[Dr. Dhafir’s case is mentioned in this article.]

In a post-9/11 climate, the right of free expression is under attack and endangered in the age of George Bush when dissent may be called a threat to national security, terrorism, or treason. But losing that most precious of all rights means losing our freedom that 18th century French philosopher Voltaire spoke in defense of saying “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”Using it to express dissent is what noted historian Howard Zinn calls “the highest form of patriotism” exercising our constitutional right to freedom of speech, the press, to assemble, to protest publicly, and associate as we choose for any reason within the law.

Even then, there are times more forceful action is needed, and Thomas Jefferson explained under what circumstances in the Declaration of Independence he authored. When bad government destroys our freedoms, we the people have the right and duty to disobey civilly and resist. Henry David Thoreau called it “Civil Obedience” in 1849, and men like Gandhi and Martin Luther King practiced it successfully 100 years later. That’s our challenge today at a time our constitutional rights are more compromised and threatened than at any previous time in our history. Resistance is the antidote to restoring them, and freedom-loving people have a duty and obligation to do it.

That’s what democracy is all about and what our Founders had in mind when they crafted what they called “the great (democratic) experiment” that became our Constitution and Bill of Rights, imperfect as they are with omissions and ambiguities. In words first written by Thomas Jefferson, they “declared their independence” in 1776 from the British king who ruled the colonies with “repeated injuries and usurpations (by his) absolute Tyranny” using language considered audacious then or now:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal (and) endowed….with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government….to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Try doing that today, and it’s called treason, a capital offense. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and others thought otherwise saying we must act in our own defense when government won’t do it for us.

Their “experiment” was glorious, even flawed, and never before tried in the West in any form since its few decades of existence in ancient Athens under its system of “demokratia” or rule by the entire body of Athenian citizens – or at least the non-slave adult white male portion of it meaning a selective democracy for an elite minority excluding all others the way it’s always been here. It began in 1776 with our Declaration of Independence followed by our Constitution ratified in 1789 and Bill of Rights in 1791. This extraordinary document’s Preamble said what our country’s liberties are in 52 historic words even though the language belied the reality:

“WE, THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

And so it was with all its flaws in a nation beholden to privileged white male property owners, doing little for others including women, nothing for black slaves who were property, and even less for “original Americans” exterminated to make way for “newer ones.” We called it democracy Winston Churchill once said was the “worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” Today it’s also called “Western civilization” Gandhi thought “would be a good idea” when asked what he thought about it.

At best, our form of it is a flawed, unfinished project. At worst, it’s heading in reverse at a time of our single-minded pursuit of empire in an age of:

— Predatory capitalism and corporate dominance, incompatible with democracy;

— Sparta-like iron-fisted militarism and all its fallout: mass killing and destruction, occupation, torture and overall inhuman barbarism;

— The most secretive, intrusive, repressive and lawless government in our history;

— An unprecedented wealth disparity former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once warned about saying: “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both;”

— The rollback of civil liberties and essential human rights and needs;

— A contempt for the rule of law;

— A deepening social decay;

— The absence of checks and balances and separation of powers and a president usurping “unitary executive” powers to claim the law is what he says it is; and

— The loss of our constitutional freedoms heading the nation toward tyranny and ruin unless reversed.

More than ever, the right to freely express dissent is crucial to surviving. Lose it, as is happening, and lose everything.

Full article: Counterpunch

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net See also sjlendman.blogspot.com and connect to his Saturday radio show, “The Steve Lendman News & Information Hour.”
“It is an hour of fact-filled information on vital world and national issues with occasional guests as able and listener call-ins each Saturday at noon US Central Time / 10 AM Pacific at TheMicroEffect.com