07/01/2005 03:52 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

4th of July Thoughts: Is Dissent Unpatriotic?

As we head into the long 4th of July weekend, together with thoughts of fireworks and cookouts, my mind is turning to questions of patriotism and national pride…

Given the administration’s ongoing with-us-or-against-us mindset, patriotism is a lot more complicated than it should be. The Bushies want us to believe that you can’t rally around the flag while still expressing dissent over the acts being perpetrated in the name of that flag. Which, of course, you most certainly can. Far from dissent and love of country being contradictory, in many ways dissent is the most patriotic of patriotic acts. Ben Franklin was absolutely right: “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech”.

The thing that got me thinking about all this was a completely under-reported exchange (thanks to blogger dhonig at Mydd for flagging the story) that took place last week when Don Rumsfeld appeared in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and was questioned by Robert Byrd).

The money quote was delivered by Byrd, tired of Rummy’s preening: "I don't mean to be discourteous,” said the Senator, “but I've heard enough of your smart answers. Get off your high horse when you come up here… We represent the American people and they are asking questions. They haven't been told the truth. The administration says we're unpatriotic if we ask questions, but that's our job."

Indeed it is. It’s all of our jobs to keep asking questions… and demanding answers. Even if it means causing a Roman Candle to go off in Rumsfeld’s head.

So why haven’t we heard more about this story? As dhonig wonders, isn’t a U.S. Senator telling the Secretary of Defense "I've heard enough of your smart answers" real news?

Maybe when the media get back from Aruba, they can look into it.