governance and growth.

We the People must keep this in mind. We are a nation of many people and many cultures, with diverse religions, philosophies, and beliefs -- something to be proud of. We are also a nation of many generations. Regardless of our cultural background or beliefs, there are elders and babies, middle-aged citizens and youthful adolescents populating our country across a broad spectrum. Our nation caters not to any particular religion, philosophy, or culture. Neither should it cater to any one age group without regard for the impact upon the others.

Our elders are our link to history, to the founding of this nation and the forces that have changed it over time, resulting in the country we have now. They played an important role in passing the torch of liberty on to us, whether as statesmen or simply parents or teachers. Our children are our link to the future; the generations to come that will inherit all that we, and those who have come before us, have built.

Our responsibilities as True Patriots are threefold. They include not only managing the current affairs of the nation, but also recognizing and rewarding the elder generation's contributions as well as accepting the responsibility for guiding the next generations to become guardians of our nation's future freedoms.

A True US Patriot recognizes the contributions of the older generation and values the potential of the next, and that in order to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves, our elders, and our Posterity, we must ensure that the basic rights of those we hold dear to access quality healthcare and education is steadfastly supported, uncompromisingly and without discrimination based on race, color, creed, gender, or orientation.

Current policies regarding education, childcare, welfare, health care and Social Security fail to meet the desired goals of ensuring the safety and well being of our elders and our children.

Brown v Board of Education stressed the importance of equal access to education by demonstrating that "separate but equal" schools placed minority students at a distinct disadvantage when it came to employment and educational opportunities later in life. Unfortunately, despite laws that prohibit "separate but equal" schools, they are far more common than anyone wants to admit. The only difference is that the disadvantaged students are no longer just minorities. They now include the children of America's poor and lower middle class, as well as the children of America's rural and inner city residents. These schools struggle year after year for funding and many are forced to either cut programs or downsize staff, increasing the disadvantage that graduates of these facilities will face when competing for jobs later in their lives.

Likewise, these same children -- as well as their families -- are at increased risk for illness since many of their parents cannot afford health care. Many rural and inner city areas have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified doctors and/or lack medical facilities to deal with serious illness or injury. Here, families often end up on a constantly downward spiral of financial ruin; in many aspects, it's like trying to figure out which came first: the chicken or the egg. Inadequate education is one of the major barriers to getting a good job with a decent wage. This, in turn, prevents them from living in areas of economic growth that offer better opportunities for education and health care. The poorer living conditions for these families invariably result in less educational opportunities, and the children often receive inadequate and under-funded educations. Thus the cycle continues.

Alternately, for someone who gets a job but cannot afford health care -- or in the case of working parents, has to spend all or most of their earnings paying for child care -- the situation is equally grim. If the primary breadwinner gets sick but cannot go to the doctor, s/he may end up missing work where every hour of pay makes a difference, or even losing her/his job, placing an even greater financial stress on the family. This also often makes it far less likely that s/he can get a job that pays as well or better the next time.

Many who find themselves in these situations end up going on welfare, which is like stepping into a pit of quicksand. Once in the system, the income restrictions placed on earnings in order to guarantee health care and food stamps for the children often force the parent -- especially in a single parent household -- to choose between remaining on welfare (and in poverty) or risking the health and well-being of the entire family by taking a job that may pay more but offers no benefits. In order to maintain welfare benefits, a person must keep a job but cannot work full time. This “feature” of the system provides a cheap and easily exploitable labor force for many companies that hire mostly part time employees. Often, companies are not required to offer health benefits to part-timers, so the cost and overhead of employing part-time workers is very attractive. Businesses scale back their need for costly full-time workers, and the effect of this pattern on the economic environment is both profound and far-reaching. A recent survey of a hospital in North Carolina, for example, found that 31% of the patients were employees of Wal-Mart. ("The World is Flat", Thomas Friedman, referenced in the Pensacola News Journal)

The elderly populations face similar problems, since many of them depend solely on their Social Security to provide them with income in what should be their "golden years". Far too many of our senior citizens have to choose between basic utilities, important medication, or enough food to live. The adult children of the elderly often have to either quit working to take care of their elderly family members, or put them in nursing homes that often cost upwards of $5000 a month. Since most families cannot afford this, the elderly are forced to sell everything they own and be declared indigent to receive state assistance.

