Thursday, August 11, 2005

Giving America Away to Terror

Some of the most level headed writers, thinkers and academicians are using the word 'fascism' to describe our current government. I am not wrong to be afraid. I am not over-reacting! We are losing America and it is not the terrorists who have taken it. We are giving it away to the power drunk crooks whose god is $ because they have mastered the art of saying 'Boo!' I spent my childhood and young adulthood with the strong sense of someone looking over my shoulder and making judgments on what I was reading or what I was watching on TV. These people had the power of approval and disapproval over me which is a strong force and not to be taken lightly. But they did not have the power of imprisonment, nor of life or death over me. They used the specter of God’s power for the purpose and that served to keep me in line until I was past thirty years old. I have fought a hard battle for the freedom of my own mind and conscience and it has been only a decade since I wrested them from the specters created by the religion I was raised in. Ever since then I have watched in horror as those very freedoms were being called into question by various political groups from both the right and the left. I fear the recent renewal of the PATRIOT ACT has sealed our fate.

Some of my earliest memories are of scenes from WWII movies that I saw unbeknownst to my parents and grandparents who were watching them while the children were safely playing in the other room or another corner of the room where the TV was. The adults may have thought we were too busy with our own games, our coloring books, our Tinker-Toys, our Chutes and Ladders. But I soon mastered the art of sneaking peaks and then long eye-popping gazes at the TV screen which so mesmerized the adults. TV was as much a magnate for my eyes from the first time I saw one. We didn’t have one at home until I was nine and no color TV until I was eighteen so whenever I was where one was I was paying attention even if it seemed I wasn’t. I learned early to pretend to be occupied elsewhere and unaware of the TV else one of the adults would send me in the other room. Even then, I would sneak back. Slither on the floor behind the overstuffed chair and peak around it. Or go to the bathroom and dawdle as I walked thru the dining room that gave me line-of-sight of the TV. And dawdle on my way back or even slide to the floor around the corner where I could see and not be seen. I would even crawl under the dining room table among the chair and table legs. The things I saw then were as often funny as scary. Or at least the grownups thought so. I appreciated the slapstick physical humor for the most part (i.e. Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis and Lucille Ball) but often the spoken jokes left me clueless. It was as interesting to watch the grownups reacting to what was on the TV as it was to watch it myself.

The scenes I saw which are relevant to this essay were from WWII movies that showed men in dark uniforms, wearing dark helmets and carrying long black sticks. They busted down peoples doors in the middle of the night. Drug them out of bed. Drug them into the street. Loaded them on trains. They ransacked their homes. They tossed bushels of books out of windows and built bonfires with them. Even then, before I was yet seven, I loved books more than life. (Well at least more than eating, sleeping, playing, bathing etc so it amounts to the same.) I was horrified.
I’ve been haunted by those scenes ever since. Scenes of jack-boots marching down residential streets, the helmeted men with big sticks and guns breaking down doors and herding people into the street in their pajamas. Those men found hiding places where women held infants with a hand over their mouths. They yanked the mother out and threw the baby against a wall. They threw burning rags inside bottles through the windows of bookstores and into the rooms where printing presses were printing newspapers. and into churches. (Actually they were probably synagogues but I didn’t know that word then nor the significance of the difference and the rooms on fire often reminded me of the building our congregation met in which we did not call a church so at that time I probably didn’t think the word ’church’ but either Meeting Hall or Bible Chapel which we used for our house of worship.)

These scenes stayed with me. They filtered into my dreams and became a part of who I am. At three, four. five and six, I was too young to know with my head the meaning of what was depicted. But I knew that the adults in my life were watching theses stories like they were as real to them as the room we sat in. On more than one occasion I saw my Mama weeping, my Dad patting her knee. I was too young then to know the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Or the difference between fiction based on historical events and fiction that was more fantasy than fact. But these scenes bit so deep for me that I never was able to remember them or view them or similar scenes later without shivering deep in my soul. My vivid imagination went to work on the memories of these scenes and wove them into my memories of my own life so that I sometimes thought that I had lived through one of those scenes myself. I was a small child hiding in a hole under a floor. A little boy hiding in a hole in the wall behind a heavy bookcase. I was a woman hugging a stack of books to my breast until a black stick knocked against my head and the books were yanked from my arms and thrown in the fire. I was a mother who held her hand to the mouth of a crying baby to quiet it until it was still and floppy like a rag doll.

When I was about sixteen I was allowed to go on a double date with a girlfriend and her boyfriend’s best friend. Even though the boys were both over eighteen. I was quite surprised by my parents agreement but I think it was the movie we were going to see that convinced them. It was the movie based on Corrie ten Booms experience in a Nazi concentration camp after being caught hiding Jews in her home. It was the story of her witnessing for Christ among the prisoners and the guards. Mom had read the book as had I, and I thought I completely understood what to expect. But this had been only the third big screen theater movie I had ever seen and I had no clue how overpowering the visual and audio effects, the moving images, the oversized human figures acting out the violent events in a dark room could be. I was transported. I was stunned like a rabbit in headlights. After the movie my friend had to sit with me in the lounge outside the ladies' room, talking me down as I bawled uncontrollably and shook and shivered so fiercely I could not walk.

