This time, Itís personal

By Andrew Hedges

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The famous poem First they came... by Pastor Martin Niemoller has been oft recited in the dark days of the current U.S. administration. It became more salient for me today with the revelation in the Washington Post that the Pentagon wants to extend their authority to detain, without cause, without trial, and indefinitely, anyone who has committed any crime at the whim of one person, the Secretary of Defense.

Many Americans, in response to illegal renditions, NSA wiretapping within the U.S., FBI infiltration of peaceful protest groups, etc., has been to say “It’s OK because I have nothing to hide. I follow the rules. I’m not a terrorist, so I won’t be targeted.”

This is so naive it (literally) threatens the existence of our democracy.

No, that is not an overstatement.

As others have said more eloquently than me, a democracy is only safe if its citizens are a) informed, b) actively engaged in the political process, and c) willing to fight for their rights, even and especially against their own government. We forget, but that is exactly how this country started. A small band of radicals decided it was unjust for a people to be subject to the rule of a tyrant. They risked everything, including their own lives, to fight against the most powerful empire in the world. We wouldn’t have anything to lose if it weren’t for these patriots who many saw as subversive (not to mention treasonous) at the time.

It is a daily frustration to me that the “average” American is not better informed. In many ways, we have a cowed media establishment to thank for this, but the solution is not to lament the current state of affairs. Each of us must take responsibility for finding out what is going on. Like the bumper stickers say, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!”

I am encouraged by what seems like a ripple of dissent in the whole cloth of uber-patriotism. Many die-hard Republicans are disenchanted by an administration and a party that has eschewed longstanding conservative principles in favor of a cynical tax-cut-and-spend fiscal policy and a dangerously interventionist overseas ideology that has us stretched to the breaking point, hoping that another major conflict doesn’t break out.

Now is the time, folks! Every single American, whether RacidalRightWingEvangelicalFascistNeocon or OutInLeftFieldLiberalGreenProgressive must make their views known not only to their elected representatives, but to their neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else who will listen. The only way out of the current mess is for every one of us to speak up, to debate, to engage in the process. Then, and only then, will our government reflect the will of the people, and not the will of corporations and individuals with bankroles bigger than some small countries.

Yes, that means you!

I will sign-off by sharing a few quotes from the good folks who brought us free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of (and from) religion:

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
–Wendell Phillips


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
–Edmund Burke


“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
–Benjamin Franklin


“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
–James Madison

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