Demockracy in America
A darkness has fallen across the land. Everyone, everywhere, is under constant surveillance. Some people are afraid to send their children to school, or even to leave their houses. If you are stopped by police and can’t produce your papers, you can be hauled off to indefinite detention, without your family knowing where you are. Anyone caught photographing the police face arrest. A fictional account of life in Nazi Germany or some communist dictatorship? A science-fiction film of some future dystopian society? No, this America, and it’s happening right now.
Every phone call, text, tweet, or email you send is being recorded, filtered, and stored by a host of intelligence-gathering agencies. Much of the intel is contracted out to private security companies, with little or no oversight or accountability. When you go to the mall or the market there are surveillance cameras everywhere you look, watching everything you do. Yes But if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about (other than a total loss of privacy).
One of our founding legal principles is that we are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But when you go to the airport to fly somewhere, you can leave your civil liberties at the door. You are now guilty until you prove you’re not a terrorist. You can go through the full-body x-ray scan, without knowing how much radiation you are receiving, because the TSA refuses to release their test data. Or you can have your most intimate parts groped by a total stranger, wondering how many other private parts those rubber gloves have touched. Yes but it’s for everyone’s safety. Do you feel safer? While you’re reading this, someone is getting on a plane with smuggled drugs in one of their body cavities. What makes you think they can’t just as easily have a couple ounces of C4 up there? Now how safe do you feel?
This is the compete text of the 4th Amendment. I’d like you to read it carefully: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED. Yet in New York City over the past six months or so, over 600,000 people have been subjected to the new “stop and frisk” procedures. Police can stop and frisk anyone, any time they feel like it. Oh, don’t worry, if you’re white you probably won’t be bothered. Does that sound like a free country to you?
In many states, draconian anti-immigration laws have been passed, making people afraid to send their children to school, or even to leave their houses. Yes but these people are here illegally. Yes, and employers depend on them to work for slave wages without complaining. What ever happened to those words by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, something about bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free? To paraphrase Saint Reagan, Mr. Right-winger, tear down this statue! These laws don’t just affect immigrants, legal or not, but every person of color. You have to go shopping, or visiting someone at the hospital, but you can’t find your birth certificate. You will need your papers, because if a cop stops you and says “Your papers, please!” you may be indefinitely detained, unable to contact your family or an attorney (assuming you know one. Is this your idea of what America should be? It sure as hell isn’t mine.
All around the country, there are people peacefully protesting what the hell is going on in this land of the free. They are being beaten by truncheons, or attacked with chemical weapons (forbidden to be used in wartime by the Geneva Convention) by emotionally unstable police officers. And since when did we need a permit to protest? The First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceably assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances. The First Amendment IS my Goddamned permit! By the way, there isn’t anything in there about being herded to some “free speech zone” behind some chicken-wire, often miles from the target of the protest. Yes but there are always some bad apples . . . This is America? Are you really okay with this?
In Long Beach, CA, officers can question, detain, or arrest anyone taking photos “without apparent aesthetic value,” the aesthetic value to be determined by the officer. So it would seem that part of officer training in Long Beach, CA includes seminars in art criticism. In several states it’s illegal to photograph police officers during performance of their duties. There’s even a case of one person arrested for photographing police arresting someone else for photographing police during yet another arrest. This is absolute madness.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Emergency Financial Managers for several cities he has deemed insolvent. The EMF has ultimate authority to dissolve unions, school districts, even the city council and Mayor’s offices, or just ignore them. The unfortunate Americans in those areas no longer have representative government in their own towns. I don’t know about you, I have a pretty good idea of what democracy looks like, and this is nowhere close.
After 9/11 this country went completely nuts. More properly, those in power saw our vulnerability and took advantage of it. The USA Patriot Act — an Orwellian term if ever I heard one — allowed the FBI (or the CIA? Or the NSA?) to look at your financial or library records, or to perform “sneak and peak” searches of your home, without a warrant. Did you know that, except for a few provisions, that the USA Patriot Act is now permanent?
The President (or any future President) now has authority to have anyone anywhere in the world assassinated, including U.S. citizens. It’s already happened. No charges, no trial, no access to a lawyer. With the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, anyone anywhere, including U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, can be picked up by the military and indefinitely detained. The justification for these criminal acts can be as vague as “providing material support” to any organization on some intelligence agency’s list of terrorist groups. Yes but that’s because they could be helping the terrorists! Oh really? I would advise you to be careful about donating money to a charity with a name like the Palestinian Children’s Fund. It could be goodbye Charlie for you. If, while you’re been reading all this, you found yourself thinking “Yes but,” I think you’ve already lost the argument. If we let anyone get away with just one “Yes but” the floodgates will have opened.
Whatever you want to call this, you can’t call it democracy. What, then? Maybe a plutocracy? Kleptocracy? Corporatocracy? Pathocracy is more like it. I don’t think we can call this America anymore, either, because it’s something else. We need to come up with a new name for this country. How about Fascistan? The Corporate States of America? US Corp? Perhaps something softer, more reassuring, like the Homeland? It sounds so much like Motherland or Fatherland.
Well, we still have our guns, they’ll never take those away, cold dead fist, etc. If they ever come for you, whether a swat team or combat marines, they’ll probably have an assault helicopter overhead too, and there you’ll be, standing there with your Glock-9. Good luck getting a round off, pal. Look at all that’s been done, and all without taking our guns. It gives us a false sense of security. What better tyranny than over people who still think they’re free? Read They Thought They Were Free, by Milton Mayer, sometime. He interviewed several Germans after WWII, and was told about how each little step towards fascism and tyranny was so small and incremental, it was hardly noticed. Then one day you look around and you finally notice that everything about your country has changed.
How could all this have happened? We let it happen, that’s how. We let ourselves be mesmerized, distracted, by sports, porn, “reality” TV shows, video games, and seductive, hand-held, masturbatory gadgets. We kept looking the other way, we were too busy and couldn’t be bothered. Well, we’re in the soup now. I think that none of this is accidental. There is a purpose to it all, to train us to be submissive. That’s the kind of America that the psychopaths running the show want. We must not give it to them.
What can we do though? We can and must resist. There are many different ways to resist. Non-violent civil disobedience has the greatest moral force, but it opens one to injury and abuse. However we choose to resist, we must never lose faith, we must never lose heart, we must never give up the struggle. The Occupy movement has shown potential, but I doubt it can be truly effective until we have the kind of numbers in the street that watch a Super Bowl, millions upon millions. If it comes to that, the power elite will probably feel they have no choice but to engineer some kind of “emergency” so they can declare martial law. Even then, we cannot give in. We will win, as we always have. Tyrannies cannot hold power; they all eventually tumble down. In the long run, history teaches us that love and peace will always prevail. Unfortunately, we live in the short run.