These issues do not confine themselves to our elderly and our youth. Similar problems also affect our population due to disparities of wealth. Throughout our nation's history, from its very founding to the present day, there has been an oft-ignored struggle taking place between the haves and the have-nots. The issue was first addressed in earnest starting around the time of the Civil War when a concerted national effort was begun to include all people under the mantle of protection of the US Constitution. The Emancipation Proclamation declared that slavery was no longer an acceptable policy in this nation, granting African Americans their freedom (at least on paper). The women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement -- which started as grassroots efforts of citizens around the nation -- forced Congress to introduce legislation that recognized the inherent rights of women and African Americans. However, it is not enough to give lip service to equality for all citizens. Since it was first proposed 82 years ago, the ERA has yet to be ratified, and in today’s world of female space shuttle commanders, most women in the workplace earn considerably less salary than their male counterparts doing the same work.

Other movements, like the gay rights movement that began at Stonewall and the Alliance for Native American Indian Rights, are still striving to gain recognition of rights being unjustly denied American citizens. While these are important steps on the path to equal treatment under the law, they unfortunately fall far short of closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots because not all injustices occur through violation of the law. In fact, the very laws that were meant to prevent those injustices cause some of them. To properly address this, we must turn to the lawmakers for assistance, but we must be the catalyst for change. We are the ones who should let them know when a law isn’t working, or when a new one is required to help redress the problems in our system.

Politicians would have us believe that the solution to all these problems is complicated, requiring thousands of pages of legislation. That they know the current system doesn't work as it was intended is obvious given that they have established their own retirement plan, which is not tied to Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid or to the welfare system in any way. After serving only one term in Congress, a politician is set for life, contrary to the average citizen who must work for many years to receive an ever-decreasing set of benefits

In reality, we need only look to the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This simple concept is found in some form in virtually every faith known to man. Its first recorded appearance was in Vedic scriptures more than 5000 years ago and it has appeared in almost every sacred text since then. In the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth restated this rule as "Love one another as you Love yourself", and calls it one of the two greatest commandments, upon which all other laws are based (Matthew 22:39-40). It is perhaps even more evident in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets”.

Another saying, often quoted to counter the reasoning for improving health care, education, and providing Social Security and welfare benefits, is this one:. “God helps those who help themselves”. The use of that quote, however, belies a simple and basic, fundamental truth. By providing those programs, we ~are~ helping ourselves. This assistance is more direct than people may realize. You may recall the riddle of the Sphinx. To paraphrase:
“What animal has one voice, is born four-footed, afterward becomes two-footed, then three-footed, then four-footed again, is weakest when it is four-footed, and slowest when it is three-footed?”
Oedipus, a tragic Greek hero, provided the answer to this riddle. He recognized the animal being described as “man”. This riddle not only serves as an allegory for the life cycle of a human being, but it can also represent mankind in general, or even the US in particular. The key to the riddle, however, is that a single human being progresses through all those stages. When we care for our young and old, we are also taking care of ourselves; we were all young once, in need of education, and hopefully still learning as we age. With luck, we will all live to a peaceful old age, able to share our wisdom and observe as our posterity takes up the reins and continues to drive and guide our nation. In a very real sense, when viewed this way, we help ourselves by “doing unto others”.

