Mark Charles: A Native voice on the war on terror
I am afraid that in our efforts to protect ourselves and our way of life our country have taken several steps towards becoming the very thing which we claim to be fighting against. I am afraid we have become so preoccupied with assuring our own safety that we have forgotten about our Declaration of Independence and many of the amendments to our Constitution. In 1776 our Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed. This was a radical document declaring that "All Men are created Equal… and have certain unalienable rights", and it was upon this document that our country was founded. It was upon this document that we fought for our freedom from Britain and formed a new Republic.

However, we immediately showed our selfish ambition and lust for power by beginning to limit, in our Constitution, who "All Men" actually referred to. It is obvious that our founding fathers did not truly believe that "All Men" referred to humankind because they immediately made a distinction in regards to 'FREE' men and slaves, as well as to 'INDIANS' and WOMEN. Why? Because it no longer served their purposes to state that 'All Men' were created equal. Now that they were free, they had to narrowly define this term, lest the slaves, women or Indians organize their own people and begin to demand our own unalienable rights.

As a country we have a huge identity problem. We claim to believe in human rights and freedom and are very quick to jump on our soap box in order to point out the abuses of these rights by other countries. But we have absolutely no integrity. Our country is continually abusing the rights of others and we seem to be completely blind to it.

As a Native American (Navajo), I am a part of a community that daily must deal with the consequences of the blindness of our country and our Government. I am a part of a community that knows from a personal and historical perspective that no matter what the United States government says; it truly does not believe that 'All men are created equal'. Am I complaining about this? No. Do I feel like I am a victim? No. But what I want is for our United States to decide who we are and what we are about. Do we believe in human rights and freedom? Or are we just another country who is only concerned with its own survival? Are we fighting the terrorists because we truly stand for something different? Or are we fighting the terrorists merely because they are fighting us and we do not like to lose?

I think this war on terror needs to bring to the surface a debate which is long overdue in our country, and that debate is "Who is the United States of America and what do we think of our own Declaration of Independence?” I know our founding fathers wrote this document, but I could point to numerous historical instances such as slavery, American Indian policies and internment camps (to name a few) and argue that they truly did not believe it. So what is this document that we have and what should we do with it? Is it a goal, a statement of intent, or is it merely a document produced and signed by a group of men who ignored their own short and unjust history in this land and put on paper some statements that they thought would best serve their own purposes. To be completely honest, as a citizen of this country and as a Native American, I am not sure. But we have it now and claim to base our freedom and our republic upon it, so we need to decide what to do with it. And I think this war can be a defining moment for our country and this document.

Since our country has declared a ‘War on Terror’ our government has continually chosen to reduce the rights of its citizens and blatantly ignore the rights of others, for one purpose - survival. They are forgetting that, once we begin fighting for nothing other than survival, there is very little that separates us from our enemies. It is our belief in human rights and freedom that should separate us from Al-Qaida. We should not be fighting for our survival; we should instead be fighting for our Declaration of Independence and our amended Constitution. We should be fighting for the statement; "All men are created equal".

And this fight cannot be won merely by killing all dissenters. It will be won in how we treat those dissenters. This war will be won, not in how much intelligence we gather, but in how we gather it. This War on Terror cannot be won if in the end our country is still intact but our government has the right to secretly spy, and gather information on its citizens. Instead, this war will be won, even if our country should parish but history would write that we perished not because our army was not strong enough, but because we refused to fight merely for our survival. We instead fought for something much bigger. We fought for our belief that all men are created equal and have certain unalienable rights, including the very men who were terrorizing us and fighting against us.

Mark Charles, Navajo, can be reached at

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