Mourning a national holidayWednesday, July 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm by Shahid Buttar
Exactly one year ago, I asked “What do we celebrate this July Fourth?” This July Fourth, I’m celebrating the holiday in a different way and, in the wake of the NSA leaks, enjoy many reasons for optimism.
Last year, I wrote:
Liberty…is a fading memory, a lyric in an anthem that few Americans today understand, even as millions sing it at sporting events and during today’s holiday….
Congress authorized the National Security Agency in 2008 to secretly capture and datamine all your emails and phone calls, and now prepares to extend that power again this year. A law signed by President Obama on New Year’s Eve gives the military authority to kidnap and detain any American without trial. Congress had already given the Pentagon power to withhold evidence of its human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, the line between military and police is blurring, as SWAT teams, aerial drones, armored personnel carriers, and fusion centers transform local police departments from public safety agencies into a militarized occupation force deployed across the country.
Never in human history has a state enjoyed such unfettered access to the minds of its subjects (ahem, citizens). And rarely in our nation’s history have agencies, and the officials who command them, wielded such dramatic power.
Information omniscience, combined with the authority to monitor, detain, torture or kill at whim — each of which has been the object of bipartisan consensus across the Bush & Obama administrations — will be a terrifying combination when those powers inevitably fall into the hands of less conscientious leaders.
Between the liberty and equality values that have long contended for our nation’s legacy, we have managed to lose both. Having forgotten the ideals that once defined our nation, what do we celebrate this Fourth of July?
Our flag is still there. But where is the nation it once inspired?
Tomorrow, I’ll be standing with other outraged Americans from across the political spectrum at a rally in McPherson Square in Washington, DC from noon to 2pm EDT. There are other actions across the country, initiated by an exciting new online community that emerged from Reddit.com, Restore the Fourth.
Among the questions I’m most often asked (most recently by a volunteer earlier this very afternoon) is how to maintain hope in the face of our nation’s various challenges. The depth of our predicament may feel overwhelming, but the question brought to mind a helpful adage: “The antidote to despair is action.”
This July Fourth is a perfect chance to take action, not only demonstrating dissent from lawlessness apparent at the NSA, in Congress, and across the Bush & Obama administrations, but also connecting with diverse neighbors from all walks of life who share your concerns and can help you build the movement to restore constitutional rights wherever you live.
Here in DC, others joining me in addressing the Restore the Fourth rally include NSA whistleblower (and BORDC adivsor) Thomas Drake, Julian Sanchez from the Cato Institute, Medea Benjamin from Code Pink, Carla Howell from the National Libertarian Party, Sue Udry from the Defending Dissent Foundation, Seema Sadanandan from the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, and Robert McCaw from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. We anticipate a rally as diverse as the speakers.
We’ll also hear statements from elected leaders from both houses of Congress, and both major political parties, who have stood up to the bipartisan assault on our most fundamental constitutional rights.
This August, BORDC will be working with concerned Americans across the country to build dissent during an especially crucial time: the summer congressional recess, when your representatives return home from DC. We’ll provide free training, materials, and other resources to anyone who wants to get involved. Contact us today at organizing[at]bordc[dot]org.