We need to insist on welfare reform, education reform, health care reform, Social Security reform and child care reform. We need to place the needs of the People ahead of the needs of corporations. We need to ask ourselves, "Is this how I want to be treated when I'm older?" We need to ask ourselves, "Is this how I want my children and grandchildren to live when they grow up? Do I want them to face the same hardships and struggles to provide for their children and for me?" We need to insist that the politicians -- who work for the People -- address the needs of the People, regardless of age, race, color, creed, gender, or orientation.

We don’t need another Oedipus, or a hero -- tragic or not -- to step out of the legends of the ages. It is our right and responsibility as True US Patriots to take an active part in the shaping of our nation. We are the heroes in this play, in this act, and it is our role to play for better or worse. It is time to accept our roles, and to play the part of the hero for generations current, past, and future.

By these signs shall a hero be known: an eye to see the truth, a heart to feel the truth, an arm to defend the truth. To that I would add: wisdom that strives to teach the truth, courage that dares speak the truth, love by which the truth shall live forever.
-- Patricia Kenneally Morrison

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Right to Dissent and to Demand Accountability

It has been more than two weeks since we last published an essay. Even with so many of us working together, real life has a tendency to get in the way. We apologize for our tardiness. Our newest essay discussing Point #5, of the "Ten Characteristics of A True US Patriot", and entitled "Do Unto Others: Common Sense in Action" will be ready for publishing later this week, and we are already working on Point #6.

In the meantime we would like to present the following piece, which relates directly to the ongoing episode in Crawford. This article was originally posted at TPM Cafe.

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This week, we as a nation watch as one citizen travels to see the President and demand an audience. Many are angered, even outraged, at the avoidance of this woman by the man currently holding what is, arguably, the most powerful office in the world. Many more citizens fly to her aid, both physically and spiritually, as she is blatantly ignored for demanding an explanation.

If one looks at this from a distant perspective, it would appear that the citizen is attempting to engage the leader in an accounting of his decisions and actions that have led to the loss of her son. This is, of course, both her right and duty. And his responsibility, as a leader, is to address her.

Our latest essay, "Holding America to Her Principles", specifically addresses the issue of accountability, and the role that citizens play by enforcing their right to demand it. It is one of the cornerstones upon which our nation has been built. True US Patriots have a right and a duty to dissent, holding their leaders accountable for the actions and decisions occurring under their watch. It is one of the unofficial checks and balances, and it is solely in the hands of the people to employ in order to preserve freedom.
"Dissent is the mark of freedom." - Jacob Bronowski
We have heard that, as of Thursday [August 9], when the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense both appear to meet with the President, Cindy Sheehan will be arrested as a threat to national security.

We have yet to see any indication of a threat to national security by this woman. Many others appear to agree. So, what legal right does anyone have to deny this woman her freedom?

"Stripped of ethical rationalizations and philosophical pretensions, a crime is anything that a group in power chooses to prohibit." – Freda Adler

Simply having the power to make the laws does not empower one to abuse the founding tenets of freedom. Misuse and misapplication of the laws in order to shield a political figure – however powerful – from a citizen who is adhering to her Constitutional right to demand accountability by her President is nothing short of criminal. It is most certainly unconstitutional. One would expect that if a person shall be intentionally, unconstitutionally jailed then the writ of habeas corpus would be suspended. Have we engaged in another Civil War somewhere, and have all our Civil Courts have been forcibly closed down to permit such a measure?

Or does something darker still loom ahead of us? Have we lost our liberties, or our rights to exercise them?

"It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives. " – Dorothy Thompson
The past few years have shown a very disturbing trend, where “free speech zones” have been designated to keep dissent out of the public eye. We have watched the gradual erosion and marginalization of our right, our role, as the ones to whom the leaders must be ultimately accountable. And for the most part, we have not noticed or been moved to reject attempts to minimize the importance of accountability to the public.

