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May 28, 2006

Dear President Bush (An Open Letter):

This letter is in regards to the current war on terror. Sir, I ask that you rethink your actions.

Being born in 1965, I grew up during the seventies. Like many of my generation, television had a major impact on my world view. A few examples here may illustrate this. Firstly, when still small I was watching an old WW2 movie with my father. The film portrayed a checkpoint where German officials would demand “walking papers” from travelers. I asked my father what walking papers were. “When you don’t live in a free country” he replied, “the government will make you carry identification or walking papers.” Having previously learned on the 6:00 news that I lived in a free country, I came to understand that forcing the populace to always carry identification was a tactic of a repressive regime like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. This could never happen in my country, because we are free. The second point came about a few years later. There was turmoil and unrest throughout Central America; Honduras, El Salvador, Columbia, and others were awash in murder, war, and drugs. The daily news was replete with video evidence of the atrocities occurring. “Death Squads” were on the march, and there was much reportage on “The Disappeared.” Just the word gave me chills. Images of wives, mothers, children telling tales of how their loved one(s) had been pulled from bed in the dark of night and just disappeared. The unknown, the ultimate terror. Were they taken out to sea and drowned? Were they shot execution style and buried in a mass grave? Were they in some evil prison, perhaps being tortured? No one knew, they were simply The Disappeared; and it was chilling. From the daily television, I learned the value of living in a free country.

Flash forward to the turn of the century, I was 35 years old at the time. I remember being buoyed by the event, certainly there was challenge ahead, but just as surely there was hope and optimism to meet that challenge. The Cold War had ended, openness and freedom had won out over the closed and oppressive; democracy was on the march. Of course there were challenges ahead–population, global climate, debt, demilitarization, local ecosystems, income distribution, and self-governance, to name just a few. Yet we had hope of a better tomorrow, and we had trust in human ingenuity and sociability to meet those challenges.

Then came September the 11th. And, once again, television was there. Watching people cast themselves from these mighty structures, and the terror as the towers collapsed , left me numb. I understood that nothing was ever going to be the same again, and that understanding filled me with dread. Still it was an emotionally tumultuous time. Watching the vigils going on across Europe with signs reading “We Are All American” left me in tears. The out pouring of global sympathy filled me with joy, joy in the hope that a tide had turned and we would witness a regeneration of world-wide effort to set things back on course. The occupation of Afghanistan followed, and seemed reasonable. I remember thinking that Somalia and Sudan would be next. Instead we had buildup to the Iraqi invasion and occupation. There was no more emotional flip flop, the changes wrought by 9/11 were set. Hope and optimism had lost out to fear and suspicion—the die was cast. Since then it has all become a blur. A blur of sound and image snippets…corporate scandals, Guantanamo, Abu Graib, Total Information Awareness, secret prisons, torture, NSA spying, a border fence, collateral damage, congressional bribery, and…the assault continues. Our potential utopia has become a dystopia.

However, all may not yet be lost. You Sir, with your office and your determination, are in a position to help correct course. Two actions that you could accomplish with a pen stroke come immediately to mind. First, denounce the NSA wire taps and fire anyone that is involved in it. The monitoring of the citizenry is as abhorrent as the “walking papers” that I discussed above. Secondly, close Guantanamo and all secret prisons. Bring to trial in public courts or release all those that are now being held. The fear of the disappeared brings dread to us all and shame to our country.

Do not hesitate, do it today.

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