I am proud to live in Berkeley. I am proud to be a citizen of the city whose congressional representative resisted assigning unlimited discretion for war and peace to the president, and whose Town Council recommended stopping a brutal and largely gratuitous military exercise.
I am not proud of the many, many leaders of this country who have labeled any analysis of the etiology of the nature of the events of Sept. 11, as condoning the attacks, and as disloyal.
In her strikingly courageous refusal to follow the moment’s common will, Barbara Lee was the true and loyal citizen, at that moment the most loyal citizen of this constitutional democracy. She was the only one to show by voting that an undefined sequence of military commitments of such importance and complexity must be openly tested and discussed. Instead of publicly castigating the council “radicals” for their support of Lee and of continued bombing in Afghanistan, the mayor could well have shown respect for council resolutions with which she disagrees.
Civil liberties, open discussion, a multitude of perspectives, opinions, voices, have been the essence, and, so far, the salvation of this country. The threat now is not book-burning, and scissors. The threat is more insidious - a total and freely offered submission of will. The will not to see. The will not to know. The will not to discuss. It extends from New York Times’ relative suppression of accounts, figures, or images of the assault on Afghanistan and its censorship of comments by bin Laden, to hysterical verbal whip-lashing of unpatriotic “traitors,” and to many instances of physical attack on Middle Easterners, any Middle Easterner. From Council to Congress, elected representatives must remember and support the principles of social and economic justice, protection of the environmental conditions of life, a fair and reasonable technical and social infrastructure both locally and globally, the freedom to think, talk, and criticize... They must continue to support the principles for which, presumably, they were elected.
Now is the time for the concept and observance of The Loyal Opposition to be honored here.