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(57,936 posts)
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 02:24 AM Jun 2014

Americans -- Courage is in our DNA.

Our ancestors would laugh at our NSA for justifying its massive surveillance including its collection of our metadata by the dangers we face.

In a great speech on the freedom of the press and his own disinclination to meddle with it (in contrast to Obama who is trying to force Risen to give up his sources on a story that Obama claims comprised our national security) claimed that the time in which he served -- the 1960s -- was the most dangerous in history.


I was born during WWII. Since I can remember, the leaders of America have either asserted or acted as though the time in which they were lived was the MOST DANGEROUS in our nation's history. Their awe at the task of protecting our country is understandable, even admirable and explains their hyperbole. But they are wrong.

My ancestors came to this country when it was very, very young. They faced dangers that we cannot imagine now. When they later entered Kentucky and Indiana and moved on West, at each watering hole, at each campground, at each settlement, in every home they built on the prairie or in the wilderness, they faced dangers to themselves and our country far greater than any we can imagine today.

They had no internet, no telephones, no electricity or gas. They chopped trees for kindling wood so that they could cook and heat. They lived in log cabins or houses constructed without cranes and bulldozers. They tilled virgin soil. They hammered horseshoes over blazing fires. They created America in the face of dangers we cannot and do not bother to imagine.

They were fearless.

But they valued freedom and eventually fought for the independence of our country and for a new government, a constitutional government that would pioneer a new relationship between the ordinary man and his civil life. It wasn't just a change of the chief of state. It was a change in the relationship between the farmer (we were mostly farmers back then) or the working man and the government. No longer would we have a king, a sovereign, a master. We would be our own king, our own sovereign, our own master. (I'm talking about Yankees who moved from the East to the West, not Southern slaveholders.)

Today, our government, purchased and owned not by us so much any more but by the very, very wealthy (some of whom serve in Congress) and corporations, is seeking to govern us as a master. The first attack is on our right to know the truth about the dangers and opportunities that confront and greet us.

The first attack is on the media including the internet.

Had my grandfather many times removed, who first came to this country when there was little civilization here, enjoyed the capacity we now have to live safely and tranquilly, had he been able to sit in the evening and watch canned TV shows, old movies or interact with others on the internet, he would have felt incredibly safe, maybe even claustrophobic. He would have believed he had a life of ease.

I think he would have felt very generous toward people in other countries whom we now perceive as enemies. Instead of wasting his time in fear, I think he would have set out to learn more about them. I think he would have tried to figure them out, outsmart them. And I think he could have done that without quivering in fear just as he learned to catch and hunt enough game to feed his family until his crops were in.

I think that if my grandfather many times removed were living today, he would want our government to be truly honest with him. And I think he would have been very cautious before he bought a cow from a stranger off the street or the propaganda that now passes for news.

To survive you have to be smart, but you don't have to lie. You can keep secrets, but they had better be your own, not the public's.

And now to the point: Our government keeps too many secrets from us. It doesn't trust us. And I ask myself, what has happened to the dream of my ancestors, the dream they had for this country. Where is the country that is governed by the people, not by a king, or a sovereign or a master? Where is it when the very government that is supposed to be under our control is placing us under surveillance?

Where is it when that government tells us that we live in the most dangerous times imaginable?

Our ancestors faced dangers far greater than any dangers we could even imagine, save one. And that one danger that is greater than any danger we have faced so far is the danger that the warming oceans and the rising seas and the melting icebergs pose to our grandchildren and their children. (And we don't hear nearly enough about that real danger.)

The idea that we should allow our government to hide so many secrets that are not specifically combat-related from us because of the dire dangers we face is absurd.

We Americans are the most courageous people on earth. At least we used to be. Every one of us. It's in our DNA.

Very few Americans can boast that they have no ancestors who ventured to this country distancing themselves from the comforts of family and childhood memories to face a mysterious wilderness or at least an unknown future. Even today, although the dangers are less obvious, most immigrants leave behind not just family but very often a career and opportunities in order to allow their children to have a better, freer life.

