Some time back I wrote to Mayor Steve Chapman – who lambasted the Bush Administration – thanking him for standing up to the corrupt bastards in Washington.
He finally responded – and it’s worth a read:
From: “Chapman, Stevie”
Date: October 24, 2006 4:24:26 PM MDT
Subject: Response to your email
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
– John F. Kennedy, remarks at the signing of the charter establishing the German Peace Corps, June 24, 1963 (misattributing the statement to Dante)
Thank you for writing or calling to express your views regarding my speech on the occasion of President Bush, Secretary Rice, and Secretary Rumsfeldâ€™s visit to Salt Lake City. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me.
In one of his most powerful statements about truth and conscience, Gandhi wrote, â€œA ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.â€ Gandhiâ€™s words remind us of our fundamental, inescapable duty to tell the truth, to speak out when our countryâ€™s leaders fail to aspire to the high ideals and rich traditions that form the foundation of our nation and of our Constitution.
As the leader of a successful movement that peacefully ended the rule of an oppressive colonial regime, Gandhi knew that following oneâ€™s conscience and speaking truth to power is rarely easy or agreeable. He also knew that the obligation to do so transcends what many would consider as edicts of civility. Standing silent in the face of injustice is far worse than being impolite.
I was obliged to speak at the protest on August 30 because of my deep conviction that the Bush administration, aided by a cowardly and corrupt Congress, has been an unmitigated disasterâ€”economically, morally, and spirituallyâ€”for our great nation.
On the economic front, the federal administration and Congress frittered away a surplus of $86.4 billion dollars in 2000 and racked up a deficit of $493.6 billion last year. The 2004 budget deficit of $568 billion was the largest in history. The astoundingly irresponsible fiscal policy currently reigning in Washington is due as much to the prevailing lack of fiscal discipline as it is to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Non-defense discretionary spending skyrocketed from $298.6 billion in 2000 to $435.3 billion in 2005â€”an increase of about 45.7%. This makes President Bush one of the biggest-spending presidents in history. He has yet to veto a single spending bill.
This reckless spending has been accompanied by equally reckless tax cuts, the majority of which benefit the wealthiest in our country. Between fiscal years 2001 and 2006, the tax cuts promoted by the federal administration and passed by Congress deprived the Treasury of over $1 trillion in revenue. If the tax cuts enacted since 2001 are made permanent, they will cost the country an additional $3.3 trillion over the next 10 years.
The federal administrationâ€™s economic and social policies, which favor those who already enjoy the greatest advantages in our country, have also led to decreasing wages and a widening gap between rich and poor. The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2% since 2003, while corporate profits are at their highest level since the 1960â€™s. In 2004, the top 1% of wage earners received 11.2% of all wage income, up from 8.7% in 1984 and less than 6% in 1964.
The Bush administration and Congress have needlessly mired our country in an unnecessary, immoral war in Iraq, based on false pretenses. According to The Lancet, approximately 665,000 people have been died in Iraq as a result of the war â€“ and many have been seriously maimed, brain damaged, or rendered mentally ill. Our nationâ€™s reputation throughout much of the world has been destroyed. We have many more enemies bent on our destruction than before our invasion of Iraq. The hatred toward us has grown to the point that it will take many years, perhaps generations, to overcome the loathing created by our invasion and occupation of a Muslim country. As William F. Buckley, Jr., one of the founders of the modern American conservative movement, recently declared, â€œOne canâ€™t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed.â€
The administrationâ€™s blatant disrespect for domestic laws and international treaties has fostered the kidnapping and torture of suspects worldwide, without even the pretense of due process of law. President Bush has repeatedly promoted the idea that the Geneva Conventionsâ€”international standards to ensure the human rights of those involved in combatâ€”do not apply to detainees captured as part of the war on terrorism. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, acting at the time as White House counsel, wrote a memo in 2002 concluding that detainees should not be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, as their lack of POW status would reduce the chance of subsequent prosecutions against their US captors under the domestic war crimes statute. Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong in our country when our government strives to provide legal and intellectual justification for the torture of human beings
President Bush and members of Congress make much of so-called values. They donâ€™t generally mention the values of torture, of killing, of war-profiteering, of constitutional violations, of choosing to invade and occupy a Muslim country that posed no security risk to our nation, or of generating even more hatred and terrorism by our governmentâ€™s unjustified, illegal tragic actions. Rather, they speak incessantly of what they term â€œfreedom,â€ â€œdemocracy,â€ and â€œgood and evil.â€
On August 30, I spoke about a different set of values. We cherish the freedoms and liberties of our country. As patriotic Americans, we donâ€™t malign those who speak out against our nationâ€™s leaders as being unpatriotic or un-American, or accuse them of providing aid to terrorists. We have good, wholesome family values. In our families, we teach honesty. We teach kindness and compassion toward others. We teach that violence, if ever justified, must be an absolutely last resort. In our families, we teach that our nationâ€™s constitutional values are to be upheld, and that they are worth fighting for. Our family values promote respect and equal rights toward everyone, regardless of race, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation.
The Bush administration and Congress have acted in complete derogation of those values. For that reason, we all have a duty to raise our voices in calling for change.
America suffers when we remain politely silent or apathetic on such important issues. We renege on our obligations as citizens of this great nation, and as human beings, when we stifle our conscience on issues that matter. America suffers when some attempt to silence those who question the direction of our country by disparaging them as being â€œun-Americanâ€ or likening them to appeasers of fascists or terrorists. We sully the noble principles of this nation when we equate those who plan attacks on American soil with those who, through honest and thoughtful criticism, seek the best for our country.
â€œHere in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebelsâ€”men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine,â€ said President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, at the height of the Cold War. â€œAs their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.â€
We perform the greatest service to our nation and to the world when we remember, with President Eisenhower, that the good of our world often depends on the courage to seek justice precisely when it is most inconvenient to do so. The duty of dissent is greatest precisely when the need for it is most pressing. This is such a time.
Ross C. Anderson