by Isaac Peterson
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft,
I never thought I would be writing to you, but as you've
said, these are unusual times.
I've wanted to talk to you, but you haven't been very good
about returning my calls, so I'm writing you this letter.
I hope you can make the time to read it. I know how busy you
are, what with rewriting the Constitution and all.
John (I can call you John, can't I? Your salary is being
paid by my, and all of our tax dollars, after all. I guess
that kind of means you work for me and all of the rest of
us, but I would never let that come between us), you've been
catching a hard time lately from some people who want to ask
questions about what the hell you think you're doing. When
you appeared before the Senate committee last month, you didn't
seem to understand why that is. Maybe I can help a little.
First off, John, it looks like you have a different idea
about how this country is supposed to work than a lot of people
do. I know this is true about the Second Amendment. On May
17, 2000, you said "...The text and the original intent of
the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals
to keep and bear firearms." I'm not so sure the Supreme Court
sees it that way, since they've never ruled that way in a
case that came before them. Not in the 18th century, not in
the 19th, the 20th, or so far in the 21st century.
I think what must be hanging you up are the words that the
NRA leaves out, "A well regulated militia, being necessary
to the security of a free state....". The tricky part is where
it says "militia" and "state." I can see how that might be
Now, one of the things that's got some people bent out of
shape is how you figure the Second Amendment applies to fighting
terrorism. First you go on a big racial profiling spree and
lock up lots of people who look like the guys who flew airliners
into buildings last September. Then you refuse to release
information about who they are. And on top of that, word gets
out that they may be getting treated pretty rough in prison,
and at least one has died there. But you say you don't want
step on their rights and release any information about them.
3 or 4 Amendments are just flushed down the toilet, but that's
okay, because they're not Americans. And when the FBI wants
to investigate whether any terrorists have bought guns in
this country, all of a sudden the detainee's rights matter
a whole lot. You won't let them do it. You held up a manual
last month and explained how terrorists are trained to take
advantage of this country's loopholes in gun sale laws. But
you don't want to violate their rights to buy guns. I have
to admit I'm a little confused about that one. And I'd be
willing to bet that if the people you're holding had their
say, they'd rather have you pay attention to the part of the
Bill of Rights that says unreasonable search and seizure is
a bad thing that we just will not do, than the part that talks
about guns. But maybe that's just me. Maybe you could ask
them yourself to make sure. Especially since you say that
only maybe 1% of them had anything to do with terrorism.
You see, John, when I and a lot of people like me were still
in school, we were told certain things about the Constitution.
It feels kind of weird to be telling the Attorney General
about constitutions, but like I said, I'm just trying to help.
Maybe you just simply missed that day in school.
In school, they told us some stuff like this: Countries have
constitutions for a reason. These constitutions are rules
which are applied to everyone - they level the playing field
between the landowner and the pauper and between the majority
culture and minorities. People feel like they are actually
a part of a nation and that they might be treated equally
when justice is blind. Even though this justice system might
not completely ensure equal treatment of everyone, it is a
huge step in that direction. However, without a constitution,
the citizens of a country can be guaranteed that arbitrary
laws will be applied to them based on their standing in society.
In other words, constitutions are a big step in eliminating
the arbitrary application of laws-laws which can essentially
become a means of revenge, racism and political agenda when
they are enforced outside of an impartial set of basic rules,
such as the Constitution.
And a lot of what you've been up to even before Sept. 11,
2000, looks real arbitrary to a lot of folks here. And in
other countries, too. And I'll tell you for free that USA
PATRIOT Act you came up with looked arbitrary as hell. A lot
of people who've studied terrorism and security said that
the things you put in that act wouldn't have done a thing
to stop the attacks last year-spying on Internet surfing,
roving wiretaps, warrantless search and seizure and unlimited
detention, all that stuff has more people wondering how far
you're going to go. Especially when you're the one who decides
the definition of terrorism.
Now when you went through your confirmation hearing, you
assured the Senate that you would enforce the laws in this
country, even the ones you don't agree with. Some people are
showing their lack of character by expecting a man to do what
he said he would do. But I guess it's different if you just
change the ones you don't like. Some people are petty enough
to be honked off about that one, too.
Now I've been as respectful as I can so far. I haven't called
you any names like the Count of Monte Crisco or anything like
that, and I won't because we're all friends here, right?
But let me tell you, John, I've been doing a lot of thinking
about what you said to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This
part where you said "To those who pit Americans against immigrants,
citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving
people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this:
Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national
unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's
enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people
of good will to remain silent in the face of evil." I've been
known to spout off my opinion when I think something is wrong.
And I know when something is wrong. Like when the Supreme
Court makes an arbitrary (actually, partisan) ruling in a
case that they had no business being involved in that put
a guy in the White House who didn't win the election. We probably
don't see eye to eye on that one since it meant you got a
great job out of the deal. I won't even stoop to mention that
you were available for the job because you lost the Senate
election in your state to that dead guy, though. That would
be wrong, and I know the difference between right and wrong.
But now it sounds like you're saying that if I say what I
think is wrong, I'm supporting terrorism. Maybe I can help
you out here because you seem a bit confused on this one too.
I wrote an essay in college about patriotism once. The dictionary
I used had as one definition "One who shows concern for one's
country". I wish I could find that dictionary so I could make
sure you know I didn't make it up, but I didn't.
Anyway, when I talk about the problems I believe I see, it's
because I'm concerned about who we are and where we're going,
John. Let me put it another way. Let's say someone you care
deeply for, your wife, husband, child, father, mother, friend
or whoever, is gravely ill. Do you ignore it, say "oh well",
and let that person die? Or do you do whatever is in your
power to get someone to come in and try to do something that
will help? Do you give up without a fight, or do you try every
thing or person or resource that could possibly help? That's
the situation a whole lot of us are in, John. You see, it
was still America we woke up in after September 11, 2001.
It's just that some of us want to see a different America
than the one that we feel some of you want to shove down out
throats. We want the America we were promised and that we
tell the rest of the world that we are. Can you chalk this
up to an honest, legitimate difference in opinion? And can
you be a big enough man to understand that trying to force
us to see it your way is going to make us feel less free,
instead of more?
I know this is going long, but I wanted to leave you with
one more thing. It's a quote from a Supreme Court Justice,
Robert Jackson. He said "The very purpose of a Bill of Rights
was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of
political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities
and officials and to establish them as legal principles to
be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and
property, to free speech, free press, freedom of worship &
assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted
to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections." Including
the last one. That part was from me. I know this isn't likely
to come up in the morning prayer meetings you hold on government
property, but think about it some, will you?
We know all about what you say your values are. My mother
always told me that your values aren't what you say, but what
you do. Think about that one a little too, would you? A lot
of people, including me, are real concerned about the difference
between what you say you believe and what you do. We could
be more convinced that when you ask yourself "What would Jesus
do?" that you listen long enough to get the answer right.
I'll end this now. I know it was long, but look at the bright
side: if you read this at work, you got paid to do it.
I hope I was able to help a little.
With all the respect you've shown me and the Bill of Rights,
P.S. I think it was real good that you decided not to get
involved in that whole Enron mess. You said you thought you
should stay out because they were contributors to your campaign,
but I think you're too modest. If somebody gave me $50,000
or whatever it was, they're not "contributors" or even "friends".
Anybody that gave me that much money would be my "pal for
life". But that's just me. Don't be so modest.