My Turn: Addressing editorial's disturbing points

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

I am responding to your Sunday editorial regarding the proposed CBJ resolution that would put Juneau on record defending the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights from some aspects of the so-called USA Patriot Act.

The editorial contains numerous, sometimes disturbing, points:

1. The Empire states that citizens supporting the resolution "disrupted the (Assembly) meeting by cheering and applauding their speakers." As an eye witness, I believe this misrepresents what happened. The applause was not overlong or disruptive. When Assemblyman Anderson objected to the applause, a few members of the audience briefly hissed or booed. The mayor then stepped in and admonished the audience and supported Mr. Anderson. She did not "fail in her charge to keep order," as the Empire claims.

The Empire then asks, totally out of context: "Was she being a good patriot or not? You be the judge." I find that an incredible statement. The Empire's publisher questions the mayor's patriotism over a trivial incident that he mischaracterizes in the first place.

2. The Empire recognizes the resolution addresses "a very important debate" and that "some three dozen, mostly liberal communities" have passed similar resolutions. The implication is that it is "liberal" issue, when, in fact, it is an issue that speaks to all Americans. The Juneau resolution is modeled on one passed in Fairbanks, hardly a bastion of liberalism. Among the 38 cities that have passed similar resolutions are: Denver, Santa Fe, New Haven, Ithaca and Detroit. Many others are considering it.

3. The Empire says that recent, random acts of terrorism "caught the nation by surprise and tempered forever the measure of freedom we have." The public was certainly surprised, but there are legitimate questions about how surprised the government should have been. I am not willing to accept the idea that our freedom is now "tempered forever." Tempered? Definitely so. Forever? Forget it! We need to be thinking beyond short-term, defensive over-reactions and finding long-term cures.

4. The editorial says " there are no laws that would have prevented the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks from doing what they did." I agree. Laws don't stop terrorists. So why are we supposed to believe that more laws, laws that attack the Constitution, will do the trick?

5. The Empire then states, incredibly: "We have in a short time become largely comfortable with the fact that our airports have become garrisons where citizens from every walk of life are subject to search and seizure." Who are you talking about? I don't know anyone who is "comfortable" with air travel. People are very frustrated with what they have to endure.

6. Here's the corker: The Empire says, "The ideals of liberty and freedom rest in the eye of the beholder." You printed this on the same editorial page where you frequently run boxed quotes attesting to our traditions of liberty. Do you not see the irony? While different people may, indeed, have differing opinions on what constitutes freedom, the "ideals" of freedom and liberty are tangible philosophical concepts. They have a long history, articulated in the 18th century as natural, inalienable rights, birthrights, not to be given or taken by kings or governments. Hence the foundation of our country. Hence the justification for many of our wars, to ensure these rights for others. Many have died for these ideals. It appears from this statement that the Empire fails to grasp the fundamental issues behind the resolution.

7. Next: "It is inappropriate to place our Assembly members in the role of adjudicators on an issue that only the federal government can change." This statement does not reflect American civics as I learned it in Juneau schools. People change things through the political process, which is often best begun at the local level. We're not changing the law here. We are calling for changes. We are defending the Bill of Rights.

8. The Empire says the resolution "is purely symbolic," as if to lessen its validity. It is not "purely" symbolic. It is concrete. It makes requests. It represents the majority will of the capital city of a state. Yes, it is symbolic. It symbolizes government from the bottom up, not from the top down.

9. The Empire states the resolution issue is a "very noble, patriotic and worthy cause."

With that, I agree.

• Kenneth DeRoux is a local artist and museum curator.

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