Tuesday, February 9, 2016

13 years ago (the letter that changed my life forever)

Before October 2002, I had never written a Senator or Member of Congress at either the federal or state level.

Before February 2003, I had never written a "letter to the editor" of a newspaper.

It was the impending invasion of Iraq, based on highly suspect claims that later turned out to be complete fabrications and the deliberate lies of the US government that changed my completely apathetic and apolitical life.

The letter which follows, believe it or not, provoked death threats against myself, my wife, my daughter, and even against my farm animals (we were breeding registered Polled Hereford cattle):

February 9, 2003
Huntsville [Alabama] Times

I believe every Times reader with access to the Internet should perform a
search for "Shock and Awe CBSNEWS" and read the text of the January 24
Evening News article in which Pentagon officials are quoted in describing
the military plans for the invasion of Iraq.

In view of the disappointing failure of the government to apprehend the
known terrorist organization leaders that it identified as the top targets of
its war on terror, the attack described in the above broadcast is a terribly
disproportionate response to a far less serious threat from Iraq.

Worst of all, the plan will do nothing to eliminate the threat of terrorism
against Americans living abroad, or even in this country. It will only
intensify and, to a large extent, justify the growing hatred of Americans
in nearly every corner of the globe.

The Bush administration needs to keep its eye on the ball.
Charles Aulds
That's it.  That's all of it.

I've shown this letter to very few people.  Most express surprise that it generated the hateful response that it did.  While the letter was only mildly critical of the government, it was a time when any criticism at all of the government's plans to launch an all out invasion of Iraq were viewed by many good "patriots" as treasonous.


I fully expected a strong reaction.  The reaction wasn't a surprise.  What surprises me, now, is that I sent the letter at all.  I was absolutely terrified to write that letter.  I had been shouted down at work (by people much younger than myself which was, itself, a surprise) for saying, "Wait, we've seen no proof those WMD yet."  I knew how strong the war fever ran; I knew that the letter would infuriate more than a few people.

I sent the letter because I felt it was the right thing to do.  To have felt that way, and to have done nothing, would've been morally wrong.  I wasn't hoping to change any minds, certainty not the course of a country that was dead-set on making war, it did not matter against whom or on what justification.  It wasn't important to me what others did; it was only important to me that I do what I knew was right.

I sent the letter, and immediately started wishing I hadn't. A lot of people who knew me would read it ... I wasn't sure I wanted that. And I couldn't be sure that my neighbors (in rural Marshall County Alabama) wouldn't burn a cross on my yard. I was terrified.  I lay awake at night in a cold sweat, wondering why I did something that I knew, without a doubt, couldn't turn out well.

The bottom line, though, was that I did it.  I was afraid to do it, but I did it anyway; and (like the Robert Frost poem says), it has made all the difference.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken