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A Tribute to Some Americans with Exceptional Moral Courage

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-06-06 10:21 PM
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A Tribute to Some Americans with Exceptional Moral Courage
Since the first days of our nation through the present time (and this probably applies to virtually all countries) there have been certain subjects that, while extremely important, were deemed taboo by the controlling powers and by general public opinion. For example, two taboo subjects of today, which may have always been taboo in this country, are the claiming that a presidential election was stolen, or that our President cares so little about the citizens of our country that he might purposely do them harm. Its somewhat ok to claim that an election had glitches or that our President in incompetent or makes lots of mistakes, but if you say that he would purposely harm our people for political gain or steal an election then you are labeled a nut case or worse.

Yet it is also often true that taboo subjects NEED to be spoken about, because if those who are responsible for labeling them taboo have their way, that will mean that the public interest will be sacrificed to their interests. And that is precisely why our Founding Fathers insisted on the insertion of the First Amendment, the most important aspect of which is freedom of speech, into our Constitution.

The need to talk about taboo subjects is most pressing during times of crisis, and never in the history of our country has this need been more pressing than it is today, when several factors appear to be converging to threaten our democracy. Fortunately we have had men or women throughout our history who have been willing to broach these taboo subjects, and these men and women deserve a great deal of credit for preserving our democracy.

But broaching taboo subjects takes a great deal of a particular kind of moral courage on the part of those leaders who are highly visible, and therefore there has never been an excess of such leaders.

I believe that right now our nation is at a crisis point and if enough courageous men and women do not surface to publicize the taboo subjects that need to be publicized, we will lose what is left of our fading democracy. These are some of the crucial issues that lead me to say that:

1) Our President admits on national TV that he has ordered on a continuous basis over the past several years an act (warrantless wiretapping of American citizens) that is not only against the law, but is prohibited by our Constitution as well. Yet, the primary reaction to that by our Congress is to attempt to pass a law that will make these actions legal.

2) Overwhelming public evidence has surfaced that the pre-emptive war that our President dragged us into, which was clearly against the laws which govern international relations, was based on none of the rationalizations that he used to acquire the political backing for that war. Yet there is no public action, or even discussion of public action to do anything about that.

3) Despite wholesale disregarding of the Geneva Convention regarding the humane treatment of prisoners of war, approved and accepted by almost all the nations of the world including our own, there is little public outcry against this and little public effort to do anything about it in our country.

4) Despite a vast amount of evidence of massive election fraud in the 2004 Presidential and other elections, there is little outcry about that in our country, and no federal effort to investigate it or otherwise do anything about it.

These are some of the crucial taboo subjects that cannot be safely spoken of today. Thus the need for courageous leaders to exhibit the kind of moral courage that it takes to publicize these subjects, if we are to preserve our democracy. And that is why I want to take this opportunity to consider and salute those of our leaders who have demonstrated this kind of courage:


The need to speak out against tyranny

Our country was founded by individuals who had the courage to speak out against tyranny, which of course first had to be recognized as tyranny before anyone could speak out against it. Thomas Jefferson was perhaps the most prominent of our Founding Fathers, as he was the primary author of both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, which together served as the blueprint for our democracy. Yes, our initial democracy was far from complete, given that it allowed slavery, and that it gave the vote only to white males who owned property. But it was a start, and it sowed the seeds for a much improved democracy over the next couple of centuries.

The writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence was a radical and unprecedented act, its most radical phrase being that all men are created equal. Signing it or having anything to do with it was considered an act of treason, and thus punishable by hanging, which almost certainly would have been the fate of our Founding Fathers had we not won the war.


The need to speak out against slavery

At the birth of our nation and for its first several decades, slavery was so entrenched in our society that no main stream political office holder dared to speak against it.

As early as 1828 a few brave Congressmen began to discuss the issue, presenting various anti-slavery petitions from their constituents. Southern Congressmen, almost all who were slaveholders, could not tolerate this. Why? Because the documents on which our country was founded were the antithesis of slavery, and those Congressmen knew that the more slavery was discussed the more evident that would become. So in 1836 the infamous gag rule was passed, which disallowed any further discussion in the House of Representatives of the slavery question.

