NOW PEOPLE OF GOOD CONSCIENCE SHOULD STAND UP AND FIGHT BACK
Eric E. Johansson
Ex-US Army Paratrooper and Infantryman
President, SF Bay Area Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” ---Mahatma Ghandi
Oftentimes, I find myself in the difficult position of defending why I choose to criticize current policies or why I criticize the history of policies that my country has pursued. Many people mistakenly assume that I criticize because I “love” criticizing. However, this assumption is patently false. The truth is that I would rather live in peace, never having to take the opportunity to criticize any policy, and go about my daily life undisturbed, free from such radical measures of civic responsibility. In fact, I criticize the history of American foreign policy and the current policies of the Bush Administration because those policies are in direct conflict with my deepest, most strongly held values and principles. For me, voicing such criticism is my inherent responsibility as an American citizen. It is my responsibility, and yours too, to decide what each of us think is right and what is wrong and then to assume the power over the course and direction that our country pursues. That is, I choose to empower myself as an American citizen who in good faith to America, does openly criticize policy that diverges from my own set of deeply held principles and values. It is, without question, the most patriotic and personal act of love for our country that anyone could ever engage in.
Harking back to my childhood, I often remember how my parents and grandparents taught me to live according to a higher standard as they constantly challenged me and brought unending and guilt-laden levels of criticism upon me when I failed. In fact they still do as I recently forgot to send my Mom a Mother’s day card due to the fact that I am very busy in a wide range of activist pursuits and a new job that I just got and started. Mom won’t let me forget my mistake nor should she. Mom also holds me to high standards. I am thankful for her criticism even if the guilt factor is tearing me apart. Mom knows how to evoke maximum guilt. But she is right, I should feel bad. I am so sorry to you Mom. I promise that I won’t make that mistake again. I will win back your respect and admiration no matter what it takes. Please forgive me Mom and know that I love you. Although my family’s seemingly incessant criticism and incessant expressed disappointment in me was often very frustrating as a child and sometimes still is, today I love them so much for having instilled in me a set of high moral principles and values to live by and for which to judge my leaders by. So to all members of my family, I say thank you.
Although I do not agree with physical punishment as a means to disciplining juveniles because I think it lacks creativity and is fundamentally violent in nature, my grandmother who took a major part in my upbringing did discipline me using physical punishment. Despite our child-rearing differences in opinion, I loved her deeply and I miss her tremendously. My grandmother, Avis Payne Callman, was a fire-breathing, Great Depression era, Texas liberal FDR Democrat who loved to express her opinion oftentimes in the face of folks she had just met five minutes before. She was a spunky, feisty, athletic, independent gal and she took no smack from anyone. She led the family in her notably loving but strong-willed and unapologetic manner. Grandma was not someone to mess with as she sometimes liked to say, “Don’t mess with Texas” but we all knew this really meant “Don’t mess with Grandma,” or do so at your own risk. Using her voice alone, she would reduce those who challenged her to the height of an insect leaving them, as she said, “without a leg to stand on.” As a child, my grandmother bless her memory, often administered many spankings upon me as I often accomplished some truly outlandish acts of general mischief. Often, after having tendered upon me a sound, lengthy spanking, she claimed that her harsh disciplinary techniques did, in fact, hurt her far more than it hurt me. Although at the time I seriously questioned and doubted the sincerity of what I viewed as her remarkably scandalous assertion, it was not until years later that I came to understand why she felt the way she did. It hurt her because I was a reflection her standards and principles much in the same way that our county’s policy is a reflection of our standards and principles.
The act of criticizing policies that I think lack basic standards of human morality is an act that hurts me far more than it hurts my country. It hurts me because those policies are by default a reflection of my moral values especially if I fail to step forward and criticize them. Silence is passive collaboration. To criticize such policies is the means by which we signal our disapproval and reveal how we hope to change and renew policy that reflects our values, carried out in our name, the name known as the “American people.” Voicing criticism is the first and most democratic step that our forefathers had hoped to cultivate, that they knew would bring policy into alignment with principle. They trusted the values and principles of the common citizen as I trust them also. The act of criticizing policy and demanding accountability, as my grandfather taught me as a child, is the most basic responsibility of American citizenship. Thank you Grandpa. In fact, I would like to express my thanks to all members of my family: I am permanently indebted to my grandparents, members of the greatest generation, my parents and every member of my family for helping shape, color and cultivate my values and principles and for their full but not uncritical support for most of my endeavors, experiences, and choices in life. Thank you all and let me say that I love each of you very much.
