Democratic Underground  

Patriotism 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 out.

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 nothing.

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