A Prayer for America
The following speech was given on February 17, 2002 in Los Angeles, California at an event sponsored by the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action.
I offer these brief remarks today as a prayer for our country, with love of democracy, as a celebration of our country. With love for our country. With hope for our country. With a belief that the light of freedom cannot be extinguished as long as it is inside of us. With a belief that freedom rings resoundingly in a democracy each time we speak freely. With the understanding that freedom stirs the human heart and fear stills it. With the belief that a free people cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time.
With the understanding that there is a deeper truth expressed in the unity of the United States. That implicit in the union of our country is the union of all people. That all people are essentially one. That the world is interconnected not only on the material level of economics, trade, communication, and transportation, but innerconnected through human consciousness, through the human heart, through the heart of the world, through the simply expressed impulse and yearning to be and to breathe free.
I offer this prayer for America.
Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?
How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, the right to peaceably assemble?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, and allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?
We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it.
We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant.
We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups.
We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere such as medical records and financial records.
We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance.
We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy.
The Attorney General recently covered up a statue of Lady Justice showing her bosom as if to underscore there is no danger of justice exposing herself at this time, before this administration.
Let us pray that our nation's leaders will not be overcome with fear. Because today there is great fear in our great Capitol. And this must be understood before we can ask about the shortcomings of Congress in the current environment.
The great fear began when we had to evacuate the Capitol on September 11.
It continued when we had to leave the Capitol again when a bomb scare occurred as members were pressing the CIA during a secret briefing.
It continued when we abandoned Washington when anthrax, possibly from a government lab, arrived in the mail.
It continued when the Attorney General declared a nationwide terror alert and then the Administration brought the destructive Patriot Bill to the floor of the House.
It continued in the release of the bin Laden tapes at the same time the President was announcing the withdrawal from the ABM treaty.
It remains present in the cordoning off of the Capitol.
It is present in the camouflaged armed national guardsmen who greet members of Congress each day we enter the Capitol campus.
It is present in the labyrinth of concrete barriers through which we must pass each time we go to vote.
The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear, ill-equipped to deal with the Patriot Games, the Mind Games, the War Games of an unelected President and his unelected Vice President.
Let us pray that our country will stop this war. "To provide for the common defense" is one of the formational principles of America.
Our Congress gave the President the ability to respond to the tragedy of September 11. We licensed a response to those who helped bring the terror of September 11th. But we the people and our elected representatives must reserve the right to measure the response, to proportion the response, to challenge the response, and to correct the response.