Monday, May 26, 2008


(Kindly get comfortable. I'm wound up.)

A lot of verbiage will be launched into the atmosphere today about patriotism, about the last full measure of devotion, about courage, and about love of country. And perhaps that's fitting. Today we honor those women and men who died in military service to their country. In my morning prayers today I included my older brother, career Navy, who died not during the Viet Nam War, but surely as a result of it. The official cause of death was "Early Onset Alzheimer's", but it was complicated by whatever physical and emotional exposures he had while in service with the Sea Bees during several tours of duty in Viet Nam. His terrified screams during the last months of his life testified to that. While I always disagreed with his decision to enlist back then, and while I really disagreed with his politics thereafter (he turned into a bona fide "ditto-head"), I always respected his stance. It was honest and it was heart-felt. And, most importantly, he acted on his beliefs.

It was those honest beliefs coupled with his willingness to put his life on the line which allowed me to continue my unabated love for that wrong-headed knucklehead. In that respect, he really was an American patriot. He felt it to be his obligation to do more than state his beliefs. He acted on them. And he did so knowing that, at least in this country, that was important.

In today's Boston Globe, James Carroll has an op-ed piece reminding me that as an American I have more obligations than to vote and to serve on a jury, which is what reminded me of my brother's bothersome stance. I'm going to quote more than is allowed under "fair use" because what Mr. Carroll has to say is important, and I suspect not everyone will click through. The column has to do with Americans, like my brother in many respects, who felt that they needed to do more than talk or write about what is going on in this nation now.

TOMORROW a number of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay will finally get their day in court - although, alas, not literally. Thirty-five Americans who were arrested at the US Supreme Court last January during a demonstration protesting the illegal detention center will go on trial in Washington. They are charged with "causing a harangue." Instead of entering their own names, each defendant will enter the name of a prisoner held at Guantanamo. Father Bill Pickard, a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania, will identify himself as Faruq Ali Ahmed. "He cannot do it himself," Pickard says, "so I am called by my faith, my respect for the rule of law, and my conscience to do it for him."

The protesters acted on Jan. 11, the sixth anniversary of the establishment of the US detention center at Guantanamo. They were demanding the restoration of habeas corpus - the right of the prisoners to have their day in court. Wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods, the protesters were decrying torture and degradation. The sleeplessness, waterboarding, insults to Islam. Some of the arrested were in the act of unfurling a banner that said with eloquent simplicity, "Close Guantanamo." They broke the law because, despite widespread repugnance at what the Bush administration is doing in Cuba, the laws and institutions of the United States have so far abetted this criminal indecency. ...

The group that goes on trial tomorrow calls itself "Witness Against Torture." They are average folks from across the country. They could not stand it anymore. They did the only thing left for them to do. They went to Washington and caused a harangue. They purposely represent individuals held in torture cells. And, perhaps, they represent a lot of their fellow citizens, too. Close Guantanamo.
[Emphasis added.]

Guantanamo Bay is an especially painful issue for me because I'm a lawyer. I'm not a high-powered lawyer by any means. I practice within a tiny niche of administrative law that probably wouldn't ring any bells with any brilliant appellate brief, but I am a lawyer. I take that seriously. Even given my limited practice, I remember enough from my law school experience to recognize the serious and perhaps fatal attacks on democracy which this administration has wreaked upon the nation, and it has to stop now.

The 35 patriots who have done exactly what my brother did so many years ago need some comrades, and now is the time to provide them. If you are not sure just what it is you can do, and you're not up to pitchforks and torches, don't sit back. Thanks to the one samizdat that hasn't been taken over (yet) by the folks in charge, there are plenty of places that can give you advice. Here are just a couple.

Pax Americana

Code Pink

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm really glad you wrote this, i'm really glad i read it.

i type massachusetts superior and district court transcripts, have done so for 25 years.

for the last eight years, every time i have typed a charge on the law, i want to run screaming into the street. the words are so pure and true.

"reasonable doubt" and "presumption of innocence" are, as the judges say, bedrock legal principles. it is really frightening to know when i type those paragraphs, that those very bedrock principles are being violated with each keystroke, and in my name.

8:08 PM  

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