Democratic Underground

My Letter On behalf of Mrs. Niederer

September 18, 2004
By sffreeways

I had the misfortune of witnessing on network television the arrest of a Mrs. Sue Niederer for speaking out during a speech by the First Lady. I learned from this report to my dismay that her son was killed fighting the war in Iraq. I found this spectacle so sad and disturbing I wept for a minute or two for her and her son and for our democracy. It made me so angry I was compelled to write a letter to the president.

When I finished with the letter I read it to my mother and she said, “don’t send it you’ll be on some list”. She was a young adult during the Nixon administration and remembers the enemies’ list. I told her if all it took were letters my last three probably put me on it. I said, “I hope I’m on a list with some cool people”. Could there be anyone left that is liberal and isn’t on the “list”? What she said gave me an idea. If there is a “list” I wanted to be on it. I don’t want to be on the list for the people that the secret service needs to question about their threatening letters to the president or the Ashcroft Ridge list of potential Gitmo tenants, I wanted to be on the list with the Al Frankens, the Danny Glovers, the Katrina Vanden heuvels, the Moveon.org people, the local folks that organize the anti-war protests. How hard could it be?

I asked her about Nixon’s enemies list and she told me that all kinds of ordinary people made Nixon’s list with the Jane Fondas, and John Lennons, the Martin Luther Kings, and the Kennedys. She said that once she wrote a letter to Nixon about the war in Vietnam and a few days later someone from the Committee to Re-elect the President called and asked her why she changed her party registration to Democratic. We lived with my grandparents and she was so startled by the inquiry she asked them how they got her phone number and they said they would call her back and hung up abruptly. It scared her because she believed she had been put on the “list” and that’s how they knew how to find her when she changed parties. I remembered being a kid and hearing her talk to my grandparents about the “list” and being very upset about it. People didn’t want to be on Nixon’s black list then because they were terrified of the possibility that they’d be a victim of one of his dirty tricks and get audited by the IRS or worse.

My grandparents always registered Republican but voted Democratic. That’s what you did in those days if you didn’t want your kids to go to Vietnam. Philly is working class and Democratic but local politics in those days was always Republican bully politics where we lived. Being a registered Republican could be helpful in getting deferments or getting in the guard to avoid the war in the jungles of South East Asia. This mentality was pervasive in our community. You just didn’t register as a Democrat when Nixon was in charge. If you needed anything from the local government you better be a Republican. Vote Democratic quietly. Politics was reserved for talk around the dinner table. In our house you didn’t discuss your democratic proclivities with anyone on the outside. You might end up on the “list”.

Nixon scared people but I think my mother is definitely more frightened of George Bush. She was watching the report on Mrs. Neirderer’s arrest with me. We had been talking politics for a few hours before we turned on the television and saw the report and except for her comments about the “list” she had been very quiet since. When my mother gets quiet it’s because she’s nervous. The image of that distraught mother being handcuffed and dragged away by the police upset us both but my mom seemed to see something I didn’t, something from the past.

Nixon’s enemies list is the threshold Bush has crossed to frighten my mother. She believes there is a “list” and that if I “write any crazy letters to Bush” I’ll be on it. I really don’t know what ever came of Nixon’s “list” of ordinary Americans that didn’t agree with his policies other than eventually it led indirectly to his downfall so although it may be disconcerting to be added to the Bush enemies list I don’t think it’s dangerous. Not yet. But I think my mother does.

So I’ve decided that’s how I can confirm my success. If I get some creepy call from the republicans I’ll assume I made the “list”. Making it on the Bush enemies list would be a real test of patriotism and although I have protested, written letters, have the requisite Bush Sucks bumper sticker, volunteered for Gore’s campaign, I haven’t gotten any funny phone calls.

