POST OF THE DAY….

Note from The Vinman: Walter M. Roberts III is a Philosphy scholar, teacher, friend of many and The Vinman is honored to say, of mine. We walked the streets for hours on end in Manhattan discussing all life has to offer while Walter was at Columbia University and I was at the New York Post.

I could share volumes to attest to how great the man is, but that would only impinge on his humble nature — so I will not. Suffice to say if you ever believe anything The Vinman writes, believe this man is one everyone in the world should have the fortune to know. I will verbose no longer, but please read the piece he sent to a few of his friends recently. He did not intend for it to be published, but I asked his permission and he agreed. I am hoping he will allow me to poste more of his thoughts on many subjects in the future.

Thoughts by Citizen Walter M. Roberts III: (REFLECTIONS ON A BERKELEY PROTEST)

By Walter M. Roberts III

On the Thursday after the war began (3/20), I inadvertently encountered an

anti-war protest march here in Berkeley.  Though I had not participated in any

of the downtown San Francisco marches previous to the war’s onset, I joined the

tail of this demonstration as it worked its way through the main streets of

Berkeley.  Having made our way down Dwight Way as we turned on to Sacramento Ave

amid the cries of “Impeach Bush” and “Not in our name”, the great irony struck

me:  Here we all were casually asserting our rights to gather and march in

protest to our government’s policies-a right which, if the desires of the

protesters were followed, no Iraqi citizen would enjoy in the foreseeable

future.  For however much the weapons inspectors may have managed to disarm

Saddam by another 6 months or year of work, there was no time-table prescribed

by the UN for granting to her citizens the rights of free-speech, a free-press,

or the freedom to assemble and protest.  Saddam would never grant these rights;

nor would his sons-the heirs to his throne .

Were the protesters simply complicit in this denial?  Was their ‘peace above

all else’ stance nothing more than complacency before the tyranny of Saddam over

the citizens of Iraq?

One self-satisfied protester even had the gall to declare: “I almost hope the

war drags out, so we can ‘stay in the streets’ longer”-so greatly did the sight

of protest marchers gratify her political conscience.  For her, the sight of

marchers was worthy of further spillage of Iraqi and American blood, but the

liberty and freedom (or some shadow semblance of it) for the Iraqi people was

not.

Implicit in her declaration as well was another all too obvious sign of our

complacency:  as soon as the shooting stopped, so would the protests.  There

would be no protests for more aid to Iraqi children and mothers afflicted by the

war; there would be no protests for more spending of our tax dollars for the

rebuilding of Afghanistan and Iraqi society, there  would be no protests for the

rights of Iraqi Kurds to political self-determination .  Surely people would

work and lobby for these things quietly as individuals, but there would be no

marching in the streets-not even in Berkeley.

Would that our complacency could be replace by zeal for justice and liberty

for all.

Cynics pose the question whether the Iraqi people will be really better off

under the government of an American-British occupying force than they were under

Saddam.  To me at least this question is just short of ridiculous.

In a southern Iraq town which came under American-British control in the first

days of the war, one of the first things the citizens did was pull down the

billboard size image of Saddam’s face that dominated their town square.  When a

news reporter asked them why they had torn it down, the reply was simply:

“Because we can”.  Likewise, it is said that demonstrations in other parts of

coalition controlled Iraq have been up to his point muted only because of the

uncertainty of the situation itself.  As soon as the Iraqi citizens are certain

that they are truly rid of their tyrant, then the celebrations will begin.  As

one Iraqi parent has been quoted as saying: “All we want is to live normal

lives; not to have to worry about our sons and daughters being dragged off in

the middle of the night because of some stray remark against Saddam”.

Again:  if the wishes of the ‘peace at all cost’ protesters were fulfilled,

even if the designs of the security council and the UN were followed, all such

hopes on the part of the citizens of Iraq would have to be deferred

indefinitely.

Mr. Bush’s more aggressive policy will result in bloodshed, death, and havoc

to combatants and non-combatants alike.  But it will also result-albeit

inadvertently-in the ‘liberation’ of the Iraqi people.>

That freedom is worth fighting for; that freedom is worth dying for; that life

without freedom is not worth living:  these are the highest and most glorious

ideals of America and of humanity.

Whether it be freedom to worship Allah (or Jesus Christ) or freedom to be free

of all such worship, at heart of all our struggles as human beings is the desire

for freedom, the desire for self-expression and fulfillment.

Even the Islamic fundamentalists, who given the chance would vote to be rid of

their votes (i.e. who would vote install authoritative theocracies) , even these

people have closest to their hearts the wish to be free to renounce their

freedom.

There is, however, no easy reply to those who see the imposition of

American-British ‘democracy’ in Arabic countries as nothing more than cover for

western-capitalist control of the natural resources of those nations.

The fact that American foreign policy has been largely dictated not by the

philosophic ideas of Jefferson and Henry but rather by the economic aspirations

of Getty and Morgan cannot be denied.  The question is:  Can it be changed?

It can only be changed if we Americans abandon our overall political

complacency.

It can only be changed if thoughtful persons commit themselves to evaluating

and correcting the influence of corporate lobbyists on the institutions and

policies of our ‘democratic’ government.

Let a law be passed that every correspondence and contact between public and

private officials (i.e. between elected officers and corporate lobbyists) be

subject to public record and scrutiny.  That is to say, let is be illegal for

any politician to talk with a lobbyist on a phone that is not tapped, let it be

illegal for him or her to hold a meeting with a lobbyist in a room that is not

installed with recording devices.  Let all such transactions be matters of

diligent public record and review.

Let a law be passed (as was the case in ancient Greece) that at the end of his

or her term every public officer undergo an official audit of his tenure and

service, a careful examination before a board of private citizens for any sign

of malfeasance, fraud, or betrayal of the public trust.

Let campaign finance reform and election reform law be fine tuned to

perfection; let them become the American obsession.

The story of democracy and freedom is still a young one.  The last chapter is

far from written.

History has allowed us Americans to be authors of some of its noblest

chapters.  But now the major scenes have shifted from Concord and Philadelphia

to places like the Czech-Republic, Russia, Turkey, Iran, China and (soon to be)

Iraq and Palestine.

Only if we Americans throw off our present complacency, only if we refuse to

allow our political consciences’ to be soothed by noisy marches and the shouting

of simplistic slogans, only then will further chapters in the history of freedom

and democracy bear, if not our name, at least our influence.

By invading Iraq ‘in order to rid her of her weapons of mass destruction’ we

have inadvertently made ourselves players in a vitally exciting new phase of

that story.

The character  and quality of the role we will play in Iraq, Palestine, China,

and Iran depends upon the quality and character of our elected officials.  This

in turn is up to us.

Support our troops.  Support (critically) the President.  Challenge all our

elected officials to embrace the idealism and integrity that has produced this

country’s proudest moments and most glorious legacy to world history.  This is

still the country of Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt-let us not

forget it.  Let us believe it and live it!

(c) Copyright WALTER M. ROBERTS III — 2003

All Rights reserved — link to and reprint if you desire……..permission granted.

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