Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Some Thinking Points on Being an American

One of the most troubling features of Americans, at the dawn of this new century, is how pitifully few of us seem to understand what America is all about. We have a Constitution, we have a distinct tradition, and there are certain principles that have always mattered to us. Since 9-11, all too many of us seem to have forgotten everything we ever knew.

The President must not have unchecked power. The Constitution makes it clear that there is a separation of powers in our government. Our founders built in a system of checks and balances that keeps the officials in our government answerable to each other, and to us. Any President who is not answerable to either the legislative or the judicial branch is not actually a President, but a king. And any who is not answerable to the people is a dictator -- and a tyrant.

Among a whole host of other pernicious things, the Patriot Act would allow the President to spy on American citizens WITHOUT HAVING TO OBTAIN A WARRANT FROM A JUDGE. Which, especially since 9-11, has been easier than falling off a log to get. The warrant from the judge is no mere technicality; it is the separation of powers -- provided for under our Constitition -- at work. If we can't trust that the judge has our best interests at heart, how on God's green earth can we be sure a President does, either? There's no reason to believe a judge wants us all to get blown up, any more than does the President (who, unlike the judge -- and us -- has a bunker to hide in and a Secret Service to guard him if terrorists do attack again).

The only thing a President can do without a warrant from a judge is spy on American citizens WITHOUT HAVING TO TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR IT. Just pardon the hell out of me if I wonder why Bush (or any other Chief Executive) might be so hepped-up to be able to do a thing like that! They betray themselves as being unworthy of our trust simply by the very fact that they want to.

Traitors are those who betray America. My, my, all the talk we've heard, since 9-11, about traitors! Many of those who support unlimited power for Bush denigrate those of us opposed to it as "traitors." Well, just for the record, let me define for you exactly what a traitor really is. It is someone who betrays their country. Those who would destroy our Constitution for the sake of their own, temporary security are the real traitors to this country, and to everything it stands for.

You have a sacred duty, as an American citizen, to READ THE DAMN CONSTITUTION and understand what it says. If you can't read well enough to understand it, there are always adult remedial reading courses that can help you. It takes neither intelligence nor courage to listen to Fox TV or hate-radio and then regurgitate whatever witless talking-points you have heard there instead of ACTUALLY THINKING IT THROUGH FOR YOURSELF. But then again, if you're that peeing-in-your-pants-and-running-home-to-mama afraid of every terrorist in the whole, wide world, then courage is a concept you may never understand.

America has always stood for great things. We don't need to kill people to get them to embrace our way of life. If we DO need to kill them to get them to do this, then (A) they were not worthy of our way of life, and (B) the whole point is moot, because they are dead.

I am hopeful we can make lemonade out of lemons in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. But we need to remember something about these people. THEY DON'T LIKE US, and THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND OUR WAYS. American representative democracy grew out of centuries of English common-law tradition -- which in turn had its origins in Greece and Republican Rome. The Iraqis have no such tradition to draw from, so the only way they will ever know what representative democracy is will be if IF THEY LEARN IT FROM US.

They can't learn anything from tyranny from us if we are unwilling to teach them anything but tyranny. As if they don't know enough about that already!

We had all better refresh ourselves about what being an American means. Then at least maybe most of us will know better than to call other people traitors and cowards when we are acting like them ourselves. And if we lose this country, we have nobody but ourselves to blame for it.


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