Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Since when is opposition to the president's agenda a matter for Homeland Security?

According to a new DHS report, opposing the president's stance on issues is suddenly a symptom of "rightwing extremism". You can be labeled an extremist now for simply opposing abortion or handgun restrictions. You can be labeled an extremist for voicing concerns about the president's economic agenda, because doing so could be "harmful to the economy".

Isn't this exactly what angered Democrats whenever they spoke out against the Iraq War and were labeled "un-American"? Didn't they take up Edward R. Murrow's warning about not confusing dissent with disloyalty?

So why are the people who disagree with the president's agenda now eligible for the title of "threat to Homeland Security"?

I sent a letter to my Congressman and Senators denouncing this report, and I believe all of you should, too.


Dear Congressman,

The Department of Homeland Security recently published an assessment report on so-called rightwing extremists. While spokespeople for the department insist that it is non-partisan, the language used is very troubling for a self-professed conservative such as myself.

According to the report, rightwing extremism includes "groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration." Such language is not only inflammatory, it's insulting as well.

The report goes on to say antagonism to the administration's stances on issues is a symptom of extremism as well. Congressman, as a man who campaigned against the former administration's stances on issues, I'm sure you will agree that we should never confuse dissent with disloyalty.

This is a troubling report indeed, and I plan on making my anger over it known. I would appreciate your support, Congressman, in taking a stance against growing partisanism in government at all levels and in every branch.

Sincerely,

Stephen Monteith

This is a copy of the letter that I wrote to the president:

Dear Mr. President,

I never took the time to congratulate you on your victory last November, sir. I want you to know that, even though I didn't vote for you, I will support you in your efforts to lead and restore our great nation.

I have been watching, Mr. President, as you've taken great steps in this time of uncertainty. While I don't agree with every step you've taken, and while I hope I can always say so freely when I do, I do applaud your efforts to work with all sides in finding solutions. Many are of the opinion that the Democrats won, so the Democrats should move ahead without even acknowledging the opposition. Such a course, though, disenfranchises fully half the country. And, I'm sure you would agree, even if there were only one Republican remaining in America, that Republican would still be entitled to representation in government.

That's why I'm troubled, Mr. President, by the recent report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security on so-called rightwing extremists. While spokespeople for DHS insist that it is non-partisan, the language used is very troubling for a self-professed conservative such as myself.

According to the report, rightwing extremism includes "groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion." Such language is not only inflammatory, it's insulting as well. Opposition to abortion is not based on hatred or bigotry, as the report suggests, but a sincere desire to protect life. Though some groups may employ extreme and even violent measures, the language of the report simply does not make that distinction clear.

The report goes on to say antagonism to the administration's stances on issues is a symptom of extremism as well. Since your entire campaign was founded on opposing the former administration's stances on certain issues, I'm sure you will agree that we should never confuse dissent with disloyalty.

This is a troubling report indeed, and I plan on making my anger over it known. I've written to my Congressman and Senators, asking them to take a stance against growing partisanism in government at all levels and in every branch.

Mr. President, you campaigned on an ideal of post-partisanism. I'm grateful for that, but your actions must match your words. This report doesn't seriously impact that effort, perhaps, but it does reflect a growing tendency in your administration to generalize the "opposition". When a member of your staff characterizes Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the GOP, that's merely childish. Reports such as the DHS' most recent one, however, can be symptomatic.

I'll be watching, Mr. President, as always, to see how my leaders are acting and reacting in these troubling times. Please, live up to your promise of post-partisanism.

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