Ironically, it was an ex-President, the second of our presidents to fail in his bid for a second term (the first one being his father), who had done little or nothing against slavery in his four years as President of the United States, who led the eventually successful fight over the next nine years to have the gag rule repealed and thereby pave the way for discussions of slavery in Congress.

John Quincy Adams was relentless in his nine year fight to repeal the gag rule, and he tried every trick in the book, including baiting his opposition into censuring him by actually presenting a petition from slaves! Here is one of the many great speeches that he made, in response to efforts to shut him up in his attempt to present a petition from slaves:

If this House decides that it will not receive petitions from slaves, under any circumstances, it will cause the name of this country to be enrolled among the first of the barbarous nations When you establish the doctrine that a slave shall not petition because he is a slave, that he shall not be permitted to raise the cry for mercy, you let in a principle subversive of every foundation of liberty, and you cannot tell where it will stop.


When Adams died at his desk in the House in 1848, another great anti-slavery Congressman, who would continue the fight against slavery over the next 15 years, was sitting two rows behind him.

Though Abraham Lincoln had a deep and life long hatred of slavery, he could not give full public vent to his feelings about it, as some others did, because to do so would have killed his political career. But even so, his feelings about slavery were well enough known that his election to the Presidency in 1860 precipitated the quick succession from the Union of eleven southern states, and thus the onset of the Civil War. His Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which was the beginning of the end for slavery in the United States, was his greatest gift to our nation.


The need to speak out against unjust war

It has long been taboo in our country for main stream politicians to speak out against wars once our country has entered into them and those that do so risk being labeled as unpatriotic and un-American.

Such was the fate of George McGovern, who spoke out against United States involvement in the Viet Nam War from the time he entered the Senate in 1963 until the United States withdrew from Viet Nam in 1973. Though McGovern voted for the 1968 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (because at the time he believed Johnsons story about our ships being attacked by the Viet Cong), which gave President Johnson the war powers he requested, McGovern was one of three or four U.S. Senators who opposed U.S. involvement in the early years of the war. He later said that it took more courage for him to speak out against the war as a junior Senator than it did for him to fly combat missions during World War II.

When he ran for the Presidency in 1972 his main campaign issue was U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam. For that he was pilloried by the Republicans and by much of the national news media an anti-American radical. This resulted in a landslide loss (by about 20%) to Richard Nixon in the Presidential election, where McGovern carried only one state (Massachusetts).

I felt heartbroken and humiliated at the time, though I was only a lowly volunteer in McGoverns campaign. But the fact of the matter is that in losing the Presidency, McGovern accomplished much more for our country than Richard Nixon did as President. For it was McGoverns courageous and persistent opposition to the war that largely caused Nixon to run on a platform of ending the war. And although he didnt end it as expeditiously as he said he would, it is almost certain that without McGoverns aggressive anti-war campaign the Viet Nam War would have lasted much longer, with tens of thousands of additional deaths. So George McGovern may be radioactive to Democratic politicians today, but he is a hero nonetheless.

And today he is one of the foremost critics of the Iraq War.


The need to speak out for civil rights and economic justice

Martin Luther King is known as perhaps the foremost civil rights leader of our times and he paid for that with his life. What is less well known about him is that in the latter years of his life he recognized that civil rights was not enough, that economic rights for the poor was also an essential part of a decent civil society for people of ALL races. As noted in this article by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, on the subject of economic justice and the income gap between rich and poor:

He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" -- including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow

King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power. "True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."


But this was a taboo subject to our national news media because it questioned the basic structure of our society. Consequently, not many people heard much of this.


