Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

The Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy is working to improve our corner of eastern West Virginia, our state and our nation.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Property rights (Don't tread on me)

When in the course of my travels I am with children in Washington, D.C., I point to the U.S. Capitol and say, "Do you know who owns that building on the hill?


They invariably shrug. "You do," I say. "You own that building. It's beautiful, isn't it?" "See that one there and there" and I point to the Smithsonians and the National Archives. "You own them too."


And just as invariably you can see them look at the Capitol in a new light.
I remember the first time I made this point to a 7-year-old. We were walking across the Mall. Her brown eyes got big and she asked me which room belonged to her.


"All of them," I said. "It belongs to you. You own that building as much as anyone in the land. You have to share it with your grandmother and your aunt and me and 295 million other people in this country."


I asked her if she remembered the White House we had walked by earlier in the day. She nodded. "You own that too. The president lives there, but he just borrows it. You own it. And if the president walks up to you, you can tell him `My name is Ariel and you work for me.'" (This was in 1994. Bill Clinton was president. He met with ordinary Americans without fear of their dissent.)


I told her of the American Revolution and how the colonists bravely overthrew a king and that because of that she never needs to bow down to anyone because of what they did, that she is the equal to any king or queen on the planet.


I pointed to the National Archives and how it stores the Constitution and how the Founding Fathers wrote it to create a new covenant between the people with each other. I told her that the Founding Fathers knew they couldn't make anything perfect, but they tried anyway with the Constitution. I'm sure a lot of what I said went over her head, but she listened anyway.


This is one of the reasons I am so angry at the administration of George W. Bush.


My family may not own much. Our house may be small and our vehicles have too many miles on them. But we own some pretty property in Washington, D.C., some terrific forests and beaches and wetlands across the country. We own them. We all own them.


And we own that piece of paper in the National Archives. Those words and what they represent belong to all of us.


People died to give them to us and people died to preserve them for us.


Yet Bush wants to take it away from us. From his efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to his trampling on the Constitution to create an imperial presidency, he is taking away what is mine.


I take his misdeeds personally because it is. It is time to raise an old flag that belongs to all of us.


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We owe it to those who came before us. And we owe it to those that will follow us.

Tears

A lot of attention is being paid by the U.S. media to the tears of Mrs. Alito.


You want tears?


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From NewsDay:


"Stop that car!" someone shouted out, seemingly simultaneously with someone firing what sounded like warning shots -- a staccato, measured burst. The car continued coming. And then, perhaps less than a second later, a cacophony of fire, shots rattling off in a chaotic, overlapping din. The car entered the intersection on its momentum and still shots were penetrating it and slicing it. Finally, the shooting stopped, the car drifted listlessly, clearly no longer being steered, and came to a rest on a curb. Soldiers began to approach it warily.


The sound of children crying came from the car. I walked up to the car and a teenaged girl with her head covered emerged from the back, wailing and gesturing wildly. After her came a boy, tumbling onto the ground from the seat, already leaving a pool of blood.


"Civilians!" someone shouted, and soldiers ran up. More children -- it ended up being six all told -- started emerging, crying, their faces mottled with blood in long streaks. The troops carried them all off to a nearby sidewalk.


It was by now almost completely dark. There, working only by lights mounted on ends of their rifles, an Army medic began assessing the children's injuries, running his hands up and down their bodies, looking for wounds. Incredibly, the only injuries were a girl with a cut hand and a boy with a superficial gash in the small of his back that was bleeding heavily but wasn't life-threatening. The medic immediately began to bind it, while the boy crouched against a wall.


From the sidewalk I could see into the bullet-mottled windshield more clearly. The driver of the car, a man, was penetrated by so many bullets that his skull had collapsed, leaving his body grotesquely disfigured. A woman also lay dead in the front, still covered in her Muslim clothing and harder to see.


Meanwhile, the children continued to wail and scream, huddled against a wall, sandwiched between soldiers either binding their wounds or trying to comfort them. The Army's translator later told me that this was a Turkoman family and that the teenaged girl kept shouting, "Why did they shoot us? We have no weapons!

Taking a stand

After the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, Mohammed Irshaid and many other people in this country were arrested and thrown into prison cells for no other reason than they were of Arab descent.


Irshaid is a middle-aged man with a wife and three young children.


After the attacks, bumper stickers appeared on many vehicles with the phrase "We stand united."


And for the briefest moment of time after the attacks, the entire world stood as one.

I know. I took it upon myself to email the embassies and consulates of more than 100 countries to thank them for their support for the United States. Call it personal diplomacy. Call it quixotic. Call it what you will. To me it seemed like the right thing to do, like writing thank you notes to those who signed the guest book at a family member's funeral. And almost all of the people in the United States seemed united for the briefest of time too. (With the exception of the American haters like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and their ilk.)


I traveled to NYC two weeks after the attack. The New York Times had written an editorial saying if people wanted to help, what New York needed was tourists. That the city's waiters, hotel housekeepers, retailers, etc. were facing layoffs because of the dearth of the city's tourist trade.


So I went. I've mentioned before how much I loved New York City from afar and how Ms. Carnacki and I had spent our honeymoon there.


I looked up an old friend to see her for myself even though I knew she was OK. I went to the Jekyll & Hyde Club and tipped too much and bought T-shirts for the kids and spent more than I could afford because when something bad happened to one of us, it happened to all of us.


United we stand.


And you saw it with the regular New Yorkers. I walked every where and New Yorkers were friendlier than ever, people on a crowded Chinatown street corner applauded the police arresting a man and people opened doors for one another.


Of course, some of that fades naturally with time after any event.


And the government began locking up innocent people like Mohammed Irshaid.


And we saw how George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and others saw the event as an opportunity for partisan political gain.


We saw their use of the fear felt by many to push their agenda that had nothing to do with making America safer, but everything to do with enriching themselves, their friends and their consolidation of power.


We saw how they played up the irrational fears of terrorists so that a nation that once knew the only thing it had to fear was fear itself was told to fear everything.


And we saw "We stand united" bumper stickers appear on vehicles every where and we heard if we didn't stand by the president we stood with the terrorists.


And although I had tried to enlist in the military after Sept. 11th only to be told I was too old, I shook my head at this line of thinking in disgust.


We were still America, but we were being told to watch what we say. I had tried to enlist because it seemed like the right thing to do not because I ever thought al-Quaeda could defeat our nation. But the thinking and words I saw coming from the White House back then, that worried me. The only nation that could defeat America was America.


The "We stand united" stickers now make sense to me.


And it's a litmus test that separates the right from the left in this country.


To those on the left, "United we stand" means when something terrible happens to one of us, it happens to all of us be it the illegal detention of an Arab, an unjust invasion of Iraq, or a failure to help those trapped by the floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina.


To the Bush supporters, "We stand united" is a requirement for everyone. They want us all to march in lockstep with them. And they want to be part of a united crowd because they are fearful of those on the outside -- be they Arabs, Mexicans, gays, people of different cultural values. They fear the future.


They are frightened children willing to surrender all that America once claimed to stand for in order to save themselves from threats that exist only in their imaginations.


The Bush supporters want us to stand behind an imperial presidency. They want us to stand aside to allow the trampling of the Constitution. They want us to stand silent at the illegal detention of Mohammed Irshaid and others.


I don't stand for that and I never will.