On Independence Day, the bell tolls for liberty and freedom … even for the liberty to think of murder, or in a larger scale, the freedom not to honor but to destroy our ancestral idealism.
Here’s how you can get away with it: Even if murdering someone or something crosses the mind as a desperate reason to protest, there is no murder if it is only a thought.
In protest, one may think of anything out of everything for a reason, even murder, so long as this ugly thought is not translated into action.
Now is an opportune time to illustrate this dictum as we celebrate Independence Day. The bell tolls for liberty and freedom … even the freedom to think of murder or in a larger scale, not to construct but to destroy.
Movie land illustrates this anathema. To actors, actresses and filmdom’s gods of entertainment, the freedom and liberty we celebrate on Independence Day, which includes the right to protest, is just Hollywood.
A little while back, I received a documented protest against this nation’s war on terror. It was the philosophical ground of protest in the mind that was almost anything out of everything which caught my attention. The protest I am referring to was colorful because it vibrates with the aura of Hollywood … it was signed by movie land’s well-known personalities. This protest was titled: “In Thy Name”.
A long list of signatories included Hollywood celebrities, e.g., Robert Altman, Oliver Stone, Susan Sarandon, John Sayles (writer, director, and actor), the literary smarts of the entertainment world like Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut and a host of others.
I received this document attached to an e-mail, obviously sent by one of millions of Internet readers watching the editorials I wrote on a regular basis. A line reads: “Can you provide a perspective on this?”
In contemplation of freedom and liberty as we celebrate Independence Day, my reaction was perfunctory.
Numbered paragraphs are the selected statements of protest. My respond to each of them follows immediately at the end of each of these paragraphs, in the present tense. However, first thing first about those big names: It does not make a questionable protest right or unquestionable! It is a mistake to believe that when the arguments supporting a protest are weak, it can be made stronger by adding big names to it, as in this case.
1. The Statement should lay to rest the fallacy … that to protest the dangerous turn America has taken since then [since 9/11] is to be [branded] anti-American.
I agree that this protest may not be labeled "anti-American". But after I read it, it can be appropriately labeled as Un-American even though it is not anti-American.
For, it was not really about patriotism – just jingoism; it was about a protest of anything about everything we have done in the war on terror … even the unpopular measures the previous administration had taken to save these elite group of protesters from residing six feet below the ground because Islamic assassins with dirty bombs have been rounded and stopped from pursuing any further, their deadly activities.
2. The signers of this statement [claimed to be numbering about 16,000 and still counting] call on the people of the United States to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since Sept. 11, 2001, and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.
It is this kind of protest against the goal of the American war against international terrorism that a lot of protesters are quite short of knowledge, not to mention the degree of comprehension, which is quite squat, and to be kind in words -- diminutive.
The United States is erroneously pictured as an ogre about to devour the people of the world. This ridiculous rant is more of a liberal Bush-rage than a legitimate exercise of freedom to protest that we celebrate on July 4th.
This revolutionary call is a discordant mantra of radical dissenters, especially those in Hollywood who poked their noses in politics. They just grind their hatchets to cut both the grass and the blossoms, strong as they are, in their personal conviction, which unfortunately, as a devoted sentinel of free expression, I happen to respect with regrets.
3. We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers. We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the United States government should have the same rights of due process. We believe that questioning, criticism and dissent must be valued and protected.
In the ideal world, these statements have a universal appeal, but these are trashy in the real world, especially when we are at war with terror.
The United States as a great power is the leading exponent of the universal principles of due process and self-determination of nations -- that people and nations have the right to determine their own destiny.
As the recognized leader of the world, United States precisely live with that and work for that in the community of nations against the world’s despotic and dictatorial powers. This is on record. My past experience in the UN confirms this. It is also in the U.S. Constitution itself. Of course to those who knew, these unfortunate protest statements are looked down as misinformed, provocative and downright misleading mumbo-jumbo.
America has always championed the nations’ right to self-determination and the right to seek their own destiny. But if they send terrorists to New York to blow up the Trade Center and bury in rubbles more than 6,000 innocent civilians, followed by a clandestine, arrogant announcement that those killers had declared war against America, it is no longer an exercise of right of self-determination of one’s destiny, whether or not hell awaits that destiny, in cold blood. We will act accordingly, as a matter of self-defense. And we did.
It is quiet unnerving for protesters to say that those 9/11 terrorists, their supporters and allies, who have killed innocent civilians and will kill again, have the same rights to due process in the Constitution as the Americans they murdered have. Terrorist coddlers and a Republican candidate for president in the last elections, even blamed the American people – not those suicidal Islamic terrorists who carried out their diabolic mission -- for engineering 911 from within. The nerve …!