"None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free."
– Goethe
Our system of government has been described as one "of the People, by the People, and for the People". The current trend toward the unprecedented expansion of powers concentrated in the hands of the Executive Branch threatens to tear the very fabric of that basic belief asunder.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men
are almost always bad men.
" – Lord Acton
Our current leader won his path to power on the claim of “moral values”. The unspoken assumption made when this term is used is the presumption of accountability, sprinkled with a touch of wisdom. Wouldn’t it be prudent, then, for such a leader to show compassion and speak with a citizen who has made the extraordinary effort to speak with him? Or have the words of Lord Acton begun to ring true?

To all our fellow citizens, we ask you to support this True US Patriot, and help her in her effort to exercise that which is both her right and duty: ask the President for real answers, and hold him accountable for his actions.

UPDATE: As we all know, Ms. Sheehan was not arrested on charges of being a threat to national security or for any other reason, and while she has temporarily left her vigil to be with her mother, who suffered a stroke, she will be returning to Camp Casey soon. Meanwhile, the number of supporters continues to grow...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Holding America to Her Principles

As we continue to explore the basis underlying our original essay, 'Ten Characteristics of A True US Patriot', it is imperative that we understand not only the principles supporting each individual Characteristic, but also how the Characteristics relate to each other. The first Characteristic touches upon the nature of rights and freedoms, while the second delves into the equality of all. The third Characteristic explores the structure and reasoning behind the representative form of government and the importance of checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power. All of these lead up to the formation of the fourth Characteristic, which focuses on accountability. Specifically, it reads:

A True US Patriot exercises the right to openly challenge and hold accountable at all times, even and most particularly in times of war, those who do not honor their oaths of office, who purposely mislead the nation, who abdicate responsibility when those in their employ are caught engaging in criminal and unethical activities, and who fail to serve the nation with integrity.
Although not directly stated, this Characteristic strongly implies a key responsibility of A True US Patriot: participation. Without the participation and vigilance of the citizenry, liberty cannot long survive. It is the nature of liberty and freedom to require the constant attention of those who claim to partake of them, or they can slip away under the gradual erosion of rights and imposition of unsound laws.

While our founding fathers designed a government based on the separation of powers and provided a formal set of checks and balances to help preserve the underlying structure of government, it is the duty of the citizens to ensure that these checks and balances are upheld. Part and parcel with such responsibility is the duty to hold leaders accountable for their decisions and actions, particularly where those actions could undermine the balance of powers or restrict or obstruct our liberties, rights, and freedoms. General Douglas MacArthur made it plain in his words to the Japanese people in 1948, upon the first anniversary of their Constitution:

"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation."
The average citizen, then, has a direct role in the protection of the nation and the preservation of founding principles upon which it was founded. By exercising the right to free speech, the right to vote, the right to peacefully assemble, and petition for redress of grievances, the citizens are able to make their wishes known. A key element of the success of these methods revolves around two core precepts: first, that the public is properly informed through a free press and independent media; and second, that the leaders are held accountable for their words and actions by their peers, the People, and the media.

The principles of free speech, and the importance of a free and independent media, constitute an additional set of checks and balances outside of those expressly outlined within the Constitution as part of the government’s function. They lay squarely upon the People to enforce. Our Founding Fathers included them as part of the First Amendment, to ensure the preservation of both freedom of speech and of the Press. Freedom of the press is not only another form of free speech, but it is extended to include members of news-gathering organizations and the processes involved in obtaining information for public distribution. Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said:

"Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free."
Even former President Richard Nixon, during the height of the Watergate scandal, recognized this when he stated:
"It was the system that brought to light the facts and that will bring those guilty to justice - a system that in this case included a determined grand jury, a courageous judge and a vigorous free press."
Recent laws like the Freedom of Information Act and state Sunshine Laws allow access to governmental proceedings and minutes of meetings to help the press keep the government accountable to the People. The Press has an inherent responsibility to provide accurate, timely, and unbiased information to the People so that they may make informed decisions, and to shed the light of day on the actions of our public servants.