If only our leaders could maintain such high standards, I think our country would be much better off. The problem is that honesty is often missing in politics. However, much to my surprise, I have a newfound sense of respect for Paul Wolfowitz this week for having the courage to admit that the false WMD claim was simply an excuse to use to trick the American people into supporting an unjust war that was fundamentally more about oil and imperialist ambitions. That took guts, my brother Paul, to admit that you all lied, to come forward with the stark truth. I respect you more now, sir. Similarly, for Ariel Sharon to call an occupation an occupation, also took guts. To my brother Ariel I also respect you more this week. The real test will be to see if you both can stand by your word and your principles for that is the ultimate test of honest men. But in either case, the two of you now share my respect even if I still strongly disagree with your ideology and your methods. Honesty honors, persistence pays and consistency counts.
On that note, I also lost what little respect I had for John Ashcroft this week as he chose to do what he said he would not, that is, to violate basic standards of American principles by mistreating and discriminating against American citizens by using the broad power of his office to unjustly assault the moral character of gays and lesbian employees at the Department of Justice by banning their annual pride event from taking place at the DOJ. Such an act of extreme hatred and bigotry is well beyond your scope of responsibility Mr. Ashcroft and should be considered an assault on the basic rights and liberties of all Americans everywhere. While it is your prerogative to maintain an anti-gay opinion, it is not within your purview to use the power of your office to so egregiously discriminate against gays and lesbians by banning their pride party at the Department of Justice. Imagine if what was banned instead was a Xmas party based on religious grounds. Why the fervor of the theocratic Right would likely rock the airwaves as barrages of virile criticisms were unloaded upon the government. Thank you Frank Lautenberg for expressing your criticism at this outrageous act of bigotry, hatred and prejudice being both expressed and translated into action against gays and lesbians from the highest offices of the government. Such outrageous acts being implemented by such irresponsible neo-fascistic members of the theocracy-fascism pursuing Bush White House should not be tolerated by anyone of good moral character. While expressing such bigotry from the highest levels of government is alone disturbing, translating that bigotry into hard and fast action against homosexuals is appalling and in direct contradiction with everything America is supposed to stand for. Such behavior is simply an outrage. Is Ashcroft the kind of man you wish to give more power? He wants it. But it would be categorically un-American and simply wrong to give him or the Department of Justice any more nefarious Patriot Act power in light of such outrageous bigotry, hatred and prejudice being promulgated from the mouth of the blatant neo-fascist by the name of John Ashcroft. Any attempt to award this man more power should be opposed at every level of government and from every sector of decent American society. I call for the immediate resignation of the Attorney General, not for his opinions, but for translating those opinions into hateful action against citizens of our American community. If Congress does give this man more power, then the people of this nation should rise up in anger against such an outrageous act of Congressional irresponsibility.
What most people fail to realize is that legislation that sounds good on the surface has real impacts for and against common everyday people. For example, an act such as the Defense of Marriage Act that some Americans support because it sounds good to them and because they do not know the truly immoral and nasty ramifications that is filled with has consequences that hurt everyday people, in this case, everyday gay people. Without marriage, a gay person with a sick partner they that love cannot visit that partner in the hospital because only immediate members of the patient’s family can visit. Is that fair? Is that just? Is that how America was meant to be? How would you feel if you could not visit your dying wife or husband? Do you think that is right? I do not think that is right. Or, for instance, any American can marry a non-American and bring them to America and live out their lives together. I cannot. For I have a person in this world that I love but they live in Vancouver, Canada. We talk on the phone. I love America and I do not wish to leave. They would gladly come here but they cannot. Is that fair? Is it fair that I cannot marry a person I love because others hate the “idea” of two men together? Is that justice? I served my country in the military too; do I not deserve to be treated equally?
