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As frequent contributors of articles related to the Bush Administration’s war on liberty and sanity, you, our readers, often ask us, “But what can we do about it?” Indeed, after all the hand wringing and dire prognostications, we cannot let history repeat itself and sit idly by while Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft hijack our country. Make no mistake–the hijacking has already occurred. They have co-opted patriotism for themselves, daring those who oppose them–on any count–to speak up and be branded a traitor. They have convinced 75 percent of the American people (although I personally don’t know one of them) that the invasion of Iraq and was necessary and proper. They have convinced almost all of Congress that endless erosions of civil liberties and respect for privacy must all be sacrificed in the name of national security. They have convinced most federal judges that we are “at war,” and in a time of war, the judiciary cedes power to the executive branch.
This is a “rhetoric of exclusion,” wherein anyone who disagrees with the Bush line is branded, as we said earlier, as a traitor, so the majority of our nation is afraid to speak out–so that task, of preserving our First Amendment rights and our democracy falls to all of us who have the vision to see what must be done to preserve our nation.
All this began, not with September 11, but with the hijacking of the 2000 presidential election. But September 11 provided the spark the Bush needed to take his presidency from mediocrity to mendacity. By now, everyone, even the right-wing admits this, that the behavior of the Bush administration is based on a document published years earlier, THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY (you will find copies on various web sites). Every day new “threats,” morphed from half-truths and lies give rise to new terrors. The treat from Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was but the most recent foray into fiction. Phony or misinterpreted intelligence reports lie in the wake of the U.S. giving up on finding those threats to our safety that supposedly led us to invade Iraq in the first place.
How do you fight lies? How do you take back patriotism? What can you do to save yourself and this country?
Here are several ideas.
1. Don’t rely on the national newspapers or National Public Radio or Public Broadcasting Service for your news. You can pay attention to these sources, but seek verification and alternative viewpoints. The British Broadcasting Company, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, as well as Arab world sources like Al Ahram and Al Jazeera are sources of differing perspectives on international news. If you listened to the BBC or CBC as well as CNN and CBS you would have wondered if they were talking about the same war. Online versions of UK’s The Guardian, The Independent, and Times Online are excellent sources of news. The U.S. magazine, The Progressive, has an excellent web site that includes action alerts (see below).
2. Sign up for news services related to issues pertaining Bush’s war against America. For instance, the New York Times allows you to pick topics , such as “civil liberties,” “John Ashcroft,” and the “war in Iraq.” When these topics are the focus of articles, you will receive a link to the article in your email. Box.
3. When you read something you find useful, pass it on. If possible, make copies and put them in public places where others may pick them up and pass them further on.
4. Read history. We are finding it useful to read books on the Third Reich and fascism. Others have suggested books on Andrew Jackson, whom Bush seems to be emulating. Read about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Read and weep how the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned their internment in prison camps and would do so again today, without question.
Effecting the Political Process
1. First, remember that all politics is local. Your most forceful contribution will be at the level of your local town council or board of supervisors. Run for office. Attend meetings. Introduce resolutions condemning things like the USA Patriot Act and the war on Iraq. Dozens of localities have done just that.
2. At the state level, watch what your legislators are doing. Most are ignorant that many states are passing laws that mirror provisions of the Patriot Act, to allow state officials to conduct what were once unlawful searches of homes and computers. You would be amazed at how many people don’t know what the Patriot Act is, let alone what it does. And most people are clueless about the laws their state legislatures are passing.
3. At the federal level, don’t miss any opportunity to meet with your congressional representatives when they are in their home district. Let them know that you won’t vote for them if they don’t vote for America.
4. Don’t wait to be told by someone else what laws are pending. Read a national newspaper or check in at www.thomas.gov at least weekly to find out what pending laws are. You probably know by now that some of the more outrageous laws are hidden in appropriation bills. There is no substitute for reading the legislation. It may be tedious, but not half a tedious as having Ashcroft read your email.
5. Sign up for alerts from organizations that target congress when important bills are pending. The ACLU, People for the American Way, and <moveon.org> have places where you can sign up. You will receive emails instructing you how to fax and email your congressional delegates. These may not get the results you want, but you will hear from them. And don’t be frightened just because the USA Patriot Act suggests that lobbying to effect legislation may itself be an act of terror (we told you to read the Patriot Act!).
6. Run for local, state, or federal office.
Community Level Action
1. Join, be active, and speak out in community and professional organizations. Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions Clubs, are just a few of the opportunities to be involved. These and other types of organizations are always on the look out for speakers. You might be a speaker or you might get someone who is knowledgeable about the topic, even a sympathetic congressperson, to speak to your group.
2. Be active in your professional organizations–doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals all have local and state professional organizations that have political clout. Help move your organization toward activism in the name of liberty.
3. Write concise, impassioned letters to the editor of your local paper that is responsive to articles (it goes without saying that you can do very little to reclaim the country if you do not know what is going on). It may take a few times to get a letter in, but you will eventually succeed. Carefully follow the paper’s protocol for submission of articles. Missing one step will end your letter in the trash can or “deleted” file. If this doesn’t work, organize your group and make an appointment to see the Letters to the Editor section of your local and/or regional newspapers so that you may have an interactive learning and response situation that may lead to more of your group’s letters being published (your numbers will tell them that you are a serious force in the community–and if your numbers are small, just inflate them a bit, the way political organizations and pollsters do all the time!)
4. Call in local and national talk shows. NPR’s talk shows at least are amenable to some type of dissenting viewpoint. If not, organize your group and let them write and/or call in and say that if they don’t balance things out, you’ll either picket and/or stop sending them funds and ask your friends to do the same (some people are doing this in the San Diego area at this time because of what they perceive to be a Republican bias in their interviews on talk shows).
5. Attend marches and political rallies, and organize some of your own if necessary; you’ll find all kinds of anti-war, anti-fascism groups alive and well in America in this time, the largest number since the Viet Nam war, both in the cities and on the college campus’.
6. Respond to television, website, and radio stations that are taking polls on issues; if necessary, call in or email in more than once so that you compensate for the right-wing groups that are doing this regularly.
7. If you are good at writing, and recognized locally, write and submit op-eds to the local newspapers. These need to be short (500-700 words), factually accurate, precisely written, and devoid of diatribe. You can be passionate with propriety.
These are just a few suggestions to get you going. We are sure you can think of more, and as you do, please send email to us and we will compile your suggestions and update the roadmap for resistance.
Sam Hamod is an expert on world affairs, especially the Arab and Muslim worlds, former editor of THIRD WORLD NEWS (in Wash, DC), a former professor at Princeton University, former Director of The National Islamic Center of Washington, DC, an advisor to the US State Department and author of ISLAM IN THE WORLD TODAY. He is the editor of www.todaysalternativenews.com, and may be reached at email@example.com
He is also a poet, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 and the author of 10 books of poems.
Elaine Cassel teaches law and psychology and practices law in the District of Columbia and Virginia. She is a contributor to CounterPunch and <Findlaw.com>’s Writ, and keeps a watch on the Bush Administration’s rewriting of the Bill of Rights on her Civil Liberties Watch site hosted by Minneapolis, Minnesota’s City Pages. Cassel can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org