Just over 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln warned us that "a house divided against itself cannot stand". While the image of national disunion, prophetic as it was, was what captured the national imagination, his actual message was not that the house would fall, not that the Union would crumble, but that
It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it... or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States...
His speech was a call to action, a warning that the Union was on a path that would lead to that which the North felt was inconceivable, the full legalization of slavery. It was a warning of the course the Republic was on, unless direct and strong action was taken to avert it. Sadly his speech was not strong enough to rally him the support needed to attain the Senate, let alone achieve his goal. Rather, it wasn't until the house actually began to fall, that states seceded, that a war was fought, that he achieved his goal and then paid its price.
I can easily imagine the horror he felt...
I can easily imagine the horror he felt as his nation trod relentlessly towards slavery or disunion. I can imagine it because our house, our houses today are divided. The nation is divided, the Republican and Democratic parties are each divided, the proponents of civil liberties are divided. Polarization is rampant, and it endangers what we cherish.
A bit over 250 years ago Franklin wrote the following
As to the other two acts. The Massachusetts must suffer all the hazards and mischiefs of war, rather than admit the alteration of their charters and laws by parliament. "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety".
The last quote, which he published in slightly altered form a few years later, is reminiscent of his maxim of 270 years ago to "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."
All of this is advice that is extremely timely. All of it came to mind as I read Glenn Greenwald and Keith Olbermann, two staunch and outspoken defenders of our civil liberties and tradition of the rule of law not men, bickering with each other, sparked by Senator Obama's abandonment of his pledge to fight against retroactive immunity and the expansion of presidential power, presumably to increase his chances of being elected. All this while we as a nation take step after inexorable step away from habeas corpus, away from posse comitatus, away from the separation of powers, away from the rule of law towards the rule of men, the ever strengthening unenumerated inherent power of the man who is the decider in unitary executive.
The time has come to put aside the bickering between Obama Democrats and PUMA "Clintonians" and put a stop to the Republican advancement of the authoritarian destruction of our civil liberties. The time has come for civil libertarians such as Greenwald and Olbermann to put aside the bickering between them. The time has come for Obama to refuse to sell liberty to purchase power. The time has come for virtue over greed. The time has come to realize that it is not immigrants, legal or illegal who are stealing our jobs, but corporations and wealthy CEOs that are shipping those jobs overseas. The time has come to realize that Islamic radicals cannot steal our freedom, only we can sell it out of fear and greed.
The time has come for Republicans to stop sacrificing every conservative principle, every liberty in the name of party loyalty. Authoritarian rule by a unified executive that can at a whim nationalize the National Guard, and employ the Armed Forces in the US in "other circumstances", augmenting that with mercenaries who operate outside both American law and that of the nation they are "helping", and law breaking public carriers immunized at the word of the unified executive--these are not conservative values. Crippling national debt is not fiscal conservatism whether it is brought on by a spendthrift congress or a Commander in Chief who refuses to budget or collect taxes for America's longest war.
The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that the Constitution valued habeas corpus even before it affirmed the Bill of Rights. And out of party loyalty, and fear of stateless terrorists, Republicans and Conservatives pilloried them for it. What conservative principle is served by fear mongering, of surrendering our most fundamental rights? None! The only reason that Liberals and Conservatives are fighting over this issue is because of what side the other is on.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. PUMA, Greenwald, Olbermann, Get A Grip! Sell not Liberty to purchase power. Obama, stand firm! Do not capitulate on principles for fear of being soft on terrorism. It is not "Strong on Terrorism" to give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety! It certainly isn't soft on terrorism to hold law breakers accountable--even if they were asked to break the law by the president.
We have allowed polarization to divide our country and our parties. We have allowed fear to cause us to sell out our principles and our liberties. Great Republics do not fall to small bands of fanatics. They fall when fear and divisiveness cause the people to surrender their rights and freedoms to the Leader, the Dictator, the Emperor. They fall when they allow their armies, their mercenaries, their spies, their police to be turned on them. They fall when they allow the government to keep a "little list" of people who cannot move freely, when they allow free speech to be confined to zones, when the leader's agents are immune from the law. They fall when the wealthy can buy the law.
Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln, Eisenhower all have warned us repeatedly against fear, greed, manipulation, the combination of money and military power. People! Stop! Think! Stop hating the enemy. Stop fearing the bogeyman. Dear me. Obama and Clinton differ in the details. Greenwald and Olbermann are on the same side of all the issues. They're calling each other names over who should be blamed for what. It doesn't matter who is blamed! What matters is what we do! Anthony Kennedy is a Conservative for great Ghu's sake.
When did it become a great Conservative value to fear monger!? Scalia says that Americans will die if we follow habeas corpus? The McCain campaign thinks it would be good for Republican political aspirations if after 8 years of the Republican Bush administration a terrorist attack was successful!? Republicans are rooting for Al Qaeda? Huh? The failure of the Republicans to keep us safe means we need more years of them? What?
Stop! Take a breath. Let's take a quick survey: Small government, low taxes, balanced budgets, states rights, free market economics, original intent, strict constructionism. Aren't those conservative values? Where did they go? The Republicans are so afraid of dissent among the ranks that they are willing to sell conservative principles for party unity and loyalty and follow a Republican president wherever he will lead.
The Democrats have so sanctified and so demonized their own leaders that they are willing to follow the Republicans into the same unprincipled "rule by men, not laws" future. The Dems, and the advocates of civil liberties are so focused on casting blame that they will attack their own allies.
Fear and division.
A House divided against itself cannot stand.
Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.
We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.
Please, get a grip.
Thank you. I'll be quiet now. We return you to the civil war, already in progress.