Sunday, August 27, 2006

We Protest Because We Are Patriotic

The woman's voice on the radio chilled my blood. "I'm going to die, aren't I? I'm going to die." Hearing Melissa Doi's last words from the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center, minutes before it collapsed, haunts me to this day. In my mind, I turn away, unable to contemplate the horror she felt, along with the thousands of others who died on September 11, 2001.

President Bush will be in town this week, and much is being made of the protests that are planned to welcome him to this, the reddest of States. I plan on being there, with my daughter Meigon, who also accompanied me last year to a similar protest. We go there in memory of those who have died in this nation's wars, and in memory of those who died on September 11.

We protest because we are patriotic.

I wrote an essay following a visit I made with my family to Philadelphia in 2003. We visited Independence Hall, stood where the Founding Fathers argued and battled in the formation of our government. I was impressed, and deeply humbled by the great gift those men bestowed upon this nation, gifts of individual sovereignty and protections against abuse by a tyranical government. My travels in China has shown me how precious those rights are.

It is known that the greater the price one makes for a belief, the more committed one will be to that belief. In Mormonism, those that serve 2-year missions have an extremely high activity rate throughout their lives. Soldiers who serve in the military work under the same paradigm. They have placed their lives at risk for a cause, and they remain fiercely committed to that cause. Whether as a missionary or a soldier, it is in their emotional best interest to continue to believe that their cause was just, even when those around them try to show that it wasn't. To change their perspective means that their sacrifice was in vain.

It is this tendency that explains the vitriolic response most in the military have against those like Cindy Sheehan and others who have come out against the war in Iraq. Questioning their patriotism is one strategy, asserting that their protests aid and abet the enemy is another. The Bush administration are experts at declaring that those who oppose the war in Iraq will bring more terrorism upon us. The administration stifles debate on the subject, refusing to consider opposing ideas and strategies, stubbornly pushing forward a demonstrably failed policy. I admire Cindy Sheehan, a woman who was able to make the leap into the emotional abyss of realizing that her son died in vain. I admire her courage to speak out, as a person who can speak out because she has personally paid the price. Her voice speaks louder to me than those of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al, who have never faced death, either personally or in their families.

I view the actions of the Bush Administration in relation to the "War on Terror" as reprehensible. On September 12, 2001, top military officials convened to discuss plans to invade Iraq. Although there was no link between the government of Iraq and the September 11 perpetrators, George Bush and his administration cherry-picked evidence to convince Congress and the American People that it was justified to attack Iraq.

The spirit of the U.S. Constitution is the belief that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Founding Fathers recognized the inate desire of all political leaders to increase their power, to insure their position, even if it involves conspiracy and dishonesty. For that reason they constructed a government with built in checks and balances -- Frequent elections, a free press, a judiciary branch. Anathema to the spirit of the Constitution is the idea that the government can with impunity monitor the actions and speech of its citizens, that the government can send its citizens to other nations to be held without bail, and out of reach of Constitutional protections.

I live in a culture that is taught not to question authority. We are told every Sunday that the leaders above us will never lead us astray, to do wrong. We are given to understand that the political battlefield is clearly marked between good and bad. For that reason, most Mormons continue to support President Bush, even as they quietly voice concerns over his policies.

But as President Theodore Roosevelt stated, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public" (

Wednesday Meigon and I will protest the policies of George W. Bush. I will join thousands of others who passionately feel that the war in Iraq was based on deceit and misguidance. We will protest not because we hate America, but because we love it. It is my hope that these protests will grow in intensity, until the voice of peace drowns out the hawkish ideology of this President. Only then will we be forced to change course. It happened with Vietnam. It can happen today.