Ironically, the glory of America, the dream of a better, freer life is now being endangered not by foreign enemies but by our own corporate-owned government snooping on our private lives, negotiating trade agreements that will curtail our rights in secret, keeping all kinds of secrets from us and punishing our press, our media when it tries to inform us (I originally wrote this in response to an OP about James Risen and the Obama administration's attacks on the press).

As I write this, I hope the NSA agent who may now or in the future read my post will realize that what he is doing is downright wrong. We have a right to be a free people. That means free of surveillance. Law enforcement is supposed to punish illegal actions. It should not concern itself at all with our political expression, our political speech or our personal law-abiding lives.

My ancestors did not want a country in which the government placed the people under surveillance. How do I know? It's in my DNA and the DNA of all Americans: the love of freedom and the courage to accept the risks that accompany it.

If terrorists endanger our country, don't let them come in. Placing Americans under surveillance is not necessary to keep them out. Otherwise, place criminals under surveillance after they have committed criminal acts. But don't place law-abiding citizens under surveillance.

16 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies
Americans -- Courage is in our DNA. (Original Post) JDPriestly Jun 2014 OP
Courage, JD... Leopolds Ghost Jun 2014 #1
Nice post JDP defacto7 Jun 2014 #2
Modern Americans are a soft, feckless bunch. Katashi_itto Jun 2014 #3
Same here, and I think the same things JDP. Waiting For Everyman Jun 2014 #4
Thank you. Very inspiring post. JDPriestly Jun 2014 #6
I really like your op, but.... cali Jun 2014 #5
Our biggest threat is corruption. JDPriestly Jun 2014 #7
and global climate change and an oligarchy and the never ending wars cali Jun 2014 #8
Yes. Those are the big three. Sometimes I focus on one. Sometimes on another. JDPriestly Jun 2014 #9
the courage of my Unionist ancestors in the midst of plantation country inspires me carolinayellowdog Jun 2014 #10
Thanks for that post. Wish I knew more about that. JDPriestly Jun 2014 #11
this is kind of too american exceptionalist for me. nt m-lekktor Jun 2014 #12
Sorry to offend, but I am very American. JDPriestly Jun 2014 #13
Recommended. H2O Man Jun 2014 #14
Kicked and recommended. Uncle Joe Jun 2014 #15
"Courage" has been replaced with flag waving, America Love It Or Leave It, bluster. Tierra_y_Libertad Jun 2014 #16


(13,485 posts)
2. Nice post JDP
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 04:12 AM
Jun 2014

I'll comment tomorrow, but I am at the end of my thinking day and anything I say will either be pure nonsense or tactless. I like family histories as it pertains to political history and points of common concern in the present. Will get back.

Good night.

Waiting For Everyman

(9,385 posts)
4. Same here, and I think the same things JDP.
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 08:03 AM
Jun 2014

What would this ancestor or that, think about this (whatever it is). Sometimes I almost feel like I can sense them watching "over my shoulder" at whatever is going on, I get the feeling there would be a lot of head shaking. But not only that, because they would know our DNA too and that we have our great moments as it always is.

Your OP reminded me of a favorite quote, oddly enough by Winston Churchill. But he was speaking with his American half, I think, when he said this:

We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy. (Dec 30, 1941)

The forces undermining us today have always been here, this same struggle has always gone on since day one here, only via different means and media. (On that, just a side note, I highly recommend a fascinating, little-known book called "Treason in America: from Aaron Burr to Averell Harriman") We have always had to deal with it, and have risen to the occasion and done so, and we always will -- as you say, because so many episodes by now show us that it is indeed hardwired into us.

At times, one side or the other is more dominant, but we are by no means finished just because the controllers are on top at this point in time. Although this is not meant to downplay the role of anybody else, I find the most encouragement about the future from people like you, JDP, and me and so many, others who come from "many times removed" grands who were here at or near the beginning... I think that's mostly because we have so much invested here, in this "experiment" in self-government. 15 generations for me, that's a lot of folks engaged in a lot of struggles, over 400+ years, to get this far -- and as you said, without slaves even here in the Mid-Atlantic, they believed in big families instead, and communities, in which people cooperated in aid of each other to get big things done. And those communities included commons, this country was not built on the ideas of libertarian assholes, contrary to what some today want to think!

