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Upside-down American flag
I learned in the Boy Scouts that an upside-down flag signals an emergency.

Is This the America I Love?

When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church - and there was nobody left to be concerned.
-- Pastor Martin Niemöller

Please copy and distribute this essay under the terms of the following legal notice:

Copyright © 2001 Michael D. Crawford.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/1.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

I just feel the need to write right now. Something has gone terribly wrong with the country I was raised to love. The good things that America stands for are being trampled into the dirt by those charged with the burden of protecting them.

I was raised to be a patriotic American. I grew up a military brat - my father was a proud officer of the United States Navy, who served in the Vietnam War. When I was young, I was always told that my father was fighting to preserve the freedoms that were guaranteed us by the United States Constitution.

In the first grade, I attended a school run by the U.S. Navy in Gaeta, Italy, where my father was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Springfield. Each day when we started school we sang patriotic songs and said the Pledge of Allegiance. We were told that America stood for freedom and democracy and justice.

I loved America for what it stood for.

I was told that things like political persecution, detainment without trial, and beating of prisoners were things that happened in other countries, that they would never happen in America. I was told that we fought the American Revolution and wrote the Constitution specifically to ensure such things would never again happen in America.

But today I see the ugly face of repression rising in America. And it is brought to you by the United States Government.

I am not proud to be an American today. I understand well why people in many other countries hate America. I love America, but I despise what it is rapidly becoming.

Something must be done about this.

There are many things that move me to write this, but what moved to me write this right now is that a member of a registered political party was singled out for harassment, first by American Airlines and then by the United States National Guard because of the opinions she holds.

Nancy Oden, one of the U.S. Green Party's top officials, was traveling to a Green Party national meeting from her hometown airport in Bangor, Maine. She had published a statement that calls for Universal Health Care, limitations on free trade, and a stop to the bombing of Afghanistan.

When she got to the American Airlines ticket counter she was told that there was a record in AA's computer indicating that she should be searched anytime she tried to fly.

During the search, she tried to help the security agent with a stuck zipper. The agent grabbed her arm and she pulled it away. The National Guard instructed the airline not to let her fly. The airline told all the other airlines not to let her fly. She was unable to attend the Green Party meeting.

So an official of a registered political party in the supposedly democratic United States was prevented from participating in the political process because her name had been recorded in a computer as someone who should be treated with suspicion.

I fear what America has become.

Also upsetting to me is the recent decision of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to allow eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations as well as opening of their mail. Read the ACLU press release opposing this.

From the Washington Post article U.S. Will Monitor Calls to Lawyers:

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft approved the eavesdropping rule on an emergency basis last week, without the usual waiting period for public comment. It went into effect immediately, permitting the government to monitor conversations and intercept mail between people in custody and their attorneys for up to a year at a time.

The right to a vigorous legal defense is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is one of the bulwarks that comes between official repression and those who are repressed, underprivileged, despised, outcast, or working for legitimate political change. You can read about the guarantee of legal representation in our Constitution:

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

I don't have a URL to link you to ( mail me one), but I read that among the hundreds of "suspects" and "material witnesses" rounded up in the days after September 11, many were held without charge and some were beaten by their jailers. Also some were held without being given access to attorneys or their families. I thought that could not happen here...

The recently signed USA PATRIOT act is an assault on our civil liberties the likes of which have not been seen in decades.

Read the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Analysis of USA PATRIOT Act, which largely discusses the law's impact on online activities - did you know that the government can now spy on the key words you search for at search engines like Google and AltaVista? Because computer cracking is now considered terrorism, searching for exploitz can result in your lengthy imprisonment.

The truth is the first victim of war.

Shortly after the September 11th attacks, President Bush said something to the effect that the reason the U.S. was attacked was because the terrorists hated our freedom, and that we must fight the terrorists in order to preserve it.

But Osama bin Laden does not care either way about our freedom. He has made it very clear why he hates the U.S., and none of this has been acknowledged by any official statements that I have heard. What bin Laden objects to are the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the land of the holy city of Mecca, U.S. support for Israel's repression of the Palestinians, and the continued U.S. bombing of Iraq. More than anything, he feels that the presence of U.S. troops in the Islamic Holy Land is a sacrilege.

Whatever your position is on bin Laden's objections to the U.S., you must agree that it is wrong for our President to lie to us. Get informed, and work to understand the complexities behind the enmity between the Islamic and Western world. It's not as simple as our government would have us believe.

You might be interested to know what the Pentagon is doing to improve the United States' image in the Islamic world. Well, I'll tell you. It has taken out a $400,000 contract with Madison Avenue public relations firm The Rendon Group in an effort to help it "orient to the challenge of communication to a wide range of groups around the world". In addition, former advertising executive Charlotte Beers has been apointed to the post of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, a position she qualifies for because of her previous work promoting such products as Head & Shoulders shampoo.

Read about it in Propaganda Wars.

Well, its comforting to know that we'll be winning friends in Central Asia by showing professionally produced TV commercials depicting friendly Americans in between the news reports of mutilated and starving Afghani children.

What You Can Do

If you, like myself, feel that something is wrong with America these days, or with whatever country you find yourself in, speak out about it.

In this troubled times, speaking openly to inform others of injustice or to protest may result in a backlash against you from government officials or others. Please read this speech on the importance of speaking your mind. Have courage - it is only by having the courage to speak and to work against injustice that we can prevent it from getting a lot worse.

Among the ways you can speak out

Secondly, participate in what we have left of the democratic process. Our government has at least the appearance of having been elected, and the easiest way to make a change is to vote out the ones who have brought this upon us.

Use encryption to protect your privacy. Please read my page Why You Should Use Encryption as well as my letter Protect Your Rights with Encryption.

You can get encryption software for free - you can use either Pretty Good Privacy or The GNU Privacy Guard. Both offer excellent, military strength protection of your data, and the source code to each is freely available so that programmers are able to inspect it for security defects and back doors.

Teach the people you correspond with to use encryption.

Teach people who work for political change to use encryption. If you don't think political candidates and their staff need to use encryption, you're too young to remember Nixon's Plumbers getting caught breaking into the Watergate Hotel to wiretap the Democratic National Committe.

Join organizations that work to protect civil liberties. Among these are:

One might think, and one certainly hopes, that the ultimate safeguard against these threats to our civil liberties lies with the Supreme Court of the United States. But I am not so certain myself. The Supreme Court has ruled against the dictates of law and the Constitution during other troubled periods in our nation's history.

And we should remember that the current President received a minority of the popular vote and was only declared to have a majority of the Electoral Vote after an obviously politically motivated ruling by the Supreme Court, a decision that has few pretenses of being based on the rule of law. Even had all the ballots been counted, enough Black Florida citizens were prevented from going to the polls that the election would clearly have gone for Gore had they been allowed to exercise their right to vote.

As said in the dissenting opinion by Justices Stevens, Ginsberg and Breyer in Bush v. Gore (note - this is an Adobe Acrobat document):

What must underlie petitioners' (nb. - George W. Bush') entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

We must work together to restore the rule of law in our country - or we shall surely suffer for it. If you do not agree that Fascism can arise in the United States, take heed of the fact that Adolf Hitler was elected as the leader of his country too.

November 12, 2001