This latest civil-rights outrage has me really depressed. Not only does the current government assert the unreviewable, absolute right to unilaterally label US citizens as “enemy combatants” and then hold them indefinitely, without charges or a trial, but it now asserts the ability to unilaterally banish citizens, rendering them stateless, without charges or independent review of any type.
In this New World Order being erected by Bush, what does it even mean to claim that we have the right to remain silent, if you can be barred from the country unless you submit to police interrogation? What does it mean to claim that we have the right to a speedy and fair trial by our peers if the label of “enemy combatant” lands you in prison until the government decides it’s done with you? What does it mean to claim that our structure of government guarantees impartial judicial review and oversight, when the government insists that its actions are immune from review?
Here’s what I think: I think these rights are hollowed out and made meaningless when the government can ignore them with impunity, as it has been doing. I’m not particularly prone to alarmism or hyperbole, but I think it’s no exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the overt and rapid dismantling of Americans’ basic civil rights. This is being done right before our eyes, and what is worse, with the tacit consent of many of us.
Every time we accept the government’s lie that it has become necessary (in its sole evaluation) to shred our basic liberties to “keep us safe”, we have failed in our crucial role as a sovereign people. In this country, the populace is the wellspring of power, not the government, but we are being led around by our noses by officials whose mantra is secrecy and whose claim is that they alone hold absolute and unreviewable authority over all of us.
I am honestly so alarmed and appalled that I’m not really sure what to do anymore. In a world where Bush explains that a Federal District Court ruling is wrong, not because it mis-analyzes or mis-applies the law, but because it does not reflect “the world in which we live”, it looks to me like the basic pillars of American society are being dynamited. From where I’m sitting, the last bastion still remaining of our three-branch system of government is the fact that the Bush administration has not overtly declared that they will ignore judicial rulings. All their efforts to strip or evade jurisdiction, along with the contemptuous theories of unfettered authority that they foist on the courts, though, come awfully close to accomplishing that final breach.
We are now, I firmly believe, demonstrably and verifiably close to having a king in this country. The grudging and superficial respect still granted to judicial rulings is the last levee standing, and it is being chipped away at on all sides. We will have a king when something akin to “The Supreme Court have made their ruling; now let them enforce it” passes the lips of a Bush official. Of course, as a last slap to a society previously constructed and run by reason, the final calamity will sound nothing like that. It will sound like jurisdiction-stripping legislation passed by a rubber-stamp Congress, such as the measures already being discussed to immunize the military against prosecution for war crimes. It will sound like ever-more preposterous claims that the government’s current actions aren’t actually forbidden by judicial rulings. We can see this already in the nonsensical claims made by the so-called Department of Justice that the Hamdan Supreme Court Ruling, which flatly rejected the government’s claims of unfettered power, has no bearing whatsoever on the government’s ongoing criminal, warrantless wiretapping of Americans.
The death knell for our secular, balanced-power democracy will be sounded before a somnambulant, unconcerned, and flaccidly assenting silent majority. To pass off the final outrage, it will only be necessary to whip up the basest xenophobic terror. The Final Dismantling will be performed by bureaucrats promising liberty from a “new fascism” by imposing one. They will promise peace through war. They will promise freedom through arbitrary detention, and human rights through torture. They will label thoughtful discussion as treason, and careful analysis as unserious.
Sound familiar? That’s because most of their work is already done.
Have a nice day.