Friday, April 17, 2009

What Sacrifice Would You Make For Freedom?

I stumbled across this OpEd in the Washington Post. They titled it "A Voice for My Husband." It stopped me in my tracks.

I can spout the same old platitudes..."we're so lucky...we take our freedoms for granted...American has become complacent..." Blah blah blah.

This isn't a theoretical discussion. This is about a couple who lives in China and have made the conscious choice to speak out against a repressive regime, fully aware of the consequences it will mean. These are people who live in a country where the government is something to be feared. They have chosen to have no children - it would be too difficult for a child to live without a father.

Liu Xiaobo has been in jail since December, though he's been charged with no crime. His wife has seen him only twice. All the letters they write, all the books she sends, are confiscated. And now his wife, Xia Liu, has written an appeal to President Obama to intervene on her husband's behalf. She believes he is about to be tried as a subversive as the Chinese government strives to silence pro-democracy voices.

Liu Xiaobo is an internationally recognized champion of human rights. He has won an award from Reporters Without Borders for his defense of freedom of the press. He is a well respected teacher and a strong advocate of advancing the cause of democracy and human rights in his country. He is a symbol - and symbols make excellent targets.

These are heroic people. These are people who put many of us to shame, people who risk not just their comfort but their safety for what they believe is right.

I look in the mirror, see the woman who worries about paying the bills, despairs of her country when she hears reactionaries on both sides of the political spectrum scream too loudly to hear each other, and wonder - would I be willing to do that?

I don't know. But we should help those who will.


nocomme1 said...

I'm a little perplexed by how you can be(very understandably) repulsed by this story and yet be so supportive of the Obama administration. The problem in China is that they government is so overpoweringly large and oppresive that "These are people who live in a country where the government is something to be feared." And yet, here in this country President Obama's entire time in office (it already seems like it has been ages but it is only 3 months along) has been directed at expanding government power. From taking over GM and the threats to control corporate pay (an overt attempt to bring about a kind of Fascist corporatism) to the very alarming decision by the EPA to declare CO2 a health hazard, this administration has tried to expand its power into more and more areas of our lives.

In regard to the EPA ruling alone, AP says, "Such regulation would have widespread economic and social impact, from requiring more fuel efficient automobiles to limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial sources, changing the way the nation produces energy." According to the Heritage Foundation, "• Cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) losses are nearly $7 trillion by 2029 (in inflation adjusted 2008 dollars)
• Single-year GDP losses exceed $600 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars).
• Annual job losses exceed 800,000 for several years.
• Some industries will see job losses that exceed 50 percent."

Bill Kovacs, a vice president for environmental and technology issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said "It will require a huge cascade of (new clean air) permits" and halt a wide array of projects, from building coal plants to highway construction, including many at the heart of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan." Once again the heavy hand of the central government inserts itself into the proper functioning of the economy.

As far as the people's need to be afraid of their government you need look no further than the DHS's recent report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” Lacking anything in the way of date it labels those who are pro-life, anti-illegal immigration and even "disgruntled military veterans" as "extremists" and potential "terrorists". And this is the administration that no longer labels those who perpetrated 911 as terrorists. This report is not an analysis of a quantifiable potential threat. It is a political enemise lists that targets those who disagree with it as needing to be "watched".

We may still be a distance away from the Chinese situation you note but this constant growth of Federal power is certainly putting us on the road to the same destination.

Afraid of my government, yet? I don't know. But it does seem to be turning up in places it had never been before and if not a reason for fear it is certainly a casue for concern.

Susan said...

And I'm baffled how you can be so mistrustful of the Obama administration without acknowledging the rights that were eroded or outright lost under the prior administration.

I am far more concerned by the implications of the Patriot act, which put us on the road to a Big Brother society in the name of safety. And yes, I am aware that the new administration is not undoing that damage - such power is difficult to give up once it exists and it's easy to come up with rationales for it. I'm not pleased by that. But that power should not have been usurped in the first place. My phone calls, my library records, my privacy should be protected. George Bush took that away.

CO2 IS a health hazard. And the short sighted concerns about the effect of forcing business to finally operate in a way that doesn't poison our atmosphere will seem rather foolish if we allow business to continue to do things in the cheapest, most expedient way without concern for the long range effects.

We HAVE to change the way the nation produces energy. It's no longer a question of "if" global warming is an issue. It's a question of how quickly we can reverse our course and at least stop the advance of temperature changes that will, if unchecked, create natural disasters that we are in no way prepared for.

The expansion of government powers? Talk to me of our last president. I endured eight years of knowing that my government's interest was in padding the wallets of our biggest corporations - and in ensuring it could continue to do so.