The need for a national press core that is willing to speak truth to power

With the Telecommunications Act of 1996, massive deregulation of the telecommunications industry went into effect, resulting in increasing consolidation of ownership of our national news media and therefore increasing corporate control of the news that most U.S. citizens receive. The result has been a catastrophic decline in the quality of journalism in our country, because the corporations who control the news dont want their own version of the status quo to be questioned or threatened. Journalists who care about producing good quality and controversial news, like Phil Donohue, Dan Rather, and Bill Moyers, get axed as soon as their corporate masters can drum up an excuse to axe them. So what we are left with are mostly a bunch of lackeys, who are much more concerned with making their corporate masters happy than they are with producing quality news. Bill Moyers put it best, in explaining how the freedom of speech guaranteed to Americans by the First Amendment to our Constitution has been subverted in recent years:

What would happen, however, if the contending giants of big government and big publishing and broadcasting ever joined hands, ever saw eye to eye in putting the public's need for news second to free-market economics? That's exactly what's happening now under the ideological banner of "deregulation". Giant media conglomerates that our founders could not possibly have envisioned are finding common cause with an imperial state in a betrothal certain to produce not the sons and daughters of liberty but the very kind of bastards that issued from the old arranged marriage of church and state.

Consider the situation. Never has there been an administration so disciplined in secrecy, so precisely in lockstep in keeping information from the people at large and -- in defiance of the Constitution -- from their representatives in Congress. Never has the powerful media oligopoly ... been so unabashed in reaching like Caesar for still more wealth and power. Never have hand and glove fitted together so comfortably to manipulate free political debate, sow contempt for the idea of government itself, and trivialize the peoples' need to know.


Yet, in addition to Moyers, we still have a few brave souls out there whom the corporations havent yet found a way to get rid of. Helen Thomas is one of the few remaining reporters of the White House press core who still has the guts to pose tough questions for our pResident, as shown in this post by understandinglife. Keith Olbermann continuously refused to recognize the taboo against questioning the results of the 2004 Presidential election. And editorial writers such as Paul Krugman and Eric Alterman continue to question the decisions of our pResident, or even the so called liberal media itself.


The need to speak out for fair elections

The taboo against questioning the results of a Presidential election are so strong that there has been virtual silence in the corporate media about the numerous and severe irregularities and evidence of fraud that occurred in 2004 Presidential election.

Yet Senator Barbara Boxer did just that on January 6th, 2005, when she stood up on the floor of the U.S. Senate and objected to the counting of Ohios electoral votes, thus enabling two hours of discussion on this subject in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. And in the House of Representatives, John Conyers worked relentlessly to produce a 102 page report on the plentiful evidence of fraud in Ohios election, so that that information would be available to Senator Boxer and her Senate colleagues prior to the January 6th deadline for counting the votes.

And there are several news blogs that have put out myriads of articles describing evidence of election fraud, including Velvet Revolution, The Brad Blog, American Free Press, and of course the Democratic Underground.

Other kinds of heroism that have surfaced with regard to the 2004 election have been whistle blowing and efforts at election reform. Clint Curtis, a computer programmer from Florida, testified before Congressman Conyers House Judicial Committee about a vote switching program that he was told to produce. Sherole Eaton, an election official from Hocking County Ohio, testified to fraud during the Ohio recount, and she subsequently was fired from her job. Kevin Shelley, as Californias Secretary of State, tried to prevent the use of Diebolds DRE machines in California elections, and he was subsequently forced to resign his office because of alleged misconduct. And more recently, Ion Sancho, Election Supervisor of Leon County, Florida, has been fighting valiantly to keep hackable Diebold machines out of his county.


The need to speak out against tyranny Part II

Now this post has come full circle. Our country was born with a war against tyranny, and now we are at a crisis point where we are on the verge of tyranny, which I believe to be the case for reasons that I enumerated in the first part of this post.

Thus, we need leaders who will speak out against this tyranny as much as we have ever needed such leaders. And that is why Senator Feingolds recent censure motion of our pResident is such a crucially important action (and should be supported much more than it is). This may be the ruination of Feingolds career. But even so, he has done a great service to our country by doing this.

This is also the reason why I so much appreciate Cynthia McKinney, whose vigorous efforts to question the Bush Administrations handling of the 9-11 attacks on our country surpassed those of any of our other elected representatives. For these efforts she became a supreme target of the far right, which drove her out of office in 2002, only to see her regain her House seat in 2004. The temerity she showed in questioning not only the competency but the motives of the Bush administration was considered so taboo that even most liberals seek to distance themselves from her, and many refer to her as a nut case.

