Thursday, June 23, 2005

Good-Bye First Amendment

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The American President”. In it, Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepard.

I know I’ve written about this movie before. I still recommend it for anyone who’s not seen it. I can only say that you’ll walk away from that film saying to yourself, “It’s been a while since we’ve seen a president, or even a representative or senator, like that.”

You may tell yourself that we’ve never seen a president speaking so eloquently and with so much passion. President Kennedy spoke eloquently and, at times, with passion. Robert Kennedy also had those traits. However, knowing what we know today about the Kennedys, you may harbor some ambivalence about their sincerity.

My favorite scene in that movie is at the end when Andrew Shepard interrupts his press secretary’s daily news briefing (we’ve already got Bush there – he avoids news conferences at all cost) to answer his opponent in the upcoming election.

He sort of rants about America and what it means to him. He encompasses so much in that speech that it’s difficult for me to decide which observation I find most inspiring.

Well, the House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday, June 22, 2005, that, at least for this morning, has helped me decide.

In his speech, President Shepard says, “You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of this country cannot be just a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.

Now, show me that! Defend that! Celebrate that in your classrooms! Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

Thanks to the actions of The House of Representatives, that part of that particular speech is going to mean even more to me next time I watch the movie – and I will watch it again.

Yesterday, a day that will “go down in infamy” (thanks FDR), the House passed a bill to amend The Constitution, yes, yours and my Constitution, to include a ban on flag burning.

True, the House has passed this legislation six times in the past 10 years and it’s never passed the Senate.

The United States Senate of 109th Congress of the United States of America is a different animal. It’s an animal the likes of which we’ve never seen before. A spokesperson for this animal says that the votes are there this time around and I believe it.

The spokesperson also says there are at least thirty-eight states, the number needed to ratify a constitutional amendment, that have already promised their support. I believe that, too.

I don’t want to get all gross on you, but there are American men and women dying every day in Iraq. Their limbs are blown off. I can’t help thinking about the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where Tom Hanks is on the beach at Normandy. He starts to drag a wounded soldier along the sand to get the soldier to safety. When Hanks looks back, he finds he’s dragging the top of a human torso. It’s disgusting, but if it wasn’t shown that way, then war would continue to be sanitized. It’s disgusting, but war is the total state of disgust.

If you ask a Bush backer why someone might be dragging the top of an American soldier’s torso in Iraq, they’ll say that’s happening to protect our rights. While we “liberals” give aid and comfort to the enemy with our protests, kids are dying in Iraq to help us maintain the right to protest.

Then they’ll say, “Go to China. Go to Saudi Arabia. Go to Iran if you don’t like it here. See how much freedom you have there.”

Well, as long as this animal sits at the top of the government of the United States of America, that quote from Bush supporters will morph into meaning something different or nothing at all as time moves on. What the kids will be dying for, and they’re truly not dying for our freedom now as we all know, will not be our freedom. The animal in Washington is insuring that.

It’s a piece of cloth, folks! Not an arm or a leg or the top of a human torso. It’s a freakin’ piece of cloth!

Sure it’s inspiring. But that’s all it’s supposed to be – inspiring! It isn’t a living creature. As Douglas says, it’s merely a symbol.

What should be banned, and actually is by our Constitution, is for one person to be able to decide when people are put in the position to lose body parts or, worse, to die. What’s even worse than Congress abdicating its duty to make sure that one person can’t make that decision on his own is when we find that the one person made such a decision for reasons that don’t have anything at all to do with defending the US or the rights of American citizens.

The Downing Street memo, according to a search I did yesterday which brought me to the sites of some Bush backers, may or may not be proof that the decision to go to war not only had nothing to do with defending our country, but was based upon a lie which made it appear to be about defending our country.

Republicans and Bush backers say it’s hogwash. I say it’s damning for Bush.

I don’t understand it. There’s one way we can determine which of us is right and that’s to have an unhampered, unfettered independent investigation into those memos.

If Bush is innocent, so be it. If the investigation proves he lied to Congress and the American people, then it will be incumbent upon Congress to take the next step.

I don’t understand it. If the memos are so obviously benign, then Bush supporters should be all for an investigation to clear Bush’s name. After all, they weren’t shy about spending $60 million to disparage Clinton’s name.

I’m absolutely certain that one of my Senators, Barbara Boxer (Boxer for president) will vote against the bill to amend The Constitution to outlaw flag burning. I’m not sure about Diane Feinstein, the other Senator who works for me, although I don’t hold out much hope for her. I am happy to say that my House representative, Ellen Tauscher, voted against the bill.

Please get in touch with the offices of your senators and implore them to vote against this bill!

Republicans at one time were known as the party of “small government”. Unfortunately, this “animal” wants small government for laws that help people, Social Security, Bankruptcy Bill, etc. Let big business be in charge of those things.

However, when it comes to the rights and the private, personal lives of Americans, it wants full control.

This is just another right, another activity that doesn’t hurt anyone, unlike the illegal, ill conceived and unethical war in Iraq hurts people, that is being taken from us. Get in touch with your Senators today! Please!

Thanks.

To friendship,
Michael

“Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting.” – Benjamin Franklin

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