Every time I look at that flag waving in front of my house, I hum the words to “God Bless America,” particularly the phrase, “Stand beside her, and guide her.” That flag is not to be flown in a time of being “patriotically correct”; rather it represents democratic values and morals and demands that all citizens live out the creed “Liberty and Justice for All.”
I want peace, yet I will not deny that I support a search-and-destroy mission against the terrorists. Not the bombing of stone-age villages and their inhabitants. My cousin, a transit cop in New York, and a brother-in-law were on site when the towers collapsed, and I want justice for innocent blood that was spilled that day. Thank God, they both survived.
Yet the events of Sept. 11 have brought out a dark side of this nation, where opportunists seek to use this event to quiet those who seek to defend civil liberties and the democratic values that make this a country I would die for.
In the name of “economic stimulus,” corporate carpetbaggers are receiving windfall benefits as unemployed workers become faceless statistics. Tax breaks for the wealthy abound: IBM will receive $1.4 billion, General Motors will receive $833 million, and General Electric, $671 million. Refunds on alternative minimum taxes paid in the past 15 years by corporations will total almost $25 billion. The Wall Street Journal claimed this was the result of “quiet and effective lobbying by U.S. multinational companies.”
Hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers founder with debt, and corporate America gets to dine at the trough of taxpayers’ dollars? Are we not ashamed? Are we not angry? And are we not going to defend our needy fellow citizens?
I am told to support the president in these trying times, yet the founding fathers never meant for us to be passive sheep — rather jealous and strident guardians of democracy. President Bush was asked about sacrifices, and the best he can do is to tell us to fly to Disney World and take a vacation? Why doesn’t President Bush ask those corporate powers to take care of their unemployed workers or raise the minimum wage or give relief to the working poor by eliminating federal withholding taxes on these good Americans?
Now, opening Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a matter of national security? Why are we not asked to drive less, buy hybrid cars, develop our abundant wind and biomass resources? This transparent attempt to use a national tragedy to further corporate profit is completely un-American and desecrates the lives of those Americans killed on Sept. 11.
And when Bush’s spokesman, Ari Fleischer, warns Americans that they should “watch what they do,” a cold chill runs up my spine.
“Stand beside her and guide her” does not mean that you stay quiet when autocrats and fearmongers threaten civil rights or exploit a tragedy for profit. We are American citizens who must stand up, speak out and be counted. Then, wave our flags.
John Borowski of Philomath, Oregon is a teacher at North Salem High School.