And Jimmy Carter, in his book, Our Endangered Values, criticizes Bushs contempt for international law, including his inhumane treatment of prisoners, in a highly aggressive manner. Speaking of the abuse that his favorite uncle suffered during World War II as a prisoner of war, Carter notes:

The prevalence of such abuse of captured servicemen and women during World War II induced the community of nations to come together to define quite precisely the basic guarantees of proper treatment for prisoners. known as the Geneva Conventions. The authenticity and universal applicability of these guarantees were never questioned by a democratic power until recently, and by America!...the United States now has become one of the foremost targets of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life. Some of our actions are similar to those of abusive regimes that we have historically condemned


This kind of scathing criticism of a sitting pResident by an ex-President is taboo in this country, and previously unheard of as far as I know. Carter is jeopardizing his legacy by doing this, but he did it because he knew that these things needed to be said.


The need to pursue investigations into malfeasance by government

Since the Bush administration took office there has been a notable lack of investigation into numerous serious and shady activities, especially those shady activities engaged in by the Bush administration itself and its allies.

Why werent the riots engineered by Tom delay to prevent the counting of the Dade County, Florida, vote in 2000 pursued? Why hasnt the lockdown of the Warren County, Ohio, vote in 2004, justified by a fake terrorist alert, which allowed election officials to count the vote in private, been pursued? Why wasnt the illegal purging of Florida voters in 2000 or Ohio voters in 2004 pursued? Why was there so much obstruction of the 9-11 Commissions attempt to ascertain how terrorists were able to attack our country? Why was there so little pursuing of the Anthrax attacks on our people? And there are numerous other examples.

Actually, there was an investigator, by the name of Raymond Lemme, who pursued Clint Curtiss allegations of illegal vote switching, and Lemme told Curtis that he had traced the corruption all the way to the top shortly before he committed suicide

And lastly, lets consider Patrick Fitzgeralds investigations. This is one investigation where the investigator seems dead serious about doing his job. Some may argue that there is nothing especially courageous about that Fitzgerald is merely doing his job. But I dont buy that. When I consider how many crucially important investigations havent been done in this country in the past five years, I have to ask myself why this investigation IS being done. And I have to believe that there has been a TREMENDOUS amount of pressure on Fitzgerald NOT to do it. Therefore, I have to believe that this investigation has required a great amount of courage. And it just may save our democracy.
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Vinnie From Indy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-06-06 10:27 PM
Response to Original message
1. You forgot about all us little people with blogs and the fine folks at DU
Other than that, AN EXCELLENT review! Well done!
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 01:39 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. Thank you - I did mention DU
The DU is a terrific place to get information. But most of us post anonymously, so we're not quite in the same category as the specific people I mention.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 10:51 AM
Response to Reply #1
11. The role of DU and similar internet based organizations
With today's corporate media the way it is, I think that the situation would be a whole lot worse if it wasn't for DU and similar organizations. I think that sometimes or often the only reason that the corporate media covers an important story is that it's already been uncovered by us, so they are embarassed not to cover it. Seriously, one can learn ten times as much of the important things that are going on in the world by spending an hour on DU than one could learn by listening to CNN all day long.
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noamnety Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-06-06 10:34 PM
Response to Original message
2. We need a spot for Sibel
which I'd write if I didn't just work a 13 hour day. Maybe someone less brain-dead than I am can give it a go.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 05:21 AM
Response to Reply #2
7. Yes, she certainly deserves mention in a list like this
The way that she has been treated has been symbolic of how this administration has treated the whole 9-11 investigation, and their approach to all whistleblowers on any subject:

http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/18828res20050126.h...
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-06-06 11:24 PM
Response to Original message
3. And one only needs freedom of speech to say unpopular things eom
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 08:10 AM
Response to Reply #3
9. Yes, and something needs to be done about this before too long
or we're going to lose that too.