I am gay, I love G-D, I love my country and I demand equal treatment and equal opportunity. But I am denied fair treatment because of hatred and bigotry. I am denied equality because of such bigoted acts of Congress like DOMA, or like Ashcroft’s banning of an event he is not obligated to attend, or when some bigoted punks decide to strap to a fence a fellow teenager of theirs, named Mathew Sheppard, beat him and leave him to die in a remote Wyoming field. Where is the humanity in that act? Where is the morality in that disgusting act against G-D? Where is the fairness and equality that he deserved? Where was fairness and equality when Brandon Teena was murdered? Where was fairness and equality when thousands of other gay martyrs who were murdered or who took their own lives, driven to despair by a world that hated them because of their love or gender? Where is the fairness and equality that we as gay, patriotic American citizens deserve? We died saving lives from terrorists too, like Mark Bingham on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania or like many gay people who died in New York on September 11. Our morality is just as good as yours and we are just as good as you: Many of us think we have great principles, great moral values, and excellent standards. You have not the right to judge us based upon who we love. Certainly, you have the right to your opinion, but you have not the right to translate your hatred into actions against us for who we are. You have not the right to discriminate against us, beat us, slander us, murder us, or treat us with any degree of disrespect or dishonor. You have not that right!!!!
To those that take bigoted actions against people they hate I say: YOU PEOPLE DISGRACE THE G-D YOU CLAIM TO BEAR FAITH, YOU DISGRACE AMERICAN VALUES, YOU DISGRACE OUR FOREFATHERS AND THE VALUES THEY CHERISHED, YOU DISGRACE FREEDOM AND LIBERTY, YOU DISGRACE HUMANITY, AND YOU DISGRACE YOURSELVES.
PRO-LIFE TO ME MEANS BEING PRO-PEOPLE, INCLUDING NON-WHITES, IMMIGRANTS AND HOMOSEXUALS!!! WE AFFIRM OUR OWN FREEDOM BY FIRST AFFIRMING THE FREEDOM OF ALL PEOPLES EVERYWHERE.
The time has come in our country for good people of good conscience reclaim America and our brotherhood with foreign nations. We can do so by openly expressing our criticisms of such egregious policy and outrageous behavior being expressed and acted upon by the extremist elements of the Republican leadership and the Bush Administration. It is time that men and women of good conscience open their mouths to protect all that is good and principled about America. It is time men and women of good moral fiber work hard to get out the vote in the next year and eject Bush from office. It is time for the Left, be it Blue-dog Democrat, Green, or Red to put aside past differences and unite in solidarity behind a progressive Democratic candidate like Dean, Kucinich or perhaps even Graham who has the capability of drawing in the numbers at the polls. It is time for people who love their country to follow the words of Paul Wellstone by standing up and fighting back!!! I salute Martin Luther King, Jr. for having a dream; I have a dream too. I dream of a day when all people irregardless of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status, ability or disability, those with a home and those without are treated with respect, dignity, and honor and are helped by us, the people, to find the ways in which they are equal to us; a day when if their disability prevents them from work then they are cared for; a day when the people of this nation are helped by us and given first priority; priority over the bombs that we build and drop on others; a day in which people in all nations of our world are treated as equal to us. I dream of a day when the moral conscience of this nation rises higher than the level of revenge, infliction of violence, hatred, bigotry and prejudice and I dream of a day when hard questions are asked and answered; a day when leaders are held to account. That is the day that I dream about!!!
IT IS TIME TO FOR US ALL, DECENT PEOPLE OF GOOD MORAL CHARACTER, TO SPEAK OUT, TO UNITE TOGETHER, TO INSPIRE OUR FELLOW CITZENS, TO THINK BIG, TO WORK HARD, TO RECLAIM OUR COMMON MORALITY AND TO RENEW AMERICAN DEMOCRACY FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, AND OF THE PEOPLE!!! IT IS TIME TO TAKE AMERICA BACK!!! BACK TO THE PEOPLE!! WE HAVE THE POWER!! WE MUST ACT!!
STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!!!!
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Live free or die.
Eric E. Johansson
Ex-US Army Paratrooper and Infantryman
President, SF Bay Area Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69
San Francisco, CA