by Richard Macintosh
"What good is freedom if we are afraid to follow our conscience? What good is freedom if we are not able to live with our own actions? I am confined to a prison but I feel, today more than ever, connected to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience."
—Camillo Mejia (1)
(Swans - April 11, 2005) Staff Sergeant Camillo Mejia got tired of all the killing. He was saddened by the deaths within his own squad as he was of the innocent Iraqi citizens killed in what he saw as an illegal war.
The war not only made him sad and tired, it made him sick! Sick of the lies. Sick of the murders. Sick of the war crimes. Sick of seeing his men killed and dismembered. Sick of a war that was based on lies. Sick of the orders that asked him to do unconscionable things.
So, Sergeant Camillo Mejia refused the orders that would send him back to Iraq. He was arrested, court-martialed and sent to prison. His principled stand meant more to him than walking around as a moral cipher, following the winds of convenience supported by state propaganda.
Today, Camillo Mejia is a free man on two levels: First because he has completed his sentence and second because his "Being" is free. He placed his body in harm's way in order to save his core, or "soul." He wouldn't let "them" take his conscience away from him. That why Socrates drank the poisoned drink, rather than fleeing Athens. Socrates knew that so-called "freedom" without one's "Being" is not freedom, but rather an empty shell existence, a walking dead person. Socrates would not let "them" take his Being away from him. Neither would Staff Sergeant Mejia.
Some consider Mejia to be a coward and a traitor. No, he is more brave than most. He is a danger to a system that is made up of profiteers, cowards and traitors to the US Constitution. His crime was (and is) exposing official perfidy by standing on principle. That makes him the most dangerous type of all, a principled person speaking truth to power.
Nothing frightens the autocrats more than truth. It has the potential to shake the foundations of their system. This is because the system is corrupt to its very core -- and they know it.
Václav Havel, the great Czech writer, playwright and former president of the Czech Republic was referring to speaking truth to the corrupt when he said:
"It is no accident that here, in this milieu of unrelenting danger, with the constant need to defend our own identity, the idea that a price must be paid for truth, the idea of truth as a moral value, has such a long tradition."
—Václav Havel (2)
Havel's words ring true wherever people are struggling for their right to speak the truth. Speaking truth to power takes courage, especially in an environment of disinformation bolstered by a compliant media. Honest men go to prison for standing on principle while the majority of Americans are soaking up state propaganda and watching "reality shows" on TV. They get their war second-hand and place their faith in propaganda enhanced "news." Such news is used to extol the virtues of men such as former professional football player, Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan. This is not to be disrespectful toward Tillman -- a brave and principled man -- but rather to expose those who would use his death for political gain.
I realize that I am being naïve. The political class always tends to use the lives of others for political gain. It seems to be part of their "job specs." Men like Tillman are an obvious choice for stardom. Men like Mejia must be silenced.
For his sacrifice, Tillman received posthumous citations for bravery in action and the Arizona Cardinals retired the number on his football jersey. Some time later the American public found out that there were no Taliban present when Tillman was killed. An Army investigation found that he was killed by "friendly fire." (3) In other words, he was shot by his own guys.
Oops! How inconvenient!
Whenever there is an inconvenient exposure, our state-enhanced propaganda apparatus swings into action. While the world teeters on the brink of disaster, our media talking heads opine about side issues, such as the Michael Jackson molestation trial, or the circus surrounding the life and death of Terri Schiavo.
Our fearless leaders would have us forget what is really going on in the world. This is exactly what we must not do. We must not forget.
"The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
—Milan Kundera (4)
Courage! Courage to be who you are and to claim ownership of your own thoughts. Courage to express yourself, even if your beliefs are against the mainstream. Courage to hold your poise in the face of danger. Courage to speak truth to power:
"The Emperor has no clothes."
—Hans Christian Andersen
"Earth is not the center of the universe."
"Faith is believing in something you know ain't so."
"The war against Iraq is illegal."
—Pope John Paul II
Reading a recent article by the great Australian journalist, John Pilger, I was struck by his relentless courage. (5) His message is that we should not fear those currently in power, because, in fact, they fear us. The actions of our current administration underline his words. Only an organization steeped in fear would disallow dissent. (6) Only a clique unsure of its support would block truth and replace it with twisted words, disinformation and just plain lies. Americans now have an administration who create their own news, implant faux reporters at White House briefings and then, when caught, refuse to admit there is anything wrong. (7)
Hold on to your courage and make a stand! Fear is in power. All the signs point to it. The president lives a "bubble existence." When he travels, he is surrounded by guards in armored vehicles, snipers on the rooftops and attack helicopters in the sky. The president is afraid of dissent around the world and here at home. He is afraid of those who stand on principle and can't be threatened or bought. He is afraid of men like Camillo Mejia. (8)
John Pilger asked the great Czech protest singer, Marta Kubisova, about fear among the so-called "Powerful." In answer, she read the following words of a banned protest song, sung defiantly during the Prague Spring of 1968:
"They are afraid of the old for their memory,
They are afraid of the young for their innocence
They are afraid of the graves of their victims in faraway places
They are afraid of history. They are afraid of freedom.
They are afraid of truth. They are afraid of democracy.
So why the hell are we afraid of them? ...for they are afraid of us." (9)