Story last updated at 1:10 p.m. Thursday, September 19, 2002

Some 'right-thinking' Americans have it all wrong
Mark Kelsey
Point of view

Maybe you've seen them, the host of e-mailed 9/11 anniversary commentaries kicking around cyberspace. Many have found their way to my inbox in recent days, including one titled "DO NOT FORGET."

It's a particularly memorable one for me. Steeped in belligerence and insensitivity, it totally misses the point of the anniversary observance by resorting to finger-pointing and laying out all the things that "right-thinking" Americans should never accept and never forget.

It ignorantly lays the blame for the Sept. 11 attacks on Bill Clinton, bashes the "liberal media" for not supporting George W. Bush, and defines patriotism in terms of party affiliation and unswerving acceptance of the current administration's policies.

As a journalist, it is hard not to resent being painted with such a broad and demeaning brushstroke. But as a free-thinking American, it is even more offensive to me to have my patriotism questioned for not agreeing with everything coming out of Washington, D.C., these days.

With the DO NOT FORGET e-mail fresh in my mind, I watched some of the Sept. 11 TV specials and thought about some of the things that I will never accept -- foremost among them, that Sept. 11 and its aftermath had anything whatsoever to do with who's a Republican and who's a Democrat.

I will also not accept that even as our president seeks to escalate an increasingly ill-defined "war on terrorism," his attorney general is waging a war of his own on the U.S. Constitution.

But I will never forget the courage of the heroes of Flight 93. Just as I will never forget Lisa Beamer, whose own strength and courage in the face of unfathomable grief showed me that there is more hope in the transcendent power of the human spirit than there is in the countless bombs of revenge.

I will also not forget the sacrifice of Wall Street Journal (liberal media?) reporter Daniel Pearl, who died in Pakistan in pursuit of the truth for a largely indifferent public, and whose murderers did not care whether he was a Republican or a Democrat, only that he was an American.

And I will not forget either the horror of Ground Zero, where thousands of innocent Americans died, or the multitude of ground zeroes in Afghanistan, where thousands of innocent Afghans died.

I will also not forget that it was Ronald Reagan who armed and financed Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in their fight against invading Soviets long before Bill Clinton came along. And that Jimmy Carter before him authorized the training and radicalizing of Islamic fundamentalists in Central Asia in an effort to destabilize the former Soviet Union.

But I will also never forget that whether someone calls himself a Republican or a Democrat does not mean he is not fallible, or subject to all the pitfalls, temptations and errors of judgment that we all are.

And I will never forget that as long as my government and its corporate sponsors, Republican or Democratic, foster injustice in the Middle East and elsewhere, that I will be hated for it and subject to random acts of terror at home and abroad.

While I do believe that unmitigated evil does exist and that occasionally it must be countered militarily, I will never accept that might is more overpowering in the long run than kindness and basic human decency.

Mostly, though, I will never concede that being in ideological lock-step with my government -- of whatever political stripe -- is the sole criterion for being a patriot. This country was founded by people who thought for themselves, dared to question authority and who took personal responsibility seriously, rather than blaming the evils of society on the scapegoats conveniently supplied to them by the self-righteous windbags polluting the airwaves of talk radio.

I love my country and am proud to be an American, but that does not mean that I can't be disappointed in my government, Republican or Democratic, from time to time. After all, can we properly ring the chimes of freedom while we allow our government to undermine popular democracy in Venezuela and subsidize authoritarian regimes in China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia and elsewhere just so a handful of multibillion-dollar corporations can get a little richer?

It behooves us all never to forget that democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires full participation and constant vigilance.

It is my hope, and prayer, for us all, in the wake of this sad anniversary, that we never forget that the common humanity that binds us is much stronger than the labels that divide us.

Mark Kelsey is the editor and general manager of the Homer News. Comments can be e-mailed to him at mkelsey@homernews.com.

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