It was funny celebrating the Fourth of July this year and imagining what a U.S. solider might say when explaining to an Iraqi kid what the July 4th holiday is. “Well, it was when the people rose up against King George and kicked an unwanted imperialist army out of their land,” the solider might say. In less than 300 years the United States has gone from defying imperialism to actively defending it. Perhaps we should go back to our roots.

Speaking of our roots, the Ashcroft Justice Department has succeeded in taking away many of our rights that are guaranteed to the people in the Constitution. The Patriot Act allows law enforcement officials to conduct “sneak and peek” searches of people’s homes without a warrant – a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Justice Department is now allowed to indefinitely detain, without a trial, civilians who are suspected of fighting against the United States. The government can indefinitely detain non-citizens for almost any reason. What part of “In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial” (Sixth Amendment) doesn’t this administration understand?

But it could get a lot worse. In the so-called Patriot Act II the Justice Department seeks to destroy even more, such as taking away the citizenship of citizens who the Department decides are supporting terrorist organizations. All Americans should actively fight this – while we still have a chance.

Some misguided flag-wavers and yellow-ribbon-wearers say Americans must support America and support our troops, and we should stick by our country even if our country is doing something wrong because “it is our country.” If that is true then perhaps they should be questioning the validity of the Bush administration’s patriotism. The Bush team sought to enact the deepest cuts to veterans’ benefits since the Great Depression! This is truly sad, especially since veterans are suffering now more than ever.

Due to the Pentagon’s continued use of “depleted” uranium, which is known to cause cancer, even according to the Pentagon’s own investigations, thousands of veterans have suffered from a large variety of illnesses including cancer and Lou Gehrig’s disease. One former tank man (who handled depleted uranium shells) now has such bad central nervous system damage that his brain is literally shrinking while he remains alive. But depleted uranium and the Bush administration aren’t the only things that are hurting veterans – the anthrax vaccine, which is not approved by the FDA, has been the source of many veterans becoming so sick that they couldn’t get out of bed if their life depended on it. Of course the Pentagon says these troops are suffering from “emotional distress” and therefore extra compensation for their families is not necessary. With explanations like that who wouldn’t suffer from emotional distress?

Teddy Wood is a student in Santa Cruz, Calif. He can be reached at Scsk8er35@cs.com