This is one of the reasons why I am so distraught over what the current administration and the far right is doing to our country. We are on our way to a police state if we aren’t already there. Most of the average Americans just won’t be aware of the danger until they’ve already crossed the invisible line and then find the police knocking at their own door. It disturbs me that more people were not horrified by the stories of the FBI and the Home Land Security Agency showing up on college campuses all over after there has been a peace rally, or seminars on the Middle East or Islam. They requested lists of attendees and speakers. And if these speakers or the organizers of the event are an organization other than the school, they want lists of all the members of that organization. Is that scary or what? The government is compiling lists of people who are showing a propensity to question their opinions, methods, policies etc. Once you get on that list then what? The possibilities terrify me. In the name of fighting terrorism or in the name of making America safe or saving democracy we are destroying that which makes America the blessing that it once was for its citizens and all the citizens of the world. Without freedom, what is America?

Today I know much more than I did as a child about the power invested in the state authorities. And I am aware of the advances of technology since then. I’ve read Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum and equivalent NF accounts that purport to show what the new technologies are capable of in the wrong hands. And this knowledge worries me a thousand fold more than the thought of another 9/11. So it is that it is the new laws and the new methods of law enforcement since 9/11--what seems to have become the new normal--that terrify me more than the events of 9/11. Maybe that wouldn’t be true if I’d been in New York or D.C. on that day. Maybe. But I think not. My imagination is as vigorous as it was at three and six. I can still imagine the horror of that day even though I witnessed it only via endless replays of the video. But I am more terrified of the men in dark uniforms and dark helmets with black sticks that bust down doors in the middle of the night. Men who throw books on bonfires and babies against brick walls. Men who throw people to the ground and strip their clothes off and then herd them into small chambers that slowly fill with deadly gas. Men who would club your face to a pulp rather than let you speak.

They have only gotten bolder since the election, believing it gave them a mandate. How much bolder do they have to get before we all sit up and take notice than to target the Quakers as an organization of interest in the war against terror? It is because they intend to equate the whole concept of protest and dissent with terrorist activities. Thus they have loosely defined, for legal purposes, terrorism as any activity intended to intimidate for the purpose of achieving a political change--change of leaders, laws or policy. Large crowds can be seen as 'intimidating' in and of themselves even when they are comprised of people with strong convictions against violence. Think about this. If protest and dissent equal treason and even the Quakers are already blatantly targeted by authorities as persons of interest in the war against terror--who will be exempt from suspicion?

And so it begins:

Translator convicted of aiding terrorist
Esp. take note of: Professors from "City University of New York, where Mr. Yousry was an adjunct lecturer, testified on his behalf at the trial. His academic colleagues were alarmed that prosecutors had used excerpts from early drafts of Mr. Yousry's unfinished dissertation, seized by federal agents from his computer, and books on militant Islam found in his library to accuse him in court of radical Islamic sympathies."
The possession of a book is enough to proove your sympathies with its author? In America? Since when?

War Plans Drafted To Counter Terror Attacks in U.S.
re military plans for use of troops on home soil for crowd control and assistance of local law enforcement and emergency responders in case of another terrorist attack.
--see also: Russ Baker's August 8 post, Army Troops In US Streets?, for commentary on this article

Patriot Games

Justified Murder: Don't Ever Become a Terror Suspect!
(As if You Have a Choice)

Keeping Watch Over the Wrong People

Libraries at the Center of Efforts to Change Patriot Act

Schwarzenegger -- People's Governor or Flouter of First Amendment Rights?

Parts of Patriot Act are Offensive, American Bar Association Says

Americans Deserve Look at US Emergency Defense Plans
This is an article by Andrew Greeley, an author of fiction and NF who has been at the top of my fav list for almost twenty years. He is a Catholic priest and a sociologist. He is very level headed, a true academic. And even he is using the word fascism: ' ''Fascism'' is not an exaggeration. It is, among other things, a political philosophy that says that the leader is above the law, that a commander in chief in a time of war has unlimited power in the name of national security. This is a claim that has been made seriously by lawyers in the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice Department in recent years. '

Who's A Terrorist?

Destroying Democracy
Re the tactic in Congress of keeping the vote open until the votes the GOP require have been strongarmed

ACLU Seeking FBI Files on Activist Probes
Who's looking at you?

Fourteen Characteristics of Fascism

Misconceptions Relating to Fascism

The Rise of Pseudo Fascism
This links to part 1 of a 7 part essay by David Neiwert of Orcanus. You can follow the links at the end of each part or you can download the whole essay in PDF format from the sidebar. The same is true for the following two multi-part essays by Neiwert

Bush, the Nazis and America
4 part essay by David Neiwert

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
15 part essay by David Neiwert.


[I've been collecting links related to the theme of this essay for nearly a year. Which is how long I've been writing on it. Most of them were dead when I went to vet them in preparation for posting this. The writing of this was finally completed and edited before I left for Bend two weeks ago. I had hoped to post it as my hiatus kick-off post but the dead links prevented me. I spent this past week vetting the links and looking for alternatives for the dead ones. Thank God for This is probably still a work in progress as I intend to update the link list as I run across more.

This is a theme you can expect more of from me as this is the area in which I feel I have a truly unique contribution to the dialog. I'm not an expert in an academic sense. My expertise is experiential--my experience in having grown up in a Fundamentalist religion and then having broken free gives me a unique perspective on current events. If you are new to Joystory, you can find more of that story in the archives--especially the first several months. The struggle to free my mind from the totalitarian stranglehold it spent more than thirty years under left me with a profound sense of just how precious and rare freedom is. I will never again submit my mind to another mind's authority--either singular or collective. I would rather be dead than led!]

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