The Challenge Is In Our Faces
The last time I spoke out in this space was on July 4, 2008, the 232nd anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence. With your courteous attention, today I choose to speak again.
In my Independence Day message, I argued that every American "is an heir to the vision declared to the world on July 4, 1776," and that, "every generation of Americans is morally duty-bound to advance the progress of human society closer toward the realization of the vision set forth in the Declaration of Independence."
My July 4 message closed with a pledge and a challenge: "To mark the 232nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in this year of 2008, I hereby solemnly rededicate myself to unswerving faithfulness to its magnificent and revolutionary vision. I will not accept or excuse further backward movement from its goals by those who serve as elected representatives in our self-government or by those who aspire to be elected. I make this pledge with the utmost seriousness and gravity. I challenge you to do the same."
The challenge is now in our faces.
A few days ago, the Governor of the 49th state, Sarah Palin, told an interviewer that by criticizing her attacks on Barack Obama as negative campaigning, the mainstream press was violating her First Amendment rights. This individual is the nominee of the Republican Party for the Vice Presidency of the United States. For an individual who is the Governor of a State and who sits on the edge of the American Presidency to say what she said about the most fundamental star in our constitutional firmament frightens me to the bone.
Her misunderstanding of Freedom of Speech and the Press is so radical we could say that it defies imagination that a person in such a position could possess such a misunderstanding. But she does possess it, and that is the reality of it.
Freedom of speech does not include a freedom not to be disagreed with or criticized. To the contrary, freedom of speech as intended by our Constitutional Framers contemplates vigorous free wheeling debate, the free marketplace of ideas without which self-government cannot exist. It is the very essence of democracy.
Even more so, the Framers inserted into the First Amendment its express protection for the Freedom of the Press, to ensure the existence of a fearless and critical press, without which they knew democracy could not long endure.
For Sarah Palin to turn the First Amendment itself upside down and claim its protection as a right to censor criticism of herself should tell any adult American all they need to know about the danger that she represents to all that we hold dear about being Americans. And for John McCain to cast aside everything he has claimed in the past to care about in order to take advantage of Palin’s apparent skill in demagoguery for the sake of his political ambition should tell any adult American all they need to know about the hypocrisy and fraudulence that he has come to represent.
Friends, fellow Texans and fellow Americans, to sum it up: We have been living for nearly eight years now through the national nightmare of the Bush-Cheney presidency, a gang of silk-tied thugs who came into office through an illegitimate seizure of the presidency and have used its powers to trample the Constitution, spit on the Bill of Rights, wreak economic class war on behalf of a rich and powerful oligarchy against everybody else, turn our national treasury and resources over to the oligarch’s private uses, scorn the rule of law, subject the tools of government to the pursuit of permanent despotic one-party rule, destroy the dreams and lives of thousands of young Americans through foreign war based on blatant and deliberate lies to the nation, unleash agony and destruction upon hundreds of thousands of human beings for no crime other than being Iraqi, and tax our children and their children with endless piles of national debt in the illegal pursuit of foreign empire.
And now, our country is faced with a historic national election, through which we will either endorse, continue, and even worsen the nightmare; or choose a very different path.
Senator Barack Obama is not the perfect candidate. It was a terrible blunder for him, for example, to vote for the amended FISA legislation, which purports to legalize retroactively the obscenity of non-consensual wiretapping by the government Ð and which hopefully the courts will invalidate as infringing upon the Fourth Amendment.
By further example, his support of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout and the excuses he offered for doing so left much to be desired.
His campaign organization is not perfect either. It was deplorable when the Obama organization intervened to support the cynical status quo by actively endorsing the re-election of the incumbent Texas Democratic Party chairman at the Texas State Democratic Convention in June in the face of two populist challengers who were both Obama delegates to the convention.
Nevertheless, I was eager when I parked at an early voting location at 8:00 a.m. on the first day of early voting in San Antonio, so that I could be among the first to vote. Notwithstanding the flaws I have mentioned and others, there is no doubt in my mind that my vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States, the 11th presidential election in which I have voted, was one of the most important votes I ever have and ever will cast in my life.
As I stood in the voting booth I thought about Jackie Robinson and what he must have put up with in this country that still has much cruel race hatred as he broke the Major League Baseball color barrier.
I thought about the incredible personal courage of Barack Obama, to subject himself and his family to the ugly hatred that he absolutely knew he would face, but to do it anyway because he believes in this country, this democracy, and its vision, and passionately believes he can help the country and the vision repair themselves after the years of nightmare.
I thought about the stark contrast of the choice America’s voters face in this election, between fear and hope, between disrespect and respect, between superstition and reason, between hate and compassion, between bombs and diplomacy, between the Greedy Society and the Great Society.
I thought about the fact that Barack Obama calls his two daughters from the campaign trail almost every night. I do the same thing with my similarly aged daughters every night too, no matter where I am. This point reverberates with me in a special way I can hardly explain.
I thought about how this courageous young senator, father, husband and nominee, who isn’t a perfect nominee and won’t be a perfect president, at least has the audacity to say we can be better than we have been, and at least has the faith in all of us to believe that we can overcome the bitterness and hatred and divisions, and that we can get this country back on the right track.
I thought about how I want my children to have a better world, a world of more compassion and less hate, a world of more sharing and less greed, a world of more democracy and less tyranny, a world of more humility and less arrogance, a world of more Constitutionalism and less power-lust, a world of more friendship and less bitterness — and how the right choice in this election just might result in some progress toward these things.
I thought about millions of Americans rising up through the awesome power of the ballot to reclaim their country, to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH, to say NO MORE, to tell the world that we in America want to have a united country instead of one divided by bitterness and suspicion, and to get this country back on the path of movement toward the powerful vision set forth in our Declaration of Independence as a nation.
And so with joy in my heart I then added my voice to that rising with the casting of my vote.
As you read this, there are still hours left before the election is over and the votes are counted. The election is going to be very close. The purveyors of hate and bitterness are pulling out all the stops to trick good Americans into giving up their precious votes to the hustlers and robber barons once again. The silk-tied gangsters and their cronies are arrayed in full force to hack the vote counts and overthrow democracy again. We have much to overcome.
My challenge to you today is this: to spend every minute that you have available between this moment and the closing of the polls on Tuesday night to turn out the vote for Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the supporting Democratic ticket; for ourselves, for our posterity, for our descendants, for our Constitution, for our national vision, for our continuing American Revolution, for everything we dream and care about; every minute that you have available, there is not a minute to waste, make every minute count, get those votes out, there is no time for worrying about poll numbers, there is no time for fear, there is no time for complacency, there is no time but now and we must use the time.
This may be our last chance to restore America to the America we love. We have to make it count. Thank you for your attention and thank you for being a citizen and a voter in this greatest of human experiments. Good luck to us all.
David Van Os
Through 31 years of law practice, David Van Os has concentrated his priorities in the defense of Constitutional rights and liberties through the courts, the protection of working people through labor law and union contracts, and the promotion of human rights.
He has been listed in the prestigious reference book Best Lawyers in America by peer review for over 20 consecutive years. In 2005 the Backbone Campaign honored David with its Spine Award.
David is considered a co-founder in 2002 of the Texas Democratic Progressive Populist Caucus, and continues as an ex officio member of the steering committee. In 2007 he was named chairman of the board of the Inter-American Education Consortium and its hallmark project, the Liberty and Democracy Alliance.