Archive for June, 2012

Pledge This!

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

We stand beneath the symbol of our union.

We pledge to do whatever must be done

To strengthen those so fragile bonds of conscience

That should unite the multitudes as one.

We might have been a fit and worthy nation

With liberty and justice under law.

Instead, we pledged allegiance to illusion,

To burning, bombing, killing, shock and awe.

Never was a banner so dishonored,

Stars and stripes dragged rudely through the mud.

Boys and girls must wake at each dawn’s twilight,

Reckoning its toll in flesh and blood.

This we pledge, then, as we gaze upon you,

Dreaded symbol all the world around:

Someday by our acts we will redeem you;

To this pledge shall we be ever bound.

To Flee or Not to Flee

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Shouldn’t civil libertarians be encouraging Julian Assange to confront the U.S. government directly by coming to this country voluntarily to clear himself?

It’s an opportunity to invoke our stumbling nation’s Bill of Rights and vindicate all of his disclosures as acts of responsible journalism. From a legal standpoint, there is no question that the Constitution is on his side.

If he is charged with espionage–a crime that’s typically committed clandestinely, by the way, and not by public disclosures–he will have a chance to demonstrate that the secrets he published did not harm the security of the USA, but rather revealed grievous acts of malfeasance, including murder. Plus, if he’s abused or mistreated, he gets to sue the shit out of his tormentors.

Or he could become a guest of Ecuador, curtail all future travel, and forego a showdown with Washington.

It’s disheartening that most consumers of Wikileaks’ disclosures seem to favor this course. I guess they have no confidence in Assange’s ability to beat the US in a big match. You don’t win a struggle over human rights this way, by giving up in advance.

It’s possible that Assange won’t be exonerated, but the First Amendment seems to require it, and he’s well-placed to test whether the free-press protections guaranteed there are real or illusory.

There’s also the question of honor, courage and self-respect. Daniel Ellsberg, who made similar damaging disclosures a generation ago, risked imprisonment to bring guilty secrets to light. Bradley Manning, allegedly one of Assange’s sources, sits in a jail cell today in consequence of his own courage and integrity. Assange as a beneficary of political asylum removes himself from their estimable company.

Resisters Trading Cards

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

I’m compiling a list of people who have distinguished themselves by a public act of nonviolent resistance to offensive government authority. I want to publish a set of trading cards for literate kids, with a picture of the resister on the front of the card and a paragraph or two on the back telling about the act of resistance.

Kids don’t learn much about dissent or resistance in school, where conventional wisdom and promotional messages are the currency of choice. Classrooms often have pictures of heroic figures like Martin Luther King, but the kids don’t hear any discussion of the current state of race relations or social justice, King’s main concerns. Schoolkids are taught that his dream was mostly fulfilled. In one elementary school where I subbed, they had a “Heroes” bulletin board with pictures of kids’ relatives in military uniforms, some holding rifles. King would have said something. I didn’t. I’m sure I’m not the only guy my age who laments this deficiency in his grandchildren’s education.

Elders aggrieved by the failure of the schools to dispense suitable role-models for their grandkids might like to give them a set of Resister Cards to trade and collect. The picture on the front might depict the hero in the heroic act, Rachel Corrie confronting the Israeli army Caterpillar that took her life, for instance. On the back, in sixth-grade English and 14-point type, a brief narrative of the act that the card celebrates.

It’s not just a good way of honoring people who made a sacrifice on principle, it also gives the kids an introduction to real people who took on government in a good cause and with great courage, always for the benefit of posterity. Among the motives of the resisters depicted on the cards is, without exception, the vindication of some principle vital to the survival of the republic or even the species. The kids reading the cards may discover that they are the beneficiaries of the heroes’ acts of resistance.

Heroes like Bradley Manning, who risked his career and his liberty to make public a clip showing a US helicopter crew mowing down civilians on a Baghdad street. Or Tim DeChristopher, who posed as a bidder at an oil lease auction and managed to interfere with a corrupt bidding process that would have exposed sensitive land in Utah to pollution. Both went to jail. Cindy Sheehan, a Gold Star Mother who turned grief over the loss of her soldier son in Iraq into high-profile protests that helped mobilize veterans in the antiwar movement. Sergeant Camilo Mejia, career soldier who defied orders to return to Iraq, where he’d recognized the brutality, immorality and illegality of what he had been doing there. There are enough heroic citizens–entertainers, athletes, government workers, parents, students, teachers, writers, soldiers, and others who have defied government in the public interest at great cost–to generate a stack of cards as tall as a teenager.

Maybe the cards could be enclosed with a granola bar or cookie, the kind of stuff they sell in a convenience store, and kids could collect them. I’d come out with a new series every few months. You have your old-timers like Daniel Ellsberg and Studs Terkel, and you have your historical figures like W. E. B. DuBois and Eugene Debs, and there are hundreds more whose stories could help counterbalance the indoctrination that the kids get in school.

This project is not to be confused with the visual aids used by Obama and his assassination staff, affectionately referred to as “baseball cards.” They’re actually slide shows with pictures of candidates for death by remote control, along with notes telling why each must die. I’d hate to think there was any overlap.

You’re saying kids won’t want them. I have friends who saved little cards with pictures of Catholic martyrs on the front and the saint’s life on the back. Some still have their collections. Cigarette tobacco used to come with cards depicting baseball players. They’re worth a fortune now.