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News & Editorials


by Robert B. Beauchamp
California Attorney

Revised: September 26, 2001

As events unfold in the wake of the horrifying wound inflicted upon my Country by an amorphous group of terrorists, I watch this Nation's renewed demonstrations of patriotism with a mixture of exhilaration and skepticism.

Who could help but be exhilarated by American flags flying from every possible anchor, by an end to political bickering and by the support our President is receiving from those who denigrated his every word and deed the day before the attack?  Who could help but be exhilarated by the President's speech to the American people and a joint session of Congress?

So why am I skeptical? I fear we have forgotten what made us a great Nation. During colonial years, ordinary citizens routinely set aside their daily lives, took up arms and joined their neighbors, risking life and limb in defense of themselves, their families and their communities from hostile attackers. During the American Revolution seven of my ancestors fought the British. Among those ancestors, local militia outnumbered Continental Regulars six to one. They were but neighbors standing and dying, shoulder to shoulder, in support of a great cause.

The last foreign attack of consequence on American soil occurred during the War of 1812 (although we had a base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was a territory until gaining Statehood in 1959). Again ordinary citizens shouldered their own weapons, ammunition and supplies and played a significant role in the defense of the Nation. As late as World War II, when almost every able-bodied male was fighting on foreign soil, citizens with their own arms stood ready to defend against a perceived threat of invasion. Armed citizens were not deemed by government or fellow citizens to pose any danger and, indeed, were part of the American defense fabric.

What changed since the last great war? In short we became a Nation consisting of groups of victims instead of a Nation of individuals in control of our own destinies.

How did this happen? As the influence of the “Greatest Generation” wanes, some would say we became “civilized” and “tolerant. Others would say that we lost our “pioneer” spirit. Passivity and dependence on government for a seemingly infinite variety of benefits and services has replaced personal initiative and self-reliance supported only by a commonly held moral obligation of neighbors to neighbors in times of crisis.

Unfortunately, in becoming “civilized” and “tolerant” we allowed there to develop a cult of passivity. We allowed this cult to seduce us into replacing our traditionally held objective morality with subjective morality. In the process, this cult perverted the very meaning of the words “civilized” and “tolerant.” In our politically correct world, “civilized” and “tolerant” individuals and societies do not use force, even to defend against unprovoked attack. We rely on police officials who tell us not to resist criminals, "just give them what they want and leave the rest to the professionals." When schoolyard bullies prey on other children, the victimized are to accept beatings without resistance and only later report the matter.  A child who raises a hand in pure self-defense is deemed no better than the aggressor and is punished identically. Children, we are told, must ignore the advice of their grandfathers: that a bully stops only when you stand your ground and give him a good pop. On that day the bully learns that injuries can be suffered as well as inflicted.

As always, the voices of passivity are seductive. But how many of us are willing to accept subjective morality masquerading as “civility” and “tolerance” when it renders morally equivalent Adolph Hitler and those who attempted to assassinate him during the height of his maniacal and genocidal drive for world domination.

During the years preceding September 11, 2001, this Nation suffered repeated acts of terrorism. Terrorists attacked our military personnel overseas, our embassies, a naval warship and even planted a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center. Our responses were essentially passive: a few impotent missile strikes, misdirected both figuratively and literally.

On one horrible day, September 11, 2001, we were reminded that one of the consequences of passivity in response to acts of war are more acts of war. That day, a coordinated and unprecedented act of war utterly leveled the twin towers of the World Trade Center and a large portion of the Pentagon. Terrorists aboard three hijacked American jumbo jets loaded with fuel and carrying innocent civilian passengers became the ultimate suicide bombers. In a period of about an hour, untold thousands of innocent civilians and three of this Nation's icons were incinerated.

We watched in shock and outrage as the President spoke resolutely to the Nation and a joint session of Congress. We learned that we are to have a new federal agency for "homeland security" headed by a cabinet level official granted broad powers and the responsibility to coordinate the anti-terrorist activities of existing government agencies. Earlier in the week the President called up tens of thousands of military reservists, also for "homeland defense." Yet as recently as 60 years ago ordinary citizens were an integral part of our homeland defense. The United States Code still provides that every citizen over the age of 17 is a member of the unorganized militia. Though, like the terms “civilized” and “tolerant” the cult of passivity has perverted the definitions “militia,” and even “patriot,” to mean something sinister and frightening.

There is no talk of civilian involvement in homeland defense or of compulsory military service. In a recent interview, Senator John McCain stated his opposition to reinstating the draft concluding, among other things, that military service had become too specialized. He is not alone. Any attempt to reestablish the draft would die a quick and ugly death in part because it would mean that the children of the Million Mom March would be trained to shoot and in part because most citizens of all ages are "too busy" to set aside their daily lives to stand shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors in defense of freedoms taken for granted in a world intent on their destruction.

