An Open Letter by David Thornburg
From: David Thornburg

An open letter to enemies of democracy:

In the wake of 911 you saw a nation united in grief. Now that we have launched into responses to the actions of that day, you will have the chance to see how true patriots behave. You will see dissent. You will see some who feel our present course of action is correct, some who feel it is not strong enough, and still others who feel it is misguided. All of these points of view reflect an exercise of our rights -- the rights of people living in a self-governed system -- rights guaranteeing our freedom of speech -- rights which, through their exercise, confirm our patriotic allegiance to our country.

Dissent must never be interpreted as weakness, but as an exercise in strength. Those who move to stifle dissent are the true enemies of democracy. To understand why, consider this: Unlike citizens of many other countries, Americans do not pledge allegiance to a human leader. Our allegiance is to our flag as a symbol of the idea of democracy and freedom. By dedicating ourselves to the idea and ideal of freedom, we are free to debate the decisions made by our elected leaders -- supporting or disagreeing with them as we wish. We can take our dissent to the streets as we did in the 1960's and be as vocal as we want. None of these actions must ever be interpreted as an attack on democracy or on our government. Dissenters have the same patriotic allegiance to this country as those who support the President's position. We can all be proud to be Americans while differing in our opinions on how we should conduct various aspects of our business around the world.

So, if you see some of us in the streets, if you see our dissenting perspectives in print, do not for an instant think that democracy is being attacked. The only way democracy can be attacked is if some decide to attempt to stifle the rights of free speech and assembly that form the cornerstones of our country. If that happens, then those people will be the true enemies of democracy.

The American journalist Walter Lippman once wrote that "if we all think alike, then none of us thinks very much."

In support of good thinking,

David Thornburg