Sunday, July 02, 2006

Saluting some unknown and unheralded patriots

This weekend, there has been and will be talk about honoring our country, our soldiers, and there of course will be many insincere demonstrations of patriotism by those whose every day actions are in complete contrast to what patriotism and love of this country's ideals and foundations is all about.

There will be much talk by people, including, of course, the most insincere of them all who has the nerve to salute the very troops he lied to in order to have them invade a country based on lies and without the proper protection and equipment.

However, we should not forget those who practice true patriotism and love for this country, its ideals, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence on a day-to-day basis, and are looking out to protect the very freedoms which are being destroyed, ironically in the name of "freedom".

The new issue of The Nation has a short but powerful article entitled American Patriots, which gives much needed thanks to librarians, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, states, localities, Code Pink and many other people, organizations and agencies which are fighting the good fight every day in order to protect our rights and freedoms.  Not only are these people and organizations fighting to protect the freedoms that are actively being taken away or eroded, but they are also fighting to get back some of those freedoms which have already been stripped by the PATRIOT Act, or by other legislation and strong-arm tactics by what used to be a government Of the People, By the People and For the People.

The article starts with a great quote by Thomas Paine, which I think is still just as applicable today:

Patriotism is not best measured in times of national comfort and quiet. It is in times of crisis, when the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots have retreated to the safety of official talking points and unquestioning loyalty, that those who truly understand the meaning and merit of the American experiment come to its defense.

Well, we certainly are not nearly in any time of national comfort and quiet.  In fact, it is the past 5-6 years where there has been anything but comfort or quiet here in `Murka, let alone the rest of the world.  And it certainly is interesting to compare and contrast the "do as I say, not as I do crowd" that seems to dominate the discourse, poison the discussion, fracturing and dividing this country into "you are with us or you are with the terrorists" finger pointing and "chickenhawkery".  Not to mention the fact that this is lapped up by the talking meatsticks who dominate the airwaves and are frankly the perfect example of the "anti-patriots".

But, The Nation points out those who live their lives fighting for freedom - doing the little things which go unnoticed, unheralded and even are scorned.  Take the fight that the American Library Association has put up against the overreaching arm of the federal government:

Since the enactment of the Patriot Act in 2001, the American Library Association (ALA) has been at the forefront of the fight to defend freedom of inquiry and thought from provisions of the act that allow the Justice Department to subpoena the records of libraries and bookstores. The librarians succeeded in getting the House to adopt language protecting library records in 2005--only to have it stripped from the bill to which it was attached by an Administration-friendly House-Senate conference committee.

But the librarians have not just been lobbying to change the Patriot Act, they've been on the front lines of exposing its abuses. When four Connecticut librarians challenged an attempt by the FBI to use a National Security Letter to obtain records of who was reading what in that state, the Justice Department slapped a gag order on them. But the 64,000-member ALA and its Freedom to Read Foundation stood up for the librarians, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Association of American Publishers and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to make a federal case of the issue. In May, after the FBI dropped its defense of the gag order--and shortly before it withdrew its demand for the records--a federal appeals court declared that order moot, and the librarians were at last free to speak out. Peter Chase, director of the Plainville, Connecticut, public library, explained that he and his fellow librarians decided to fight because of their frustration at receiving the National Security Letter even as "the government was telling Congress that it didn't use the Patriot Act against libraries and that no one's rights had been violated. I felt that I just could not be part of this fraud being foisted on our nation."

Now, that is patriotism.  Fighting the Justice Department to expose the abuses and lies spewed regarding the "catching the terrorists but protecting your freedoms" lie.

And it isn't just librarians, although they are a perfect example of true American patriots.  Other examples given include the Bar Association, which has taken the initiative of looking into the possible violations of the law by Bush with respect to his hundreds of signing statements.  Or the American Medical Association, which has now made it unethical for physicians to participate in "interrogation techniques".  Or the nearly 400 communities and nearly 10 states which have passed laws and resolutions that uphold and protect civil liberties in the face of federal laws to the contrary.  I'll also add to that those states which have passed their own legislation with respect to voluntary compliance with stricter environmental standards.

We can't forget all those who march, protest, or take any other action to defend our rights every day - whether it be through peace protests that draw hundreds of thousands, or individual vigils, or organizations such as Code Pink, Raging Grannies as well as any other peace or activist group.

So, let's remember some of the unsung true patriots this weekend - those whose daily routines include fighting for the protection, and sadly the restoration, of our freedoms.

On this weekend, I salute you all.

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