News & Politics

True Patriotism Emerges

True patriotism is emerging right now -- triggered by the Bush administration's disregard for the Constitution.
Most dictionaries define a patriot as a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country.

But, according to Ambrose Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary," a patriot is "one to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors." Cynical as it is, the truth of Bierce's definition is plain, especially in light of the my-country-right-or- wrong mentality that has blossomed under President Bush.

Immediately following 9/11, it was hard to tell the difference between jingoistic "patriotism," which puts feelings of trust above truth, and the true patriotism that is emerging at this moment, triggered by the Bush administration's disregard for the Constitution.

It's not news to any reader of this column that I've never been a Bush supporter. I have a laundry list of reasons why, but what's far more interesting and important than my own sense of historical and spiritual consciousness is the burgeoning constitutional consciousness of ordinary citizens who once counted themselves among Bush supporters.

Glenn Greenwald is just such a citizen. A constitutional lawyer who lived and worked in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, Greenwald speaks for many in the preface of his new book "How Would A Patriot Act?" Like many Americans, Greenwald felt like the Constitution prevented any serious abuses of power from either party and that since both parties had their share of extremists, "I was never sufficiently moved to become engaged in the electoral process."

Over the past five years, "all that has changed." Greenwald sees extremism shredding the Constitution, which once served to keep him from becoming politically engaged.

"This extremism is neither conservative or liberal in nature, but is instead driven by theories of presidential power wholly alien, and antithetical, to the core political values that have governed this country since its founding," Greenwald writes.

He goes on to talk about his initial faith, even admiration, in Bush's leadership, which crystallized when the president wrapped his arm around a firefighter on top of a pile of Ground Zero rubble.

What first began to shake his "faith" was the Jose Padilla case, in which the Bush administration claimed it could hold a U.S. citizen indefinitely without issuing a charge or providing access to counsel. The Iraq WMD farce really threw Greenwald for a loop. Then came Abu Ghraib.

In October 2005, Greenwald started the "Unclaimed Territory" blog as a way to uphold "the supremacy of our constitutional principles and the corresponding duty of every American citizen to defend these liberties when they are under assault."

Greenwald's analysis, particularly of the NSA wiretapping debacle, is something that should be pondered by all those whose reaction to the NSA program is: "If you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

Greenwald walks the reader through how the Bush administration successfully urged Congress to broaden presidential powers with the Patriot Act, including the expansion of eavesdropping powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

After it was passed, the president said he had all the tools he needed to fight the war on terror. So when Bush admitted that he authorized the NSA eavesdropping program without going to the FISA court, he did so "in violation of the very act he had just signed into law," Greenwald said.

"When George Bush ordered the secret NSA program," he continues, "it was not the first time an American president had acted illegally. But what is so astounding, and so profoundly alarming, about the president's behavior is not that he just violated the law deliberately but that he did so repeatedly over the course of many years, and when he was caught he defiantly insisted he had the right to do so."

Though exploring that one fact alone makes Greenwald's 144-page book worth reading, his argument doesn't rest solely on the NSA example. Rather, by analyzing the plethora of constitutional violations committed by the Bush administration over the past five years,

Greenwald's book is important because it raises a fundamental question about patriotism: Loyalty to Bush or to the Constitution?
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff reporter and a syndicated columnist.
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