Amid cheers and warm wishes, John Nirenberg, 60, marched into position between the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall in Philadelphia Sunday on his 485-mile walk from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Washington, D.C. Once in DC, he intends to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to urge her to stop obstructing impeachment hearings.
Nirenberg, fresh from viewing a visitor's film on the Constitution, motioned across the street to Independence Hall and recited the words of Benjamin Franklin who emerged from the same building and was asked, "Well, Doctor, what have we got - a Republic or a Monarchy?" Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."
Some 220 years and numerous Constitutional violations later, Americans throughout the country are heeding the call to "keep the republic." Among them is John Nirenberg, a former college dean and professor, and veteran of the Air Force who has decided to take a stand - or should I say, take a walk.
John readily admits to a lifetime of political complacency, but something happened while sitting comfortably on the sidelines. He witnessed President Bush and Vice President Cheney chip away at the very foundation of our country and he knew it was time to act. With members of Congress failing to abide by their sworn oath to defend the Constitution, Nirenberg has taken to pounding the pavement in a public awareness campaign to save it.
How have we been doing then at the charge of "keeping the republic?" Our republic was formed as a government in which the people have an impact and whose head of state is not a monarch. What exists today is a President who declares, with a stroke of a pen, that he can ignore laws set forth by the legislative branch to do such things as revoke our constitutionally guaranteed right to habeas corpus. A President who claims the right to unilaterally decide what constitutes torture. We have a President who, along with his Vice President, through deceit and contrary to the laws of our land has declared a preemptive war on a sovereign nation. We have a President who informs the public that with executive powers not granted to him by the Constitution and against federal law, he has assumed the right to invade the privacy of American citizens by spying on them without a court order.
To add insult to injury, we find ourselves with a Congress that works in tandem with a power hungry executive branch by not holding it accountable through the tool of impeachment that is mandated and written into the Constitution six times. It has become painfully clear that we have, indeed, failed to keep our republic.
Those that pledge blind loyalty to the purveyors of these acts, loyalty with no cogent argument, who attempt to portray those who would defend their beloved Constitution as traitors, "commies" or terrorists are the antitheses of what it means to be an American. With historic Independence Hall as a backdrop, a handful of these "loyalists" set out last Sunday to bully and drown out a man who has taken up the call to save the Constitution. One wonders what the founders might have done with these henchmen who attack those committed to protecting the very document that was forged, framed and signed just a few steps away.
With these four loyalists screaming nonsensical cries of "hippies go home," a group of veterans spanning five wars from WWII to the Iraq War, took to the makeshift staging area to lend their support to fellow veteran, John Nirenberg. First up was Vietnam veteran, Bill Perry, executive director of Delaware Valley Veterans for America. Perry talked to the crowd of more than 100 about the oath he took to support and defend the Constitution. With a gruff Philadelphia accent, Perry declared "This oath never expires, this oath most of us take very seriously if we understand what the Constitution is all about. This is the same oath that 100 senators here in America have taken, this is the same oath that 435 representatives here in the United States of America have taken. An oath to protect and defend the document that was written right across the street. This is the same oath that the commander in chief, the treasonous, traitorous commander in chief, George Bush has taken and totally violated."
Perry then passed the mic. to a young man who served in the 101st airborne division in both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Sholom Keller made clear his disdain for those who tried to silence his voice that day and shouted, "I know I stand on principle, I know I have my integrity, I know I'll maintain my loyalties. I fulfilled the oath I took when I enlisted to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, especially domestic." Keller added, "While I was in Iraq, I came to the conclusion that the war in Iraq is in violation of the United States Constitution and when I came home, I vowed that I will not turn my back on the oath that I took, that I will continue to support and defend the Constitution of the United States." The crowd cheered in response.
Author and journalist, Dave Lindorff, laid out just a few of the innumerable offenses of the President and Vice President that amount to treason. Lindorff described how the President held a meeting very shortly after he was inaugurated in January 2001 with his national security council to discuss how to develop a scenario for a war against Iraq and how it evolved into a two-year campaign that led to the Iraq war in 2003.
The torch was then handed over to Air Force veteran, Dr. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, an adjunct professor at Rutgers Camden and challenger to incumbent Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ). Dr. Ibn-Ziyad spoke of his disappointment in the democratically controlled Congress that has failed to hold to account the Bush/Cheney administration for their grave abuses of power. As the freezing rain began to fall, Stuart Hutchison of NJ Impeach Groups urged those in attendance not to give up the fight.
John Nirenberg visibly moved by the support and inspired by his surroundings told the crowd about the America he stands for and that the President and Vice President has threatened, "Let me tell you, America does not go to war unless attacked. Let me tell you America does not torture.
The President does not have the right to do away with habeas corpus. The President does not have the right to spy on American citizens. The President of the United States is not above the law and let me tell you it is our responsibility to enforce the law. We cannot wait for the elections. The Founders of our Constitution were brilliant enough to give us the tool when abuse of power reached the point where it could no longer be tolerated. That tool is impeachment. So, I ask you my fellow citizens to do something for me while I march in your name. Please. Talk to your neighbors. Tell them what is at stake. Tell your kids, tell their friends, tell everybody you meet not just those who already believe."