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What Would Jefferson Think?

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With the upcoming July 4th holiday, patriotic Americans everywhere will likely spend some time reflecting on the values upon which this nation was founded.

Here in Philadelphia, more than 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers created this wonderful experiment called democracy - a government of, by, and for We The People, in which all are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights.

They created a Constitution designed to grow as our democracy grows, and as new necessary freedoms are identified.

And they implemented a system of checks and balances to distribute the power amongst three branches of government, to prevent the tyranny that they knew could result if all power were concentrated in too few hands.

It was great while it lasted.

Today, the Bush administration seems set on an agenda to systematically dismantle our rights and freedoms, one by one, and take this nation from a democracy of the people to a tyranny of greed. What would our Founding Fathers think?

Our Founding Fathers carefully enacted the Fourth Amendment to ensure our privacy and to protect us from unreasonable search and seizure. What would they think of Bush's policy of spying on the American people without the required judicial oversight to ensure reasonable cause?

Our Founding Fathers, believing that religion is a private matter which, as Jefferson wrote "lies solely between man & his god," deliberately built a wall of separation between church and state. What would they think of today's immense influence of the so-called Religious Right in American politics, or pastors instructing their congregations on how to vote?

Our Founding Fathers wrote that "all men are created equal." That's ALL men, not just straight men. What would they think of efforts to write inequality into the Constitution via an official decree that all heterosexuals are created equal, but that gays are second-class citizens?

Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of a free press, with the understanding that a democracy requires an informed populace. What would they think of the White House's habit of paying "journalists" under the table to tout the administration's policies?

Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of international intelligence gathering in national defense. They created the Committee of Correspondence, which was quickly renamed the Committee of Secret Correspondence, underscoring the importance of protecting covert overseas operations. What would they think of senior White House officials deliberately leaking the name of a covert CIA operative to the press in order to punish and discredit her husband, who had publicly challenged their justifications for war?

Our Founding Fathers established the right to due process via the Fifth Amendment, which states that "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." What would they think of the Bush administration's policy of holding suspects in the "war on terror" indefinitely without charge and with no means of challenging their detention in a court of law?

Our Founding Fathers established the Eighth Amendment, which declares that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment." What would they think of Abu Ghraib, or of George W. Bush's decision to weaken the McCain anti-torture amendment with a signing statement reserving for himself the "right" to torture people?

It's time to stop this insanity and take our country back.

The more we allow them to erode our rights, the harder it will be to get them back, and the longer it will take. It's time to draw the line.

This July 4th, as we celebrate the birth of American democracy, I call on all patriotic citizens of this nation to stand up for the principles set forth by our Founding Fathers. Contact your elected officials and tell them it's time to end this un-American madness.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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