I don't think it's much of a stretch to think that this administration would unilaterally claim that criticism of the president constitutes the crime of "aiding and abetting terrorists". And then he could have us tried by military tribunals.
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bleever Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-06-06 11:27 PM
Response to Original message
4. And when We, the People dare to speak despite the taboos,
it paves the way for the leaders to follow.


An excellent look at the nature of political courage, Tfc. The kind of pamphlet that should be passed around in such a time of revolution.


:thumbsup:
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fooj Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 12:13 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. It's what we, as Americans, are all about...
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


Peace.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 09:36 AM
Response to Reply #5
10. Yes, that is what WE Americans are about
But unfortunately it seems to me that too many Americans have forgotten or never learned it.

I mean, we have a LEGAL mechanism to alter our government, embedded in our Constitution, and still there are far too few people who are thinking in those terms.

We have the potential to change our government by PEACEFUL means (I think), and yet we are not availing ourselves of that. I guess they're waiting for November of 06 or 08.

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 06:59 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. Thank you Bleever - It's really hard for me to understand why so many Dems
today aren't taking this more seriously, and in particular why Feingold isn't being supported more than he is.

I guess they think that's good strategy for 06 or 08, but I don't understand why.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 12:37 PM
Response to Original message
12. Feingold practices what he preaches
During his 1998 re-election campaign, Feingold once again eschewed big-money campaigning, despite the fact that the National Republican Senatorial Committee had targeted him for defeat. Feingold placed a cap on his own fundraising, refusing to raise or spend more than $3.8 million (one dollar for every citizen of Wisconsin) during the campaign. In addition, he placed the same limits on his fundraising that he would have faced under the McCain-Feingold bill. He refused to allow his party to raise any soft money to air ads favoring him and he requested that several special interest groups, including the AFL-CIO and the League of Conservation Voters, refrain from airing pro-Feingold "issue ads." His Republican opponent, Congressman Mark Neumann, also limited himself to $3.8 million in spending, but allowed soft money to be used in his favor by a variety of pro-Republican groups. On election day, an extraordinarily strong showing in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison allowed Feingold to win by less than one percent of the vote.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russ_Feingold

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 02:31 PM
Response to Original message
13. Jonah Goldberg: "Representative Awful - Cynthia McKinney's insanity and
hypocrisy"

That is the title of Jona Goldberg's article on Cynthia McKinney in response to this statement by McKinney regarding the 9-11 attacks:

We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11th. . . . What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered? . . . What do they have to hide?


On the basis of that statement, Goldberg goes on to accuse McKinney of accusing the president of mass murder.

But look at McKinney's statement. The first part is a declarative sentence which has been proven beyond doubt to be true. The rest of the statement consists of questions. Provocative questions for sure, but questions nonetheless. Unnecessarily provocative questions? That's a matter of opinion, but my opinion is that, given the extent to which our administration has gone to block investigation into the worst attack on American soil in the history of our nation, I consider the questions to be necessary. And if McKinney's asking those questions gets her labelled as a "nut case" then so be it, but I contend that the her statement was more than justified, and if her questions make it a little easier for someone else to ask similar questions, then I say good for her.

Anyhow, given that Goldberg's stupid book of the 100 Americans who are most screwing up our country includes Jimmy Carter, John Edwards, and Howard Dean, I say that it would be a great honor to be insulted by that idiot.

Here is a link to Goldberg's stupid article on McKinney:
http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg041202.a...

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-07-06 03:57 PM
Response to Original message
14. Feingold on the Republican attack on his censure resolution:
"I welcome their attempt to make a campaign issue of the question of whether there will be accountability for the president's breaking the law," he said. "They will remind people every minute that the president thumbed his nose at the law."

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1153AP_Feingold_...
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Kickin_Donkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-08-06 04:16 AM
Response to Original message
15. A few more with exceptional moral courage in these times ...
Helen Thomas
Rep. Barbara Lee
Cindy Sheehan
Joseph Wilson
Rep. John Murtha
Karen Kwiatkowski
Michael Moore
Kristen Breitweiser
Bob Herbert
Lila Lipscomb
Michael Newdow
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