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Thu

25

Oct

2007

The Lament of a True Patriot
Thursday, 25 October 2007 16:03
by Andrew Bard Schmookler

I grieve deeply to see how America has failed to meet the present urgent challenge– indeed the very challenge that our Founders were most concerned that America should be able to meet. These are dark days for any true American patriot.

WHAT MAKES A TRUE PATRIOT

The true patriot is the one who loves the heart and soul of his country. In America –the nation whose essence is said to be an idea– that heart and soul is the system of government given us by our Founders and the democratic spirit embedded in it. It is that system and that spirit that have allowed Americans, for more than two centuries, to live as free people in a society that, by the standards of human history, has been reasonably decent.

The true patriots are not defined by their enthusiasm for the victories of American militarists, but by their devotion to those principles for which –as we declare every Memorial Day– so many Americans have laid down their lives: principles of limited government, human rights, and the rule of law.

The true patriots are not those who wrap themselves in the banner descended from what Betsy Ross sewed, but those who carry forth that “Spirit of ‘76″ enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the spirit that made our forebears willing –in the name of liberty and of the proposition that governments are instituted to serve the people and derive their just powers from the people’s consent–to put their lives on the line.

THIS IS THE VERY THREAT OUR FOUNDERS WARNED US AGAINST

Now there has arisen –from within the American political system– the very kind of threat that our Founders feared most: a lawless and usurpatious presidency systematically assaulting our constitutional system.

The picture of presidential lawlessness could not be clearer. The case has been made powerfully and in detail by responsible and knowledgeable Americans– by people like Bruce Fein, Elizabeth de la Vega, Glenn Greenwald, John Dean. They show the unmistakable pattern of conduct by which the heart of America –”a nation of laws, not of men”– is being destroyed by this Bush regime.

(There’s no point here in going through the litany of lies and crimes and usurpations that are already fully exposed in news accounts, in books, in court findings. Anyone who has been paying attention –and is willing to know this dark truth– must by now not know it. And anyone genuinely seeking such knowledge can readily find it.)

This is the very danger the Constitution was created to counter. The whole structure our Founders gave us was organized to help Americans prevent precisely what this regime has been doing.

And now we can see: at all the levels of the American body politic, America has failed to rouse itself to fight the battle our Founders intended for us to fight.

The people have failed. The free press has failed. And now we can see clearly that the Congress has failed. America has proved itself unworthy of the heritage handed down to us.

THE FAILURE OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

Our Founders knew that we, the people, would need to embody “republican virtue” to be the kind of citizenry required to preserve such a noble experiment as the American democracy. We would need to practice the “eternal vigilance” that is the price of liberty. We would have to be ready, in Jefferson’s words again, to refresh “the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

We the people, in the face of this brazen crimes and lies of this Bush regime, should have been out in the streets in our millions. We should have been raising a deafening hue and cry, demanding our America back.

But, except for a relatively small fringe, the American people have stood by and let our birthright as free Americans be stolen from us. (And nearly a third of us still regards loyalty to this criminal ruling group to be a virtue– enough to hold an entire political party hostage to this evil.)

The American people have failed– failed to understand what a gift the Founders gave us, failed to care enough to rouse ourselves to protect that cherished heritage.

THE FAILURE OF THE FREE PRESS

Our Founders knew that the purpose of the free press was to help the public to protect the integrity of its democracy against the rise of dark and tyrannical powers. Our Founders knew that, if our precious liberty was to be preserved, it would be essential that nothing could stop the people’s being told when the power entrusted to their leaders is being abused.

But, again, except for some individual cases around the edges –like Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann, and lately the New York Times editorial page– the media have failed to do their job. They do not help the American people to understand that we are now facing a crisis unprecedented in American history.

This rise of a lawless, fascist power in the White House, is a HUGE story–as important in its way as the crisis of World War II. But the mainstream media do not sound the alarm.

A generation ago, the press treated the lawlessness of Watergate as a big story. Now here we are in a situation that John Dean, who ought to know, called WORSE THAN WATERGATE three years ago, before so much of the criminality of this regime had been so well exposed, and the mainstream media pretend this assault on the rule of law –on our whole democratic culture– is not occurring. They do not trumpet to the American people that the heart of our nation is imperiled like never before in our history.

A decade ago, the media found the question of oral sex in the Oval Office so important as to warrant months of almost round-the-clock coverage. But now, with a list of scandals longer than one’s arm adding up to a pattern of systematic crimes and lies committed by an executive who claims to be above the law and claims to be beyond the reach of Congress and the Courts, the media treat this mortal peril to the soul of America as of less import than was a stain on a blue dress.