Though our neighborhoods and highways are awash in American flags, though the ruins of the once proud twin towers of the World Trade Center and our Pentagon continue to smolder, though we still feel the white-hot heat of incalculable outrage and unfathomable grief, we prefer, indeed we are conditioned, to leave it to the professionals.  We talk about our military as if it were a professional sports franchise. We pound our chests, confident that our team is better than any other, but as individuals we are not willing to play the game ourselves.

Even as our cheeks are still stained with tears, our voices of outrage are increasingly being challenged by the soothing and seductive voices of the cult of passivity. Madonna recently stopped a concert for a moment of prayer that this Nation would not retaliate for the atrocity inflicted on thousand of unsuspecting, innocent civilians who died unspeakably horrible deaths just as they began what they expected to be an ordinary workday. Other voices drone calmly and dispassionately that we must understand the root causes of international terrorism; indeed, that this Nation itself, by this or that foreign policy, caused these "justifiably enraged” criminals to kill and main thousands of us.  They will discuss the quantity and quality of proof necessary to establish the guilt of those responsible, the necessity of due process and the dire consequences if we retaliate against an "innocent" as opposed to a guilty terrorist. The message of subjective morality is repeated that if we retaliate we will become as evil as our attackers.

The cult of passivity shields our eyes from the trauma of seeing the remains of our slaughtered neighbors. Yet, when we retaliate we will see repetitive footage day and night of the bodies of our enemies and our own gallant troops.  The cult of passivity will not then shield our eyes.  They will wish us to see the horrible consequences of war and reject it as an unacceptable option. They hope that we will have forgotten that the massacre of thousands of innocents on September 11, 2001, was a direct consequence of passivity.

While we are momentarily filled with patriotic feelings, we are not galvanized as a Nation. We will never again be galvanized as a Nation until each of us recognizes a personal duty to defend our Nation with our own hands, not just cheer for a military, even one that bravely volunteers to stand in harms way for us and for the freedoms we cherish. Our forefathers purchased our freedoms with their own blood and shared sacrifice. They left the defense of those freedoms to each of us, not just to professional soldiers. Benjamin Franklin, when asked what form our government had taken, replied: “a Republic, if you can keep it.” John F. Kennedy echoed such sentiment: "Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily lives, and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom."

My skepticism can become optimism, but only through a broad rejection of the cult of passivity and a reaffirmation of the founding principles that made this Nation great: that individuals control their own destinies, not terrorists and not governments. Beyond this, we must abandon subjective morality to the extent it is used to justify passivity. There are objective evils that must be resisted. We must not allow the seductive voice of passivity to drown our outrage or diminish our inherent sense that justice requires the perpetrators of unprecedented brutality to suffer unprecedented retaliation. Those who attempted to assassinate Adolph Hitler did not, by that act, become as evil as Adolph Hitler.

There are Americans who have rejected the voices of passivity and they are not limited to the survivors of the “Greatest Generation.” On September 11, 2001, we were also reminded that there remain individuals who will resist being victimized, who will choose their own destinies. Passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, their aircraft hijacked and redirected toward Washington D.C., realized that they were about to become passengers on a missile directed at countless fellow Americans. These passengers reached back to an earlier time, stood shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors, and took back their dignity.  They ignored every lesson taught by the cult of passivity. They refused to leave it to professionals, they refused to negotiate, discuss or compromise. They refused to concede to the demands of monsters. Instead, they fought back. They fought back for themselves and they fought back to save the lives of Americans they would never know. Rather than submit, they gave their lives so that anonymous Americans might live.  Because these heroes refused to allow others to choose their destinies, Flight 93 crashed into a vacant field killing no one but the heroic passengers and their now vanquished captors.  We must not let the seductive voices of passivity diminish the awe in which we hold the heroic souls aboard Flight 93: these members of our Nation's unorganized militia who raised their hands in defiance, defeating brutality with brutality, for sometimes brutality is necessary in defending a Nation from a great evil.

Even more importantly, we must not let the voices of passivity dampen that atavistic, visceral need in every American heart to believe, to hope, that each of us would overcome our fear and find the courage to defy both great evil and the voices that urge passivity: that we would perform as valiantly as those heroic passengers. For it is only if we retain such hope, can we, as a Nation, retain our newfound patriotism even as our grief fades.


All rights reserved

September 19, 2001

The Beauchamp Firm, a law corporation

1301 Dove Street, Suite 950

Newport Beach, California 92660

Telephone: 949-660-0010

Telecopier: 949-660-0690    

Resolutions and Petition to the President of the United States of America and to the Congress of the United States of America to Award Posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal:

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