George Bush has a few lists we are aware of. There is the long list of people that are invited to be in the presence of the President and First Lady on the campaign trail. Mrs. Neirderer wasn’t on that list. Then there is the list of people that aren’t liberals, the list of people who won’t shout questions at his wife at campaign events, the Billionaires that give him money, the “axis of evil”, the reasons we invaded Iraq, the soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, the excuses for his absence from the National Guard, his reasons for avoiding military service in Vietnam, Zell Miller’s inane reasons why John Kerry isn’t fit to be President, the grunts that will take the fall for the Abu Ghraib scandal for Donald Rumsfeld, who’s next to be invaded, which Supreme Court Justice’s will vote to stop the ballot counting in the event of another close election, all of Karl Rove's lists, etcetera. George W. Bush must have a list of lists.

Maybe there isn’t a list of ordinary Americans furious with George Bush and his Nixon like corruption enough to get a creepy phone call or an IRS audit. My mom believes there is one so since she knows what it’s like to live under a criminal president conducting an illegal war and ‘dirty tricks’ on his enemies I’m going to take her word for it and assume there is a list. It is now my duty to be on George Bush’s enemies list. It’s every liberal’s duty to be on Bush’s list because as I recall it was Nixon’s personal vendettas that got him out of the Whitehouse and nearly brought him to justice ultimately.

There is one thing I want more than anything in this world right now and that is to see George Bush brought to justice and I’m not alone so if you’re reading this do your best to join me and Mrs. Niederer on the Bush list. In the horrifying event that Bush steals the election again the denizens of the mysterious list will be at the forefront of his untimely exit from our government into the abyss of a Nixon like retirement. If the list is big enough he might deservedly end up in prison where Richard Nixon belonged.

On behalf of Mrs Niederer and her son I wrote this letter to the president. Because what happened to her and her son is such a serious subject I composed my letter with the gravity of her situation in mind and maintained what I believe is a respectful tone in deference to the office not the man. So here is my first conscious attempt to make it big with George Bush and take my place in history on the Bush Black List. I’m waiting by the phone.

Dear Mr. Bush,

Today I witnessed something that compelled me to write to you again and express my displeasure with your administration. As I watched the evening news I saw a report about the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who was arrested outside an event where Mrs. Bush was speaking for your re-election campaign. Mrs. Nierderer was taken away in handcuffs by the police for allegedly disrupting the event by shouting some questions at the First Lady. She wanted to know why her son died in this war.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to register my indignation with your policy of only allowing those that agree completely with your policies to be present at events in which you or your surrogates are speaking. Silencing those that wish to protest your positions is in my opinion un-American. I say it’s un-American because I was brought up to believe that the difference between America and those places in the world considered not to be free, like Iraq for example, is our constitution, specifically our first amendment, our right to dissent, to express our heartfelt opinions and to fully participate in our democracy. I hesitate to be so harsh as to call you un-American but in good conscience I must be honest about my strong support for our constitutional right to freedom of expression. I find it shocking that our president and our vice president find it necessary to sanitize all of their appearances and require loyalty oaths from those in attendance while we wage war on the government of Iraq for imposing similar subjugation on it’s people.

In the future I would hope this unfortunate incident involving the mother of one of our bravest killed in action would motivate you to direct those responsible for this policy to reconsider and provide an adequate platform for others like Mrs. Nierderer to express themselves at future events. Surely there is a way to uphold the freedoms so important to Americans while at the same time allowing for these gatherings to have their intended participation. Cages called first amendment zones for the loved ones of those killed in conflict and their supporters or any other American that have been provided thus far as a solution are as offensive as no solution at all. I’ve seen the cages we contain terrorists in and the first amendment zones seem like a larger, dirtier version of the same.

Since you choose make yourself unavailable to the public be it through the tradition of the presidential press conference or to allow the general public to attend your appearances you leave people like Mrs. Neirderer little choice but to shout out to you and your representatives putting themselves in peril of arrest and incarceration. This is a very demeaning and unfair position for the American people to be in and unprecedented in my memory. I’ve followed politics closely most of my adult life and don’t remember any president so distant from the American people.

Your father I recall had press events in which he answered the questions on the minds of our citizens. You are said to be unquestionably sure of yourself, such confidence would be refreshing to see exhibited under the scrutiny of people like Mrs. Neirderer.

