Lifting The Torch
A Clarion Call For Opposition — And Hope
by Doris Haddock
(Doris Haddock is better known as Granny D., a 92-year-old grandmother
who walked across America on behalf of campaign finance reform.)
In my lifetime, I have seen the Bill of Rights stretched and twisted, but never so far that these rights did not spring back with the help of brave activists and vigilant courts. FDR stretched them hard during World War II, as Japanese Americans well know. They were stretched again in the McCarthy era, when the rights of free speech and of free association were for a time put on the shelf. These were learning experiences for our nation. We have learned that we are capable of grave mistakes, and that our greatest security comes from closely adhering to our founding documents, even in times of danger, not fearfully casting them aside.
We Americans have a dream of independence, of responsible self-governance and individual freedom. We want to see ourselves as a beacon in the world for the great dreams of freedom and justice, and for simple kindness and common sense. We want to offer the world that dream of freedom and plenty — that dream that humans have always held in their hopes for themselves and for their children. We enshrine our Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights with greatest pride, for they are the roadmaps to this pursuit of happiness.
We hold this dream in spite of the reality of our history. We have engaged in slavery and we have wiped out noble races who lived here first. We hold our dreams in spite of everything, because it is our duty to hold this dream, imperfect as we are. All the nations of the world remind us of our duty when they send us their children to educate or to assimilate into a culture where individuals have a chance to freely live up to their unique potentials. The French reminded us of our duty with their gift of Lady Liberty that stands today in New York Harbor — oh, I hope they do not take her back!
For in our slow and wobbly path forward to a better world, we sometimes find ourselves taking a great step backward. And so it is now, as we discard our Bill of Rights and discard international cooperation of all kinds and remake the world for power instead of cooperation, and for naked self-interest instead of justice. It has happened before. We have invaded and bombed before, when we might have negotiated, or when we might have worked cooperatively. Americans have gone to jail before, and suffered popular abuse before, because they stood against great wrongs. Their lonely job has been to hold that torch for us in dangerous times. And so it is now, as many prepare to go to jail rather than pretend that nothing serious is happening in America. Can our shaky old hands hold that great torch? Well, we must do our best until the nation awakes again and embraces its dream again.
Many of us worked hard for a peaceful way forward in Iraq. But one man, who became president by a quirk of the Electoral College and supported by a few other quirks on the Supreme Court, has a different view and has taken us down a most radical road. The idea of an unprovoked attack — when it was being handled peacefully — is the most radically perverse thing America has done in my long life. And I shudder to think that it is only one thing among many radical things done during this dark presidency. The holding of people without charges, without lawyers — that is shameful and a violation of any oath made to uphold the Constitution. Would it have really been an extra risk to honor the Constitution? Is it not a greater risk to discard it? And since when do we not have the courage of our Constitution? Since when are we not ready to die for our freedoms?
It is a dark time, but it is no coup. This is not the end of American democracy or the beginning of some fascist regime. We are too big, we are too willful and brave a people for that to ever be so, though there is great cause for worry.
Those of us who might worry the most must work the hardest now. Here is the good news: We still have elections. True, Mr. Bush’s people are trying to cancel presidential primaries in several states. It is the kind of work that fuels our paranoia. But there will be an election in November of 2004 or there will be hell and blood to pay.
And those of us who care for the direction of the American dream have one job now to do, and that is to begin working toward that election day in November of next year. We need not wait for a good candidate. We have work to do now with our neighbors, so that they have refreshed in their hearts the idea of a great America — one that takes care of its people and one that acts as a force for reason and peace and justice throughout the world — one that abides by its Bill of Rights.
We stand here together today because we care about each other. We care about our brothers and sisters who struggle in poverty and injustice, not only here but everywhere in the world. We have a vision and our vision is a copper-clad lady in the harbor of New York. We are for freedom. We are for the justice that allows all people the proper pursuit of happiness. We are for the elimination of poverty. We are for equal rights. We are for the protection of our fragile environment. We are for the education of our children. We are for treating the ill and housing all the people. We are for jobs and decent livings. That is all to say that we are for love. We are for love. And most of all and forever, while others are for bombs and death and great lies, we are for love and its truth.
visit Granny D at: www.GrannyD.comhttp://www.GrannyD.com