Yes, just as you said, we need to remember that we are the descendants of the people who brought us this far, and this is nothing compared to what most of them had to face. And we are no less up to our chapter of the story, whatever it may be

The NSA (and cohort agencies) is running an illegal shop, and it needs to be shut down and cut down to size. It's an extra-legal operation, that's where we stand now. And people like Snowden (who btw comes from a here-from-the-beginning Maryland family) who stand up to tell us about it are patriots. The same goes for everybody involved in the effort on that, and on countless other fronts, to keep our structure on the side of "the people". All people, not the ego-centric, ethics-challenged, law-buying, ruthless, few -- they need to be knocked down to size too, and eventually, I'm sure they will be. Again, the same as many times before.

An excellent OP, JDP.


(114,904 posts)
5. I really like your op, but....
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 08:19 AM
Jun 2014

I don't believe that courage is in the DNA of Americans anymore than it is in the DNA of Albanians, for instance. That just strikes me as more American exceptionalism, something I have an aversion to.

I also want to say that we face dangers our ancestors couldn't imagine and they are no less perilous; in a way they are more threatening and harder to deal with in that those threats aren't as direct; they're more diffuse and harder to tackle.


(57,936 posts)
7. Our biggest threat is corruption.
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 09:53 AM
Jun 2014

And the corruption is due to insiders never criticizing insiders. See Elizabeth Warren's book A Fighting Chance page 106.

She was warned by Larry Summers that to be an insider, you must not criticize insiders. I guess that is one bit of advice she ignored. Since we on DU are underground and therefore, by definition, outsiders, it's our job to criticize.

Thank God for outsiders. Think how corrupt our government would be without them.



(114,904 posts)
8. and global climate change and an oligarchy and the never ending wars
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 10:07 AM
Jun 2014

but yes, corruption is a biggie.


(57,936 posts)
9. Yes. Those are the big three. Sometimes I focus on one. Sometimes on another.
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 10:09 AM
Jun 2014

They are intertwined. The oligarchy sponsors climate change and uses corruption to stop measures to lesson or stop the conditions that could ameliorate or end climate change. (Although we ordinary people are responsible in that we allow the climate change to happen with our over-consumption.)


(3,247 posts)
10. the courage of my Unionist ancestors in the midst of plantation country inspires me
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 01:36 PM
Jun 2014

The poor white farmers throughout the South who took up arms against the Confederacy have nearly been written out of history, but they were willing to put EVERYTHING on the line in a way that northern Unionists never had to. Their wives and children had to bear the brunt of terrorist reprisals for the principled stand taken by the soldiers. Alas, winning the war didn't do them any good in its aftermath, as they along with the freedmen were sold out by the Republicans in the 1870s.

Knowing one is descended from people willing to sacrifice ALL for TRUTH and JUSTICE helps remind one that the struggle is endless but so is the courage to continue.


(57,936 posts)
11. Thanks for that post. Wish I knew more about that.
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 06:32 PM
Jun 2014

Having lived in the South, I could see the cultural remnants of the abuse of the poor whites who are not forgotten as you describe.

Slavery was far more horrible than the fate of the so-called poor whites in the South, but the poor whites also suffered.


(57,936 posts)
13. Sorry to offend, but I am very American.
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 08:00 PM
Jun 2014

A very American FDR Democrat. That's not really a good description but it is as close as I can get without going into details. I'm more of a civil libertarian than FDR was, much more.



(50,414 posts)
16. "Courage" has been replaced with flag waving, America Love It Or Leave It, bluster.
Sun Jun 1, 2014, 09:09 PM
Jun 2014

Atticus Finch has been replaced with Super Heroes and drone wielding politicians promising to protect us.

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