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Empire editorial: Is the Assembly the place to decide the community's conscience on patriotism?
In his Sunday editorial, Publisher Don Smith examined the question of whether the Assembly is the place to debate the community's stance on such issues as the PATRIOT Act and other issues of national relevance. Mr. Smith's piece was on the whole a thoughtful contribution to an ongoing dialogue, but portions of it struck me as begging for a response.
First, Mr. Smith mentioned several other communities that have passed resolutions similar to the one presented to the CBJ Assembly for consideration. Among those mentioned are such "liberal" communities as Ann Arbor, Berkeley, etc. Strangely omitted, but much closer to home, is Fairbanks, a community that few could classify as "liberal."
Opposition to the PATRIOT Act and the threatened war in Iraq has come from across the political spectrum. Some of the most vocal criticism of the Bush administration's policies has come from conservative organizations and individuals.
Second, despite his thoughtful analysis, I must disagree with Mr. Smith's conclusion. As the elected representatives in our local government, the Assembly is in a perfect position to hear and amplify the will of the citizens. Whether in opposition or assent to the PATRIOT Act, the conflict in Iraq, or any other matter that concerns us, our local government can serve as a megaphone through which our voice may be heard in the halls of state and even federal government.
Mr. Smith may object that such an action would be non-binding, symbolic - and he would be right. But in response, I would counter that this last weekend, in a show of patriotism that transcends flag-waving and sloganeering, millions of people from around the globe left their homes and gathered in the streets in what, for each individual, was a symbolic protest against the potential invasion of Iraq. The combined effect of all that symbolism, however, captured the attention of the world, and governments are taking notice.
The Assembly, knowing the intent of the community (so far as that is possible), should vote its conscience on the resolution that has been presented. To do any less would be dereliction of duty in their role as our public voice.