The reactions of some of Ojai's townspeople to our weekly peace vigil have been really surprising. The following editorial, written by a filmmaker, started a volley of letter writing in the local paper.

American Last-ers
by Leland P. Hammerschmitt, Ojai Valley News Contributor
January 16, 2002

It has only been 120 days since the attack on our American homeland, but already the political extremists on the left can no longer keep their acidic ammunition dry.

The default political settling of "American the Wicked" has emerged under their pretense of a "new peace movement." While they are most certainly entitled to their viewpoint by our wonderful First Amendment, we should not be misled by their narcissistic demonstrations of "we love peace more than thou" in Libbey Park (or elsewhere). Yet to dismiss them as merely misguided and naive undervalues their tactics and their ultimate aim: to undermine and destroy the will of the American citizenry to fight our war of self-defense and righteous retribution.

The radical, liberal-left's opening gambit is to assert their presumption of holding the moral high ground. After all, who can be against "peace"? I challenge their assertion of high-mindedness. What is offensive, is their attempt to disguise their efforts in utopian rhetoric that purports to advocate "peace," but whose ultimate purpose is to subvert the will of the American people: incremental step by incremental step.

To be clear, most liberals do not share this radical view in very much the same way that I as a libertarian-conservative, do not share the radicalism of the religious right (or the American Taliban as I choose to label our own homegrown fundamentalists).

"Beware the true-believer" is an excellent core belief. They are always willing to sacrifice you and I (sic) in their pursuit of the purity of their cause. The radical liberal-left is always willing to abandon America in their pursuit of pacifism and their knee-jerk faulting of America. The radical left's chief complaint can be deconstructed as thus: America has not been perfect, therefore it is not worthy. America has had her historical faults, but the left's argument must be confronted with the question: Compared to what?

We need not wrap ourselves in the flag to counter the liberal-left's "America Last" philosophy or surrender the moral high ground. It is ours to hold. Defense of America does not equate to jingoism, which is to be rejected. Note to City Council: It's OK to now take down the flags on Ojai Avenue. America is in our hearts, not in a public display.) We merely have to apply the common sense argument for the right to self-defense and to hold fast to the realization that the expressed goal of our enemy is to kill you and I (sic).

Our enemy is real. The evildoers' hope is to destroy America as a country and democracy as a philosophy. As England's Prime Minister Tony Blain so eloquently stated in his speech at Britain's Labor Party convention: "Does anyone doubt that they would have killed 70,000 instead of 7,000 (the feared death toll then) if they only could?" When attributing the causes of 9-11, the "American Last-ers" employ the political verbage (sic) of Marx-Groucho, not Karl: "Are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes!" The last-ers present tired arguments of America as the cause for all global ills and the Third World's current condition, as a rationale for the attack as being deserved. This must be as forcefully countered as much as our intellectual rejection of our American Taliban's Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson's repulsive rationalization that America deserved 9-11 as a form of divine retribution. Our "non) lying eyes" tell us a simple truth: that nearly 3,600 Americans (including the heroic rescuers and, lest we forget, the Pentagon victims) were killed for the crime of simply being an American and for showing up for work.

I will never forget watching the video (aired on the Univision Network on 9-12) of those dozens of trapped Americans who were forced to jump into history from atop the World Trade Center Towers: some hand-in-hand, others desperately using coats as forlorn, ersatz paraglider wings.

To that handful of "peace" demonstrators in Libbey Park: if their cause were "just," where were they before 9-11? Surely, the world's condition, pre 9-11 demanded their "peace" advocacy then! Yet they saw fit to emerge only when America needed to defend itself. The painful truth is that they do not wish America well. What is repulsive is their implied assertion that this nation's response to 9-11 is less "moral" than their "higher" cause. Hogwash!

As Americans, we must tolerate their despicable dissent and their nascent naive beliefs. After all, despite their repulsive pretensions, this is America and dissent is very American. But we need not, indeed, we must not, let the black-shrouded demonstrators' moral pretensions at Libbey Park go unchallenged. The left is always willing to undercut America. We must not be cowed by the false equanimity of these America last-ers. Our cause is just!

Leland P. Hammershmitt is an Ojai resident and chair of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce's Governmental Affairs Committee.

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