Thursday, February 08, 2007

What a PROUD Heritage we have!

It took Stephen Day and his newest episode of Last Chance Democracy Cafe to teach me this, but we in Wisconsin have A LOT to be proud of....let me explain:

In today's newest episode of Last Chance Democracy Cafe, the regulars are putting together a time capsule to be opened in 50 years which will remind people of what it's like to be a free country....just in case, in fifity years, we're NOT a free country with all the bells and whistles that the original Bill of Rights granted to us. So the regulars are deciding exactly what documents to put in the time capsule.

Some choices are obvious....I'll give this snippet of Steve's commentary:

United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s famous A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom and Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Many other literary works were also promptly approved (with priority, sadly, going almost as much for compactness as quality), especially books on political philosophy, such as Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.

A lot of speeches made the cut as well, Martin Luther King, Jr., “
I Have a Dream,” Robert La Follette, “Free Speech in Wartime,” Eugene Debs, “Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act,” Margaret Chase Smith, “Declaration of Conscience,” Mary Church Terrell, “What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the U.S.,” Eleanor Roosevelt, “The Struggle for Human Rights” and Hubert H. Humphrey, “1948 Civil Rights Speech.”

Wait a minute.....did you see that? That familiar name to all Wisconsinites?

I never read that speech. Hell, I never even knew it existed but thanks to Steve, it was hyper-linked and I took the time to call it up and read the whole thing.....and I admit, I was teary-eyed at the end.


Because you see, we, as a country have been through all of this before. We've lived through "War Fever" We've survived a "War Party". We have seen the patriotism of those who opposed war questioned and we have seen citizens threatened with bodily harm for their opposition to "war fever". We have seen citizens arrested and held without charge (no habeus corpus?). We have seen rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights ignored, suspended, violated and generally trampled upon.

But there was a man who had the strenght of character to stand up. He stood and he spoke against it.

It was Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin. I encourage you to "click on the link" and read the whole speech but it is worthy of a few snippets:

"Prior to the declaration of war every man who had venture to oppose our entrance into it had been condemned as a coward or worse, and even the President had by no means been immune from these attacks.

Since the declaration of war, the triumphant war press has pursued those Senators and Representative who voted against war with malicious falsehood and recklessly libelous attacks, going to the extreme limit of charging them with treason against their country.
Any of that sound familiar? (Almost all except for the President being excoriated by the press) Remember, this was October 6, 1917!
another snippet:

But, sir, it is not alone Members of Congress that the war party in this country has sought to intimidate. The mandate seems to have gone forth to the sovereign people of this country that they must be silent while those things are being done by their Government which most vitally concern their well-being, their happiness, and their lives. Today, and for weeks past, honest and law-abiding citizens of this country are being terrorized and outraged in their rights by those sworn to uphold the laws and protect the rights of the people. I have in my possession numerous affidavits establishing the fact that people are being unlawfully arrested, thrown into jail, held incommunicado for days, only to be eventually discharged without ever having been taken into court, because they have committed no crime. Private residences are being invaded, loyal citizens of undoubted integrity and probity arrested, cross-examined, and the most sacred constitutional rights guaranteed to every American citizen are being violated.

and then, he speaks the words that were sooooo true then and could have even been spoken with equal confidence in their truth on the floor of the U. S. Senate this week:

More than in times of peace it is necessary that the channels for free public discussion of governmental policies shall be open and unclogged. I believe, Mr. President, that I am now touching upon the most important question in this country today -- and that is the right of the citizens of this country and their representatives in Congress to discuss in an orderly way, frankly and publicly and without fear, from the platform and through the press, every important phase of this war; its causes, and manner in which it should be conducted, and the terms upon which peace should be made.

What does that say about the Republicans who have blocked debate in the Senate? What does that say about the strength of our democracy? Where are the men of integrity and wisdom? Where are the men of moral courage today?

I'm starting to mentally draw some comparisoms between our modern-day Russ Feingold and fightin' Bob but I'm not sure that I should. Perhaps Fightin Bob was in a class by himself as Russ Feingold might indeed be in a class by himself. They are both treasures of our State nevertheless and we need to honor them.

At the moment, I'm just damned proud to be in Wisconsin


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