This economy hasn't functioned properly in years.

And I am no Democratic apologist.
I give Clinton the credit for having a budget surplus. But I'm no fan. I lay the current soaring budget deficit squarely at the feet of the president who created it - and his name is not Obama. This president is spending money on triage. The wounds were not of his making. He may be wrong. But I will not accept an argument that suddenly we are being threatened with Fascism. It's a threat that's been hanging over us for eight years.

And this is no pure democracy. It hasn't been in decades. It's a socialist democracy and has been at least since FDR.

Our system has been breaking for years and it was collapsing under GWB. Obama may hold it together for a bit longer or maybe he'll finish the job.

And so long as we continue to blame only one party and one philosophy without realizing they're two sides of the same rotted coin, we're going nowhere.

nocomme1 said...

Oh God, the Patriot Act. Saw that one coming a mile away, including the outrage at the rights of which it has deprived you. (It hasn't.) You actually BELIEVE Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and The Huffington Post, don't you? Whoa.

Ok, right off the bat, you can go right down to your local library and take out any book that might likely get you in trouble with the current administration: you know, The Federalist Papers, Free to Choose or either one of Rush Limbaugh's two bestsellers.

The Patriot Act was passed shortly after the traumatic events of 911 by bipartisan majorities of both houses of Congress. Nowhere within it does the word "library" appear. It is generally understood, however that with an order from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, library records might be examined. As of 2005 (the latest records I could find easily) THE PATRIOT ACT HAS NEVER BEEN USED FOR THIS PURPOSE. (Although you might think using it once in awhile wouldn't be such a bad idea since many of the 911 terrorists used library computers to assist in their planning.)

Your phone conversations also safe from prying ears as long as you haven't given the Feds a reason to go to a FISA court that then finds cause to believe that you're an agent of a foreign power. You're not, are you? Well, if you are: shame on you! (Here's a link that gives a detailed account of the whole process: )

After 911 it was understood by both major parties that there had been a real failure of our Intelligence aparatus which had left us vulnerable to attack from a remarkably evil enemy. The Bush administration, with the overwhelming support of members of both parties passed the Patriot Act in short order. While adjustments have been made to it and various legal challenges mounted, with varying degrees of success) it has been an amazingly effective piece of legislation. We have not been hit on our shores by a major act of terrorism in eight years. As for your alleged loss of various rights: Apart from your fear that a list of your library books is being compiled (as I mentioned, it isn't) how have your activities been curtailed due to what you believe are your diminished rights? What can you now NOT do that you had done before because you no longer have the right to do it?

CO2 is NOT a health hazard. Every time you exhale you are exhaling CO2. In fact it is a benign gas essential for life on Earth. Remove it from the atmosphere and the planet and life as we know it goes bye-bye. As far as anthropogenic global warming goes, the science on this is far from settled. And please do not respond with the "fact" that there is a "scientific consensus" that it does. "Scientific consensus" is an oxymoron. Consensus is a political, not a scientific concept. Most of our current understanding of the universe destroyed the previous prevailing consensus. And even if that were not true, there is a growing number of scientists who disagree with the assertion that global warming is even happening (the planet has actually been COOLING for about the last ten years) and if it is, whether man has played any part in bringing it about.

While "Global Warming" represents speculation more than actual science, spreading the belief in it certainly provides power hungry politicians a way to extend their hold on larger and larger portions of our lives.

As for the deficit, we almost agree here. Liberals seem to have the idea that Conservatives consider GWB to be one of our heroes. While there is plenty about him Conservatives liked (tax cuts, his conduct of the War on Terror, etc) there were plenty of things we DIDN'T like, the main one being: HE SPENT WAY TOO DAMN MUCH! Send him a spending bill and he'd probably sign it. And the Republican Congress, that had started out so promisingly in 1994 devolved into a parody of the very free spending Dems they'd been elected to replace.

But Obama is going to TRIPLE (and more) the Bush deficits. If you actually manage to convince yourself that Obama HAS NO CHOICE because of the situation he inherited, then you have indeed been sipping deep of the Coolaid. He said that he'd fight earmarks yet the first budget that he was presented with had over 8,000 of them and he signed it lickedy-split. So much for promises.

As for your statements, "And this is no pure democracy. It hasn't been in decades. It's a socialist democracy and has been at least since FDR." Well, we've never been a "pure" democracy; that was never the Founder's intent. But I agree we've been a socialist democracy for some time, before FDR, actually. Wilson did more to institute socialism/fascism than anybody else until the current occupant came along. (If you'd like to see what a President with no regard for human rights is REALLY like, read up on Wilson's tenure in office.)

I'll end on a more agreeable note: You're right, both parties suck. Big time.