The Shrub Administration and fundamentalist Muslims both have an interest in stifling dissent. Both groups attempt to maximize fear to maintain and project power. Sure, the American government may not (yet) do it with the barrel of a gun used against it's own people, but there are other, less obvious ways available to the discriminating despot.
"while the vast majority of Americans keep silent, an extremist minority has hijacked our government, and is steering it into a confrontation with the world...These extremists are supported by conservative forces that fear global equality and environmental moderation."
Isn't this as valid a description of our predicament – those of us caught in the middle as we watch our government convert the simple terrorist crime of Sept. 11 into a vast conflict that asserts American military dominance over the Arabs?
Although not a historian, I have always felt that fundamentalist ideas are based on fear of the future. What else can explain the attraction Armageddon holds for so many American Christian fundamentalists, except the idea that no future is better than the fearful future of uncertainty, change and atomization they are being drawn toward. Fundamentalism gains currency in societies in which the leadership maintains power by creating terror, either overtly through repression and arrest, or covertly through hyper-sensitizing people's everyday fears – of crime, poverty, exclusion, and death.
Those of on the left can do our part by simply refusing to acquiesce to government attempts to govern through fear and intimidation. Freedom is still what makes this country the best place on earth.
The left should not only stand moral witness against killing civilians overseas, but also stand up for freedom at home. Roosevelt's four freedoms are not a bad place to start: freedom of expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; freedom from fear.
It is still possible to live without fear. Though we will never be able to be as naive as we were pre- 9.11, we should not let our fear enable our own government to diminish the freedoms so many generations fought to preserve. Those who would preserve our freedoms by curtailing them need to understand that Americans still value our Constitutionally-guarenteed rights.