The media fail us by ignoring the elephant in the room and allowing falsehood to continue to reign.

THE FAILURE OF THE CONGRESS

Our Founders saw to it that the Congress was given certain powers to enable it to deal with a president who puts himself above the law. Last fall, when the American people turned control of Congress over to the opposition party, it appeared that the necessary confrontation might be in the cards. And until the last couple of months, it was possible to believe that, under that opposition, the Congress might be gathering momentum toward such a meaningful constitutional battle with the usurpatious president.

But now it has become clear, through a series of cave-ins, that the opposition Democrats have no will to fight.

Clearly, this is not what the Founders had in mind. The Constitution is about controlling the play of power, and it sets up the arena where –if the war to preserve the system’s integrity against a lawless president must be fought– the members of Congress are supposed to become warriors.

That this is the most essential, the most inescapable, of Congress’s responsibilities, is demonstrated incontrovertibly by the oath of office the Founders placed –word for word– in our founding document. With that oath, our Founders mandated that everyone holding power in the United States government make one sacred promise: to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

In this, the Congress has failed. The Republicans continue to defer to the president as their leader, treating him as if he –not the Constitution– deserved their loyalty and support. And while the Democrats complain weakly, when the chips are down they repeatedly back down rather than fight.

While the Bushites are making war on the system, the Democrats are pretending that we’re at peace. While this president continues to proclaim precisely the kind of powers that our Founders thought essential to keep out of the executive’s hands, lest the democracy collapse into tyranny, the Democrats have refused to challenge him fully.

The warriors on whom our Founders counted have quailed in the face of this unpopular but combative president. They have proved themselves too weak in message and vision and courage to speak boldly the truth about this crisis. They have shrunk from the necessary combat to save the soul of America.

WHAT WOULD CONSTITUTE SUCCESS

And let us be clear: the criterion for success is not necessarily that the criminals in power be successfully impeached. Perhaps there are good reasons, at this stage in the second term of this presidency, why impeachment is not the best course. Perhaps in any event impeachment could not succeed.

But success at least requires that the crimes of this regime be fully exposed, that the forces that have assaulted our constitutional democracy be discredited and repudiated, that this presidency be stripped of all the moral authority and respect that Americans customarily extend to the office.

Even where the Democrats cannot prevail in terms of a contest of raw political power, every one of these showdowns is an opportunity to further expose the overall pattern of lies, crimes, and blunders that have so damaged this country. At the very least, the Democrats should be winning major moral victories that consistently push this regime deeper into the mire of shame it so richly deserves.

Thus disgraced –even without impeachment– the regime can be drained of its power, and treated as the temporary blotch on American history that it is.

Instead, the failure of the opposition to stand up and fight has led, in recent months, to an increase in the regime’s confidence and in its power to dominate our national affairs. That is clear confirmation of Congress’s –and America’s– major failure, and it is a disgrace.

LAMENTATION


What does it say about what has happened to the spiritual and moral culture of America that we have so far so badly failed this crucial test? What does it mean that at this time of crisis, we have a people that protesteth not, a media that telleth not, and an opposition that fighteth not?

It causes me such pain, such grief, such sadness to see the America I love –that creation on this continent that was one of humankind’s greatest historic achievements—under such assault, and none of the major components of our body politic with enough vision and courage and passion to fight to protect and preserve our sacred birthright.

Andrew Bard Schmookler is an author, speaker, and radio talk-show host. “Schmookler’s website – www.NoneSoBlind.org -- is devoted to understanding the roots of America’s present moral crisis and the means by which the urgent challenge of this dangerous moment can be met.”

Books by Andrew Bard Schmookler
The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution by Andrew Bard Schmookler (Paperback - Feb 1995)
The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny (Suny Series in Environmental Public Policy) by Andrew Bard Schmookler - Paperback - Dec 1993)
Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide by Andrew Bard Schmookler - Hardcover - May 7, 1999)
Living Posthumously: Confronting the Loss of Vital Powers by Andrew Bard Schmookler - Hardcover - Feb 1997)

Schmookler studied as an undergraduate at Harvard College, where he graduated summa cum laude in Social Relations in 1967. Schmookler went on to earn his doctorate in 1977 at the University of California at Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union in a program specially created to accommodate his comprehensive theory of human history. In 1984, Dr. Schmookler was awarded the Erik H. Erikson Prize by the International Society for Political Psychology. And in 1985, he was selected by Esquire Magazine as "one of the men and women under forty who are changing the nation." He was selected, in 1999, as one the "Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century" by the International Biographical Centre (of Cambridge, England).
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