Through Fear Means Nothing
September 5, 2002
By Mary MacElveen
Upon opening up my copy of Newsday one recent morning,
I came across a very startling article, one of the scariest
that I have seen published to date. The title of this earth-shattering
article was, "Support for 1st Amendment Drops". I felt many
emotions. My first reaction was an all-out rage. How could
we as a country let it come to this? The answer to that one
is all too clear my fellow Americans. It is when America sat
by and did absolutely nothing when the vote counting stopped,
and let a black-robed mob install a president. That was an
affront to patriotism.
I felt anger at each and every American citizen who would
feel that in times of war such freedoms should be curtailed.
My fellow Americans, this is exactly the time we should be
speaking out, as many brave people did in the Sixties during
the Viet Nam War. To me, those brave protesters were more
patriotic than those today who agree with the concept of curtailing
freedom of speech. While you wrap yourselves in the flag,
put them on your cars, and houses, the protesters in the sixties
were putting their action behind their feelings, and ultimately
put an end to a war. They took their First Amendment rights
seriously, and used them to challenge a war and the actions
of both the Johnson and Nixon administration. Many went the
as far as getting arrested in defense of this precious amendment.
Those of us who are angry at the shredding of our Constitution
since December 12, 2000, lay blame for this sentiment squarely
where it belongs - on the Bush administration, who use fear
tactics to divide us. Where George Bush's aide Ari Fleisher
at a press conference stated the following bone-chilling words:
"Americans need to watch what they say." I would expect this
sort of talk under a dictatorship, but not in the United States
of America. In all honesty, my fellow Americans, we have ceased
being a democracy if such feelings are out there, where our
own citizens would buy into that "watch what you say" mentality.
We are fast becoming a country where if you speak out forcefully
enough you also must live in fear.
Patriotism does not mean surrendering our freedom of speech.
True patriotism means having the very character to speak out
when one sees injustices happening within our society. It
means speaking out against a law called the USA PATRIOT Act
that goes against the very fibers of our Constitution.
Call it sheer coincidence or sheer irony that on a day when
such an article would come out, on television there was a
show about the remarkable Robert F. Kennedy. Here is a man
who once called for the bombings in Viet Nam, but had the
moral integrity to come full circle and to start opposing
this very bloody war. In my opinion it takes a great man to
fight for peace and not war, because diplomacy that can bring
about peace is where character and morals do show themselves.
As I was watching this show, I wondered just how Bobby Kennedy
would feel right now if he knew that Americans were willing
to have their First Amendment rights curtailed. In my opinion,
he would have been ashamed and angry at every American who
felt that way. He also would have been angry at this administration
who would use a war to place fear in its citizens for speaking
So, where are the Bobby Kennedys of today? Where are our
true patriotic leaders when it counts most? Have we gotten
to a point in our society where even our elected leaders are
feeling the very same fear we are? If they are, then they
have no business being in that elected office in the first
place. Because once they take that oath of office, they must
push past every fear to lead their constituents. Because the
voters place their very trust in them. By going along with
this mentality, they have trampled upon said trust. That goes
equally for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians
and the rest of the political parties.
Being an American, and a patriotic one at that, means pushing
past that fear and being willing to protect each and every
one of our Constitutional amendments. Our founding fathers
would have expected no less from us. One of our most esteemed
patriotic founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin said this, "They
that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." By not sticking
up for this precious amendment, we have just slapped one our
greatest patriots in the face.
In closing, I will state again, patriotism through fear means