Friday, April 16, 2004
Waiting for the Minutemen
It's that time of year when I'm especially happy to be living on Estabrook Road. The nearby Estabrook Woods, with its many trails for hiking, cross-country skiing and observing nature, has provided great pleasure over the 38 years I've lived here. But there is one special day of the year that stands out above all others and that is Patriots Day, April 19. While townspeople gather on the Town Green at 6:30 a.m. to join the Carlisle Minutemen for the reenactment of the 1775 march to Concord to fight the British at the Old North Bridge, I share an early morning cup of coffee with neighbors and friends as we wait for the Minutemen to make that turn off Bellows Hill Road onto Estabrook. It's usually about 7:45 that they arrive, and that's when we join in with all the others and follow the Minutemen heading into the woods onto the Estabrook Trail.
If I didn't live on this route that the Minutemen took to Concord so many years ago I would surely make my way to the center of Town to take part in the reenactment. But I can't imagine that the farmer who might had lived at this location at the beginning of the Revolutionary War would have done anything but grab his musket, powder, and shot and join in with his fellow patriots as they went marching by on that well-worn trail to Concord.
As usual, I'll be watching for old friends and long-time Minutemen, Charlie Forsberg, Gabor Miskolczy, Stuart Harvey, Geoff Larson, Parkman Howe and Captain Scott Evans. There will be Karen Liessner Lamoreaux and Charlene Hinton, those famous Carlisle Minutewomen who carry a musket rather than a basket of food to nourish their husbands on the way to the battlefield.
Wherever you live in Carlisle, Patriots Day is not a holiday to be missed. The opportunity to take part in the reliving of American history should be treasured. As the author and historian David McCullough reminded his audience in a speech he gave in Lowell last spring, the people who live here in New England should look around and realize how lucky they are to be a part of the living history of this nation.
Monday, April 19 is a special day for Carlisle families and friends. Get to bed early Sunday evening, and the next morning be ready to join the Carlisle Minutemen on the Town Green or on their route down School Street to Bellows Hill Road, onto Estabrook Road and into the woods, as they make their way to the battle at the Old North Bridge. It's your chance to be part of that living history, "the shot heard round the world."
Read at your own risk
I grew up in one of the top ten cities on the hit list for nuclear extermination during the Cold War. We earned this distinction by being home to an atomic power laboratory and nuclear research and development facility. The lab employed a good number of the science majors from local colleges, including my sister. Because the job required a top secret security clearance, she and all the members of her immediate family were investigated. I had no objection. I was only in high school at the time and had little time to accumulate any history, let alone any suspicious history, unless you count one anti-war march which entitled me to miss a half day of school. Moreover, expanding the scope of inquiry to include me seemed entirely reasonable under the circumstances.
It so happens that my brother recently took a job with a government defense contractor in Washington, D.C. No surprise, this job also required a top secret security clearance. He passed, and presumably, so did I, even though I never knew anything about the search into my past that I'm assuming happened. No one informed me; certainly, no one asked my consent. But again, this level of inquiry seemed reasonable to me under the circumstances.
Coming even closer to home, each workday I ride the commuter rail to North Station, walk through the "red zone" and then the "gray zone" to my office just outside the perimeter of the security circle designated for the Democratic National Convention. I know people who work in the inner circle who joke that they will be subject to spontaneous strip searches during the week of the convention. Guess what? Given the heightened risk associated with this event, with the possibility of being attacked with radioactive "dirty bombs" or with actual atomic weapons stolen or bought from poorly-secured stockpiles in the former Soviet Union, I can imagine a situation in which it would be reasonable to detain someone, search their bags, and even their person.
The question is not whether these searches should be done. They're a necessary part of law enforcement. The real question is whether the "war on terror" justifies lowering the threshold for zeroing in on suspects (i.e., you or me) by expanding the kinds of privacy-intruding surveillance beyond what was in effect prior to 9/11. We heard at the fascinating panel discussion on the Patriot Act sponsored by the Carlisle Civil Liberties Committee that the law is not supposed to target someone just for the exercise of First Amendment rights. If the law makes you think twice before you criticize the government or make an inquiry into an off-the-beaten-track subject (which I submit it has,) it has already had a chilling effect on the free exercise of those rights. More to the point, are terrorists likely to be buying The Complete Idiot's Guide to Combining Fertilizer and Diesel Oil to Make Bombs, or checking such a title out of the public library?
In my view, the terrorist cause has been helped, not hurt, by our government's willingness to limit Constitutional protections for American citizens, in the cause of fighting terrorism.
© 2004 The