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Book Review
Sedition is Silence
William Rivers Pitt

"There could be no more threat to the new status quo than a citizen army of Americans, armed to the teeth with information and the right to vote, paying active attention to the ways and means of our government and economy." William Rivers Pitt

Pitt's book is a wake-up call to the American electorate--especially those who do not think about the issues or care enough to vote. The status quo he fears is an administration farther right than any in history--an administration that:
  • over-rides Amendments to the Constitution by executive order or by expanding interpretations of existing laws,
  • takes us into an expensive war on dubious grounds,
  • issues executive orders that curtail our liberties, suspends Habeas Corpus on occasion,
  • brought the religious right influence into government, uses the National Park system to sell materials that promote Creationism when only a small fraction of citizens believe such a Literal Interpretation of the bible. [Separation of Church and State is in danger.]
  • can only speak for the quarter of Americans who voted for him, (another 50% or so stayed home.)

Pitt combines insight with the power of words that are almost Churchillian at times. Like Jessica Stern's "Terror in The Name of God," Pitt's book describes essential issues dividing America. Pitt is a must read, even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool authoritarian. Pitt doesn't just make calls, he calls them as he sees them. He pans just about everyone, citizen voters, politicians, Bush and the neocons, the Supreme Court, even the media. If he seems given to a hyperbole here and there, he is nevertheless describing accurately, the mood and directions being taken by everyone involved. And, yes, we could indeed vote for a tomorrow like what he describes.

While Stern addresses terror and religion, Pitt develops what is going on in Washington, with the help of non-voting America. For example, it is not Bush's fault that he was elected by some 20% of the total populace. It is the fault of a population gorging on its good fortune at the expense of old fashioned patriotism. Bush also had vital help from a biased Supreme Court, themselves appointed by presidents and approved by senators also elected in small-turn-out elections all of whom represent mostly special interests. Voter apathy is not a new condition; but it could turn out to be disastrous if the present trend continues.

Pitt writes: "By abdicating responsibility, the citizens guaranteed this outcome."

Like Stern, Pitt offers sound guidance to ending terror. He makes many telling points. From his last chapter:

Accountability for the airline industry. It was news to me, but the airline industry had for years before 9/11 lobbied Congress through soft money to keep laws tightening security off the books. Hindsight? For sure, but true, none the less.

Repair the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Both have been curtailed in practice in the name of safety. We the people no longer feel free to speak our minds in public; uncle George may be watching. The Fourth Amendment against unlawful seizure is all but dead and buried--that trend goes back to Truman! Pitt added the First, Sixth and Thirteenth to the list with some justification. They are in danger, for sure, but they are a long way from dead.

Find the answers to unresolved questions. A breath of fresh air! But this is not a job for politicians. They each have their own ready-made constructs about society and governance of same. The questions Pitt raises are both political and technical. All need answering--with good answers.

Media reform and fairness doctrine. In America, ten corporations now control virtually all media, including the news. Journalism used to be the acid test; it is no longer, journalism is fast becoming lip service.

End our addiction to oil. Amen to that. We just might have been able to begin doing that in a serious way for the trillion dollars plus, imposed by Iraq, other misguided ventures, and the increased price of oil.

We the people. Here, Pitt hits home, not below the belt, but home. For example, "not one of the vital reforms needed will see the light of day without the active, dynamic participation of the American electorate." We must begin, each and all of us, by educating ourselves about the issues, demanding truth in reporting, putting substance ahead of form. We must deny entry of special interests into our thinking and ways of doing things. Are we up to it? Time will tell.

Pitt demands action from American citizenry and the Democratic party in particular. Do something from the ground up and do it now! Like us, he sees extremism in any form anywhere as something to fear.

The next senator-elect from Illinois will be black. Each has something to say about an issue that Pitt raises as a danger--extremism right here at home in our own political arena.

"The people I meetin small towns and big cities, in diners and office parksthey dont expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get aheadand they want to." Barack Obama

"Barack Obama is somebody, for instance, who on abortion takes a stand that turns its back on the basis of which slavery was abolished, the principles on the basis of which Marin Luther King argued against segregation." Alan Keyes

Obama is a man of the world, very much aware of himself, of politics and the American scene. Obama takes a stand, then reaches across the Aisle to work out compromise so vital to moving ahead.

Would Keyes take his hand in kindred spirit? Not on your life, or rather his life. For evidence see his Acceptance Speech as the new Authoritarian carpetbagger from Maryland who wants to impose his radical views on Illinois. Each of these men calls the other an extremist. Pitt defines extremism much the way we do. Keyes defines extremism as a person who happens to stand up for a law that has been law of the land for decades. Is this really extremism or is Keyes merely projecting his own view of the world--that liberalism is extremism? On an NPR interview, 12 Aug 2004, Keyes said that abortion should be illegal under circumstances of rape or incest. He was adamant.

Illinois may not become the next "Florida," shows in sharp relief what the American electorate has to choose from.

On the issue of extremism, Pitt is right on. It is the paramount danger in our time. He gets into ethnicity and religion only peripherally, but that in no way detracts from the secular value of his lively book. It is a quick, easy and delightful read.

Other reviewers dismiss Pitt as an angry man. Well, he just might have something to be angry about. He is quite eloquent in trying to convince us to do something about it.


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