April 09, 2003

I consider myself to be patriotic, but not blindly so. I have heard people say that now that the war has started the time for protest is over. That we should support our troops and not question the direction our government is taking.

I disagree.

It is always time for protest, discussion, debate, questions, action, and opinion. America was founded in protest, and born with a multitude of voices and opinions. Without the continuation of open, free debate and protest, our form of democracy will cease to exist. Too often people forget that most of the freedoms they enjoy are the result of protest. The United States has entered a dangerous time in its history, perhaps the most dangerous time it has ever faced.

I fear that the terrorist attacks of September 2001 were successful in that a sense of fear and distrust was created in this country, where none existed before. The government, in response to this attack, quickly passed a new law defining the federal crime of ‘domestic terrorism.’ Basic constitutional rights are threatened by this law, and face further erosion if the follow-on Patriot Act II is passed. People are afraid to speak out for fear of being labeled with this new crime. Libraries and bookstores are destroying customer records to prevent them from potential seizure by government agents. And I wonder what future attention I might draw from my own government for posting thoughts like this on the internet.

If we allow ourselves to be stifled, if we stop voicing our positions and debating the policies of our government, then we will cease to be a democratic nation. Already our press is increasing controlled by large corporations that dictate what is and isn’t the news; witness Disney telling it’s subsidiary ABC News not to report on Disney in any way. Reports from embedded reporters in Iraq have all started to take on a ‘we’ stance, instead of a more objective viewpoint. Listening to live reports you hear reporters talking about how ‘we are attacking this objective’, or ‘we are taking fire.’ Not, ‘the unit I am covering is moving towards it’s objective.’ By embedding the reporters in the units they are dependent upon for safety and shelter we stripped them of their freedom to be completely open in their reporting.

Like many of you here in the United States I have seen the proliferation of “Support Our Troops” signs in the past three weeks. I do not have such a sign in my yard for I fear it implies a support of the government policy that placed these troops in harm’s way. I do not think the United States had a right, or just cause, to invade Iraq. And I feel I have the right to speak out against the policies that created this situation.

I have great empathy for the families of the people in the theater of war in Iraq today. I do support the men and women who are in harm’s way. However, I do not feel that just because we are at war I should stop my protest. I refuse to wear blinders and only see what others want me to see. I refuse to believe only what I am told to believe. I reserve the right to search out my own thoughts, and to take my own stances on issues.

I am an American and as such I have the right, and the duty, to protest, to support, to question, to participate. If I give up any of these rights then I am no longer free, and if we all give up these rights, then America will be lost.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.