You want the American people to believe your supporters when they say “vote for Bush a strong decisive leader that won’t back down from terrorists” yet you appear to be terrorized by any American that disagrees with you. And you have often backed down from any American that challenges your leadership like this grieving mother of a soldier you decided to send to war to die. You taunt the terrorists with tough talk like “bring it on” at your campaign events yet you make these challenges at events where there is no chance you’ll be challenged by your own detractors.

I understand the need to have order at an event in which the President of the United States or the First Lady is speaking but a few citizens shouting out their passionate disagreement with war in which lives are being lost daily is not a threat to you or your spouse’s safety. Mrs. Nierderer obviously meant no harm and was escorted out without incident only to be arrested outside the event in front of a group of journalists far from earshot of anyone in attendance. Since she was outside the building when the arrest occurred there is no doubt that Mrs. Bush’s speech was undeterred by her protestations. Mrs. Nierderer appeared only to be exercising her right to dissent. She appeared to have a ticket to get into the rally. She also explained to the journalists gathered outside that she had written to you about her son and received no response other than a request for a campaign contribution.

There is an irony in this particular aspect of your presidency that is stark and troubling and this incident draws a dramatic parallel. It is that this woman’s son was killed in Iraq so that the people of Iraq might taste the freedom denied by a dictator is arrested while exercising the very definition of freedom in America. This arrest was most definitely made because of her views and not because she was any threat to Mrs. Bush. She was arrested for speaking out against a war her son lost his life in. Her son was fighting that war according to you because the people of Iraq weren’t free to speak out against a tyrant. He died so that America can bring Democracy to the Iraqi people and his mother was arrested for exercising Democracy here in America on his behalf.

It will be no surprise to you at this point in my letter when I say that this war has caused me to feel great shame for my country. I am against this war. The arrest of Mrs. Neirderer brought increased feelings of shame to my heart. This over reaction by the police and other similar incidents I’ve observed and read about frighten me nearly as much as any potential terrorist attack because should this be the direction in which we continue I’m afraid we’ll loose the very freedom our military service members are fighting to bestow upon the citizens of another nation.

Perhaps it wasn’t just her audacity to protest your wife that caused her detainment by the police but the content of her words. It is my understanding that Mrs. Niederer came to the event to ask a question from one mother to another. The report said that she wanted to ask Mrs. Bush why your daughters have not enlisted to assist in this war that so many of our young people have served so courageously in. I think the question is a legitimate one and begs an answer. So I ask you President Bush, when will your daughters, Barbara and Jenna Bush present themselves at the recruiting office of a branch of this countries military and enlist?

My son served his country proudly as a Marine from 1998-2003 and so I too strongly believe that as our President and as a president that has sent the sons and daughters of other Americans to war, that the honorable thing to do, that the responsible thing to do is to compel your daughters to serve also. You owe it to America and to the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters that you have sent to Iraq to send your children there as well. In America if it's good enough for Mrs Neirderer's son it's good enough for your daughters. Frankly, I expected that upon their graduation from college recently we would soon see them both in uniform. Perhaps the Air National Guard in the footsteps of their father is the appropriate branch. Although being in the National Guard isn’t the refuge for the sons and daughters of the affluent that it used to be the twin's enlistment would surely be a shining example to all American’s that service in the Guard is an honorable alternative worthy of the same admiration as Mrs. Neirderer’s son’s service to country. Perhaps such selfless sacrifice on their part would appease those Americans that question the honor of your own service. If they don't serve you could atleast out of respect for Mrs. Neirderer answer the question. Put me on the list of Americans that want to know why your daughters aren't serving in Iraq.

In closing I must express that my heart assures me that you will intervene in Mrs. Nierderer’s situation and relieve her of further anguish as I am certain you empathize with her pain and wish her no more harm. Surely you understand there is nothing worse for a mother than the agony of losing a child to violence. She has paid the ultimate price and certainly should be spared from any legal action against her for her expression of disagreement and dismay. Her position with the authorities is without question one in which your assistance and intervention is morally required. I believe you owe her a personal apology and I hope one will be offered immediately.

I appreciate your attention to this very important matter and anticipate your response to my correspondence. I thank you in advance for your prompt reply.

If you would like to speak with me directly feel free to call. You have my number

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