Patriotism is suddenly in fashion across American. Flag-waving has become so popular that the Chinese are actually working overtime to manufacture enough American flags to meet demand. Everywhere, citizens are demonstrating their patriotic support for their country and their President. Across our great nation, there is new pride in America and a new sense of community. There's just one problem – in our rush to defend America, our most basic liberties are under attack as never before.
Back in 1778, Thomas Paine warned Americans about false patriots who wave the flag on sunny days, but fail to uphold liberty in stormy weather: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
Americans want those responsible for the WTC tragedy caught and punished. However, that doesn't mean that Americans must lose any of their Constitutional rights. To the contrary, any infringement on the Bill of Rights not only violates America's heritage of freedom, it violates the Constitution and dishonors the brave American patriots who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Waving the flag and singing patriotic songs may help unite us as a nation, but let's not forget that America's Constitution and Bill of Rights must always come first. As Thomas Jefferson so wisely advised his fellow
Americans: "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences."
The real tragedy of September 11th is that the public's fear of terrorism is being used to fraudulently barter away rights that are supposed to be guaranteed, without exceptions, to all Americans. Cowed by public hysteria, Congress has turned its back on the Constitution and passed anti-terrorism bills (H.R. 2975 and S. 1510) that authorize completely unconstitutional activities such as the "delayed notice" provision,
Section 213, allowing the government to conduct covert searches. This means that law enforcement agencies can enter a person's home or office, search through the person's possessions, in some cases seize physical objects or electronic information, without the person knowing that law enforcement agents were there.
America, once admired for its freedom and democratic ideals, suddenly finds itself in a secret war, with secret courts, sealed warrants and secret searches. Like deer caught in the headlights, we are too paralyzed by fear and denial to take proper evasive actions. Waving flags and promoting false patriotism, this new and highly secretive oligarchy is shamelessly using our fear of terrorism to suspend our rights and the media's access to the truth. Even the Freedom of Information Act is under attack with Attorney General John Ashcroft issuing a new statement of policy that encourages federal agencies to "resist Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, whenever they have legal grounds to do so."
Speaking of summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, how is it that the Congress abrogated its responsibility to exert checks and balances on this power grab by the Bush Administration?
The Congressional oath is to uphold the Constitution, and the rights guaranteed by that document, against all enemies foreign and domestic. There is nothing there about selling out our Constitutional rights because of a war or "national security." No, each member of Congress took an oath to defend our rights. Now Congress has betrayed its oath, sold out our rights, and is guilty of aiding and abetting a slow-motion coup d'etat.
Showing solidarity with the President may seem patriotic, but no one has the right to barter away our inalienable rights, especially the Congress, since their oath requires them to defend the Constitution and the rights it guarantees. Yes it's terrible that 5,000 innocent people were so brutally slaughtered on 9/11, but we must remember that hundreds of thousands of brave American patriots also paid the ultimate price to preserve our heritage of freedom.
Patriotism is more than waving a flag or supporting the government. Real patriotism demands an unwavering commitment to upholding and defending all of our rights, regardless of any argument of necessity or "national security."