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I am biased, I choose to be a Democrat. I don't cry over lost votes but sure remember who was at the election. I know why I think as a Democrat. I don't consider being a liberal, as compared with a fundamentalist or conservative, a bad thing. I think being a patriot is not contingent upon waving a flag after 9-11. I believe in the work ethic and opportunity. As a veteran, I believe in a strong, pragmatic military that protects and defends.

This is a scary time. It actually was scary from the beginning of 2000 and the election. When Ralph Nader and the Green Party said there was no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties I was disturbed. The election of 2002 solidified the notion that there was no difference between the parties because the Democrats were never able to articulate a difference. They supported the Patriot Act and the tax cut bills which continue to come back to haunt us all. The Democrats lost their way and their voice.

The staunchest of Republicans are conservative, many fundamentalist, with a belief in the work ethic that precludes consideration of the social needs of the oppressed or economically challenged minority groups. Democrats sometimes are labeled liberals because of their efforts to provide economic support for those who are less fortunate. They don't necessarily believe that just working harder and longer will make everyone a millionaire. Depending upon your political ideology, these are times of great frustration when your world view is not reflected in the country's politics, vision and social agenda because of who is in charge.

Huge economic and social issues are conveniently ignored when the focus is on the war on terrorism. The first year of the Bush administration was spent on implementing a tax cut which provided $300 to some citizens and millions to others. Although the total effect of this bill will not be realized for ten years, its economic impact is felt daily. As the market has continued to decline we no longer hear of the efforts to privatize social security. As we go into debt, we can no longer hear about health care and medication coverage for the elderly. But we do hear about religion, paying people to marry, faith based charities receiving federal money, and about denying women around the world family planning information

We were changed by the terrorist attack of 9-11-01. With it President Bush became Commander in Chief and declared War on Terrorism. Constitutionally, it is the Congress that declares war, but this did not happen. Congress jumped on board with the Patriot Act and we have seen a progressive loss of rights for all Americans. We are continuing to be deceived by a government that is no longer trusted. I am skeptical about the self-serving aspects of maintaining the focus on the war on terrorism. It appears to be a convenient ploy for political gain. The sword rattling is also frightening because I have been in war. War is ugly. It ultimately kills hundreds as "collateral damage" and for what ultimate goal? We need to know our mission, how to achieve it, and how to get out before we commit to a war of engagement. And there is the nagging question of whether we need an extended war on terrorism or if, perhaps, we are there because the original President Bush left some unfinished business in Iraq.

Congress passed the Patriot Act of 2001 just days after the attack. It seemed like the necessary and patriotic thing to do. With the enactment of the bill we, as Americans gave up come of our civil rights thinking we would buy safety in exchange. Since 9-11 we have seen unimaginable intrusions into people's lives in the name of "homeland security." People have been detained for undefined periods of time without charges and have suffered loss of privacy in conversations with their attorneys. Eavesdropping proceeds with renewed vigilance with neighbor being encouraged to spy and report on neighbor. This is a hysteria approaching that seen during the McCarthy era when these same practices were instituted. This is dangerous to our civil liberties and we are being seduced into thinking that by whisking away a few Muslims or Middle Easterners, somehow the rest of us are going to be safe. We had best care for our brothers and sisters lest we repeat history.

You may recall a prayer written by Lutheran minister Neumeuller during the Nazi Reign in Germany:

When they came for the Catholics I said nothing because I was not a Catholic.
When they came for the Jews I said nothing because I was not a Jew.
When they came for the union members I said nothing because I was not a union member.
When they came for me no one said anything because they all had already been taken.

Millions of Jews lost their lives because of the complacency of others. People around the world knew of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and did nothing. As Americans we need to think, be responsible citizens and question rather than accept "big daddy" as our self-proclaimed guardian. After they come for the Muslims and Middle Easterners, who will be next?

Democracy is based on questioning. We must make sure that there is competent, honest representation dedicated to working in the best interest of all. The rights of all must be respected and defended. These simple rights are based on the Constitution and its application for all. Our civil rights must not be selectively taken away in the name of an undeclared war by a President who was elected by questionable means.

As we fight to preserve the civil rights of all we still continue the struggle for gay, lesbian and transgendered people's equal human and civil rights. The recent Washington state decision that job discrimination based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional will be followed in the courts. Until there is a FEDERAL law, there is no equal protection. Many of us may feel there is no need for this protection. We feel we can ignore the consequences of DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL because we are not be in the military. This is not helpful. Even if only one person lost a job, was thrown out of the military, or was prosecuted under a sodomy statute, those laws must be overturned to ensure equal treatment. Some of us feel that there is no problem. There may not be a problem for those who have a safe work environment, are not in the military and live in a state with no sodomy laws. Each of these laws, or absence of laws, places individuals in jeopardy of being prosecuted at will and whim. It is unfair, unjust, and ultimately unconstitutional. Our work must be to fight for change through our political involvement.

All of us must become involved at a "grass roots" level at home. Our involvement can be with donations of money, time, skills, making phone calls or writing letters. Support the candidate and political party in your area that represents your rights and needs. In the GLBT community this can be done through the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Register at Vote.com so we can change the right-leaning poll results that influence the media, the politicians and your neighbors.

Grethe Cammermeyer
Former Democratic Candidate for Congress
Current Chairperson of the Island County
Democrats, Washington State
22 July 02

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