BCDP Monthly Community Meeting
May 10, 2018, 7:00 pm. 
Kerr Community Center
1308 Walnut St., Bastrop

Will we falter and lose our freedoms?

A few days ago, you might have enjoyed the day off from work with a family barbecue or maybe you got a great deal on a mattress. Unfortunately, the meaning of Memorial Day has been lost to most of us, myself included. Memorial Day honors those who died fighting in a war. The day is intended to remind us of the sacrifice so many men and women gave to protect our freedoms here.

Today the majority of the Americans are disconnected from the consequences of war because less than 1 percent of our population is in the military. Because so few of us have skin in the game, I believe we sometimes take our freedoms for granted.

Now we’re dealing with a different type of war. It is an incredibly sophisticated form of cyber activity and propaganda that the Russians have perfected over the years. They use a multifaceted approach to challenge America’s democratic processes, institutions and international leadership.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) put out a report called, “The Kremlin Playbook.” It says Russia seeks to corrode democracies by deepening political divides. The Russians stir the pot and heighten anxieties because they know that when they trigger chaos, they weaken us.

Unfortunately, CSIS found that the Russian tactics have worked very well. Now, Central Europe is more sympathetic to Russian policy approaches, and the region’s democratic institutions have been diminished.

Abraham Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” I remember hearing that years ago and thinking that could never happen here. But today, I’m not so sure. I feel the great divide among my own friends and family and the inability to agree on what the truth is.

We just endured the Russians interfering in our election, possibly with assistance from some people in President Donald Trump’s campaign. But we can’t seem to agree on the facts surrounding this heinous attack on our democracy. How can we protect our freedoms if we don’t know the truth? Sadly, it sounds like Russia was successful.

Our Intelligence Community Assessment said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to undermine public faith in our democratic process and aspired to help Donald Trump win the election. Also, Former CIA Director John Brennan testified that he saw intelligence linking Russia to people in the Trump campaign.

Elections are the bedrock of our democracy. Now we can’t be sure how much influence a hostile nation had in choosing our leader.

Our election was manipulated by a man who holds onto his own power by poisoning his opposition or having them gunned down in the streets. You would expect our president to demand Putin be punished and call for a full investigation of this attack on our democracy.

Trump says, “Russia is fake news,” and some people believe Trump over our intelligence agencies. Now the president is considering lifting the sanctions that Obama placed on the Russians for meddling in our election.

The integrity of our democracy is in danger, yet we’re so divided by party lines that we can’t tackle the real threat. Defending our country isn’t the sole responsibility of our military. We all have an obligation to our nation and to our soldiers who give so much.

You don’t have to travel to a foreign county or send a loved one. Nor do you have to sacrifice a limb or your eyes or your life. All you have to do, in the safety of your home, is simply seek the truth.

Joni Ashbrook lives in Bastrop and is a guest columnist for the Bastrop Advertiser.

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