But the People must care to look at and review this information, and speak out when wrongdoing is suspected or discovered, in order for those in positions of leadership to be held accountable. Montesquieu noted the responsibilities of the People when he wrote:
"The tyranny of a principal in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."
And Michael Cloud put it even more simply:
"Personal responsibility is the price of liberty."
"We the People" are powerful words, used to start off one of our most important national documents. It depicts the People acting as one body in a declaration. Yet those people are also individuals, and without making an individual effort to be part of the voice of the People, there can be no united and strong voice to help us maintain our freedom. Our Constitutional rights to dissent, to free speech, and to a fair and free press gives us the ability to fulfill our role as part of the unofficial system of checks and balances. The "law of the land" has established that no person is above that law, and holds that government officials are accountable for their decisions and actions. It is our duty to remind those who serve us that they - alone or in groups - are never "above the law." We, as individuals, must each make the effort to undertake this responsibility so that, together, we can require the same of our elected and appointed officials.

A True US Patriot "exercises the right to openly challenge and hold accountable" the leaders of the nation. This isn’t a right that awaits the opportunity for use once an election cycle – it is a right and a responsibility existing "at all times, even and most particularly in times of war". It is the expectation to hold leaders accountable, and to censure or expel "those who do not honor their oaths of office, who purposely mislead the nation, who abdicate responsibility when those in their employ are caught engaging in criminal and unethical activities, and who fail to serve the nation with integrity".

Such vigilance cannot occur in a vacuum. An important reason that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are explicitly protected in our Constitution is to ensure that a medium exists by which our citizens can remain informed, and share their thoughts with others as well as with our representatives.

There are inherent dangers in restricting these two crucial elements of our representative democracy. Through the use of "media manipulation", government and other sources can impose restrictions and control the free flow of information through a variety of methods. Some are outwardly obvious, such as censorship. Some are insidiously hidden, such as the gradual and growing monopolization of the media outlets under the auspices of a very few corporations and individuals. The former leads to a dearth of information and the silencing of dissent. The latter leads to the propagation of propaganda. Media manipulation and the strangulation of the flow of information impedes the ability of A True US Patriot from his or her Constitutional duties of vigilance and dissent. This only leads to frustration and increased apathy.

We have, of late, experienced both within our great nation – much to our detriment and dismay. Journalist Hedrick Smith warned of this many years ago when he noted:

"...this is precisely the purpose of censorship - not only to block unwanted views, but to keep people who are unhappy from knowing how many millions of others share their unhappiness; to keep the dormant opposition from awakening to its own developing strength."

It is through these methods that restrictions are also placed on the capacity to hold the government and its principals accountable for their decisions. The constant "buzz" and redirection of information away from matters of significance to the public effectively serve to hide wrongdoing. Larry Burkett mentions this in his book Business by the Book:

"Perhaps nothing in our society is more needed for those in positions of authority than accountability. Too often those with authority are able (and willing) to surround themselves with people who support their decisions without question."

Fortunately, the advent and virtual explosion of the internet has led to the rise of a new type of information sharing – blogging. The “Voice of the People” continually rises to be heard. Here, too, are those who would seek to control and influence the flow of information, but amidst the competing and often contradictory blogs, it is still possible for citizens to find the truth. By reading blogs, then checking outside of our own media sphere to the rest of the world, it is possible to recognize the spin, who spun it, and what information was left out or misrepresented.

The People can still remain vigilant, and hold those who represent us in government responsible. We can, for example, assemble and speak out to demand any leaders who have been less than forthright in their dealings or their addresses to the People step down or address (and redress) such grievances. We can, if we suspect our vote is being marginalized, demand accountability and a voter-verifiable paper trail.

We can, and should, demand that our media learn to exercise the process of due diligence in the role of information dissemination.

Most important of all, we have the right and responsibility to hold our leaders accountable for their actions. We must, we can, and we shall hold them responsible for their decisions, and demand action where instances of abuse or misuse of powers have led to the weakening of our national resolve and integrity.