Patronizing civil libertarians

Letters to the editor

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

Related Editorial:

Empire editorial: Is the Assembly the place to decide the community's conscience on patriotism?

Among the many distortions saturating your Feb. 16 editorial ("Is the Assembly the place to decide the community's conscience on patriotism?"), one claim in particular appears to be willfully misinformed. Although the Empire claims that "the ideals of liberty and freedom rest in the eyes of the beholder" - an awfully relativist position, I might add, for such an intellectually conservative editorial board to endorse - the fact is that such "ideals" are contested, interpreted, enforced, or nullified within an overlapping system of material institutions that include the press, the courts, and legislative entities such as the CBJ Assembly.

When citizens of this borough ask its elected representatives to affirm their commitment to civil liberties at a moment of historical crisis, their efforts should not be patronized as "purely symbolic." Because the enforcement of the USA Patriot Act enlists the substantive (not the "purely symbolic") support of municipal employees throughout the nation, including police officers, librarians, teachers and public health officials, it seems more than appropriate for such employees (and the communities they serve) to insist that their labor not be used to subvert constitutional liberties or the ethical codes of their professions.

While the Empire can perhaps imagine "plenty of avenues for free speech, peaceful protest, and effective activism," the rest of us will content ourselves by working in the humble avenues that often matter most.

David Noon

Assistant Professor of U.S. history

University of Alaska Southeast

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