Exercising an American right to disagree with the president – and still be patriotic | NevadaAppeal.com

Exercising an American right to disagree with the president – and still be patriotic

Ellen Nelson
For the Appeal

I awakened one morning in September feeling extremely sad, with tears surfacing in my eyes. My thoughts focused on our nation and its future at home and abroad. Soon I was sobbing softly while the events of the first decade of the 21st century ran through my mind.

As a senior citizen in my 79th year, for the first time, I am ashamed of many actions taken by our country’s leaders under the guise of saving our citizens and the world from the threat of terrorism.

Especially disturbing has been President George W. Bush and others in this administration stating that any citizen who disagrees with their viewpoint must be unpatriotic. Excuse me? This is the United States of America. Each one of us is allowed, even encouraged, to state our concerns and/or recommendations to our elected officials, whoever and wherever they are.

They may ignore what we say, but we have the right and obligation to voice our opinions, pro or con. I am hereby exercising this right.

I’ve had the privilege of voting since I was 18 years old. My home state of Georgia determined following the end of World War II that if teenagers are old enough to face injury or death on the battlefield, they should be allowed to vote.

I grew up with the idea that casting a ballot was not only a privilege but a duty. Indeed, in 1976, my 88-year-old father insisted that I drive him to the polls so he could vote for President Jimmy Carter. Dad passed away a few weeks later.

In the ensuing years I have been involved in many endeavors that have expanded my interest in the law and political history of Nevada and the nation. This learning experience began with my employment at Third Army Headquarters in Ft. McPherson, Georgia. Later, I was a legal secretary for law firms in Florida and California.

On relocation to Nevada in 1968, I was hired by the Research Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

In 1980, I was an official Nevada delegate to the Democratic Convention in New York City. I served as the Minute Clerk in the Nevada State Senate in 1981 and returned to the Research Division, LCB, upon adjournment of that session. I retired in 1993.

During the 2003 Legislative Session I was secretary to Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce (D-Las Vegas). That’s where I was when President Bush as Commander-in-Chief authorized the March invasion of Iraq to “topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.” At that time, the President was quoted as justifying the action because “he (Hussein) tried to kill my daddy.”

I remain concerned about the current status of the U.S.A. I am particularly worried about the misinterpretation of the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution of the United States. Primarily, these violations of the laws of our nation have been perpetrated by President Bush and members of his administration.

Yet our elected senators and representatives in Congress seem unable or unwilling to truly challenge the irresponsible activities of this administration; where are members on “both sides of the aisle” willing to stand up and speak on behalf of we, the people?

The president is a Republican but, once elected, any president regardless of party affiliation should represent the entire citizenry. He disregards all grassroots expressions of discontent with the conduct of the war in Iraq. He refuses to consider that it could be time to bring our troops home.

While he vacillates, our military men and women continue to be critically injured and killed in Iraq. All the “Mission Accomplished” photo ops in the world cannot change these facts.

Am I against our continued presence in Iraq? You bet! Does this mean I do not support our troops? Wrong! My father was in the Navy in World War I. My brother served in the Navy during World War II, and my two sons were drafted during the Vietnam War.

Two of my grandsons, who are brothers, are both staff sergeants in the U.S. Army and veterans of the Iraq war. They were a part of the early “boots on the ground.” Fortunately, neither Steve nor Sean was physically injured in their deployment. But Sean still carries the sad memory of cradling a dying comrade in his arms.

It is ironic that President Bush has expanded his original aim to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq to developing a new “regime” and a democratic country that “respects the rights of its people and upholds the rule of law.” What an idea, expecting a country that has existed since the eighth century – first as Mesopotamia and then as Iraq – to create a new government that will uphold the rule of law. Perhaps this latest concept would be more credible if President Bush and his administration would uphold the rule of law in America.

In conclusion, I respectfully urge our congressional officials, i.e., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), Senator John Ensign (R), Reps. Jon Porter (R) and Dean Heller (R) to be more aggressive in seeking a fair and honest dialogue about the conduct of what I and many others consider to be the ill-advised war in Iraq.

• Ellen Nelson is a longtime resident of Carson City and is retired from the Legislative Counsel Bureau. She is the former executive director of Common Cause Nevada, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens’ lobby organization. John L. Smith’s column normally runs in this space and will return next week.