The United States is at war with organized, sophisticated, and highly endowed international terrorists sponsored and supported by fully identified rogue nations. In this war, the U.S. Constitution does not give the right to anyone much more terrorists to kill us, neither could mass murderers hide behind the Bill of Rights when they are caught after stalking and killing thousands of innocent civilians.
It is not just surprising but also tragically shocking to me to learn that brilliant minds that are protesting just went blank on this. And these are the guys who speak with eloquence about the celebration of freedom and liberty on Independence Day. While a happy nation celebrates, you can watch the tube and cry.
4. We too watched with shock the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001… even as we recalled similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City, and, a generation ago, Vietnam. We too joined the anguished questioning of millions of Americans who asked why such a thing could happen.
There is only one answer to this agonizing question: Viewed from the side of terrorists’ Islamic jihad, we are the infidel and the only nation to beat that must be beaten. Mt. Everest is there, so the challenge to climb. Without Mt. Everest, there would not have been a life-threatening challenge to climb the peak for the book.
But here is the real shock: Many protesters of war were shocked by the horrific event of 9/11 and cried with crocodile tears. They show their anguish like the rest of us when those villains from the sky struck, but the American public notices that they have no response and in fact had opposed any response to terror.
Aside from having no response, they are not just fence sitters – they are either marching down the road in protest or writing down their protest against those of us who are striking back at terror not only for ourselves, but also for them.
What we the American public expects, is that the least they could do is support the nation’s anti-terrorist effort, not distort and abort.
Those who have been invited to join their bizarre cause including myself are even too embarrassed to think as to which side they have chosen to be with. There are only two sides to choose from – our side or that of the enemy within and without. Obviously, they are in the other side, or at least protests of this kind give aid and comfort to the enemy.
And here is a little sprinkle of history that would quench the thirst of those in the desert of knowledge: 9/11 was not Vietnam! 9/11 was about a genocidal treachery of a faceless enemy that worships the dark side of Islam. We have not seen the likes of it, except perhaps in the memory of the never-to-be-forgotten Pearl Harbor infamy. But even in this comparison, there is a difference: the former is religious fanaticism, the latter, political and economic rivalry in the Pacific theater of conflict.
In Vietnam, we are not Osama bin Laden and his treachery in 9/11. American soldiers killed by Vietcong and the North Vietnamese army and our soldiers killing them in return, were engaged in an actual open combat in a conventional war of which the articles of the Geneva Convention apply. It is not this kind of war on terror that we are now engaged in, which has no territorial and moral boundary. Here, international covenants are rendered useless.
I plead to please understand carefully that in 9/11, our casualties came from a kind of war where anyplace and everyplace is a battleground, which is incomparable to what we have had in Baghdad, Panama and Vietnam mentioned in this statement of protest.
Know in heaven’s name, that those who died in New York and Washington, D.C. were reporting to work that fateful day of September 11 or were just doing their own day’s business in peace. No one of the dead had even pulled a hair out of Osama bin Laden's nostril to make a monster out of him when he and his suicide assassins unleashed a treacherous aggression that outraged the civilized world without warning.
Unlike the enemy in 9/11, we have never been treacherous in Baghdad and nor have we been treacherous in Panama or in Vietnam. In Baghdad, Panama and elsewhere, we did it with the rituals of historical and international protocol and legalism.
In fact our respect for due process is overwhelming and excessive that it becomes our weakness. History attests to the fact that the enemies of freedom had taken advantage of our constitutional belief in due process that makes us too vulnerable to their treacherous savagery.
We even extended our legalese and system of justice to Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad. He ordered oppositionists shot without trial ... we gave him trial and his right to speak of his crimes, in court.
That America is treacherous like the genocidal perpetrators of 9/11, is a myth that unfortunately, to the enemy within, is real. It is not only an unkind but also a reckless and ruthless accusation lodged by the most un-American Americans among us.
This Hollywood-inspired protest that went through the Web which I am now reviewing as we celebrate July 4th, does not only undermine the nation’s resolve to fight terror but also poisons our morale as it gives a direct psychological aid and comfort to terrorists.
In protest, the freedom to think of anything out of everything as a ground to mount a grievance is consistently taken out of context. On Independence Days, that causes teardrops to fall … oddly, when everybody is supposed to be happy.
My humble advice under this dire situation is, anyone who wants to continue enjoying the liberty to think freely about anything out of everything to justify any protest may do so -- just don’t act the treason in your mind.
In law, you can enjoy the freedom to think of anything – even murder – so long as it remains just a thought. Once you act the murder in your mind, your days of freedom are numbered. The flag we raise on Independence Day turns read on you – meaning, you cannot run or hide. The law’s long arm always catches up later, if not sooner than you think. #
© Copyright Edwin A. Sumcad. Access FP.com July 4, 2009.
The writer is an award-winning journalist. Know more about the author by reading his published editorials and feature articles or you may e-mail your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.