We are at a crossroads here in the US, a critical juncture in choosing to either “stay the course” or to follow a path that doesn’t rely on fear, torture and intimidation to accomplish our goals. We are a country of ideals: that all men are created equal, that we all have certain rights that no government can eliminate, that our government exists to serve the people (and most definitely not the other way around). Yet we’ve let a cowardly terrorist not only injure us, in our response to his cowardly attack, we’ve debased ourselves by practicing the worst of what we’re capable of. We’ve held our own citizens without charges or access to counsel. We’ve tortured prisoners. We’ve created secret prisons so that we can hide prisoners from the world’s oversight. We’ve lied to ourselves, and we’ve lied to our Allies. Worst of all, this very week, our own Congress granted unheard of powers to an already power-hungry executive, shattering the foundation on which our previously-strong government was built. Terrorism didn’t make our Democracy weaker. We just did.
Two posts today crystallized for me what this war, and this election, are about. Both are worth reading in their entirety, but I will try to capture their essence. One, a citizen in Wheaton, Illinois, writes by e-mail (*update:* Greg Sargent at TPMCafe has the letter reprinted in full) about her brother serving in Iraq, and the fears she confronts every day. The other, the brother of Pat Tillman (former NFL star, Army soldier who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan), writes about his brother’s service and the choices we, as a country, have made.
Nicole Curtis-Torres writes:
Talking to [Tammy Duckworth] was the first time I could say, “I’m scared as hell.” She understands what I go through everyday. He’s my brother – he’s my hero. This has been my own daily struggle and Tammy understands what it feels like.
Despite political differences, one thing all Americans can agree on is that we are all proud of those who serve in our armed forces. This fall, I will be supporting Tammy Duckworth because she is the type of person we need in Congress – she understands what is going on in Iraq.
And Kevin Tillman writes that his brother’s birthday would have been this November 6, the day before the 2006 elections:
In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.
Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.
Nicole and Kevin were writing of their brothers. But on this most important of elections, we are all brothers. This isn’t a Republican vs. Democrat thing. It’s an American thing: do you believe in the fundamental strength of our Constitution and the rights and protections it affords, or do you believe that when threatened, we must abrogate those responsibilities we’ve historically held dear so that we might succeed?
In the wake of 9/11, I wrote the following:
The evil, thoughtless, callous acts of hundreds of men have threatened our existence. They struck at us, took advantage of the very thing that makes us who we are – our freedom, our openness – and will no doubt do so again. Families have been shattered, lives lost. For what? The fear, of course, is that the country would react to this external threat by dividing itself: casting blame, pointing fingers.
I said this isn’t about Republican vs. Democrat, and that’s not entirely true: the Republicans, the party of “mission accomplished” and “stay the course”, will this weekend trot out campaign ads staring none other than Osama bin Laden. They will try and divide us, cast blame on the Democrats (who haven’t held a single branch of government in 6 years: how can they be blamed for the mess we’re in?!) and point fingers at anyone but themselves. I didn’t think there was any risk in September of 2001 of that coming to pass; I’m appalled that I was prescient.
If not for Nicole and Kevin’s brothers, then how about for us: let’s start electing people who aren’t afraid to face reality as it is, not as we wished it to be; who understand what it is about this country that makes us unlike any other in the world; and who understand that our Government derives its very existence from our consent. Let’s show the world and ourselves that we will not be motivated by fear, we’ll be motivated by confidence: confidence in our own founding document, confidence in our Government, confidence in our brothers.