…But I’m going to write it anyway.
As a young teenager protesting the Vietnam war, I had a huge poster in my room with a picture of a Vietnam-era peace demonstration and the quote,
It is a sin to be silent when it is your duty to protest.
It is my duty to protest.
I am only one generation removed from the Holocaust, and I wonder how many millions of lives might have been saved if ordinary Germans and Italians had protested and organized in large numbers against the gradual encroachments on their liberty that provided the legal framework for Nazi and Fascist repression.
Earlier this week, while the rest of us were merrily celebrating the arrival of 2012, President Obama signed a truly wretched piece of legislation: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In the words of one commentator whose post is entitled “R.I.P. Bill of Rights 1789 – 2011,” this law
grants the U.S. military the “legal” right to conduct secret kidnappings of U.S. citizens, followed by indefinite detention, interrogation, torture and even murder. This is all conducted completely outside the protection of law, with no jury, no trial, no legal representation and not even any requirement that the government produce evidence against the accused. It is a system of outright government tyranny against the American people, and it effectively nullifies the Bill of Rights.
Signed into law by the same President Obama who, as a candidate, was the champion of liberty and “change” who would close the illegal prison at Guantanamo, rein in the torturers of Abu Ghraib, and quickly end the US presence in Iraq. The same Obama who had said he would veto this dreadful bill. (Yes, the soldiers have come home. But it took three years and we still have thousands of “advisors” there, along with a highly fortified embassy in Baghdad that could easily be the nerve center for US command and control.) Guantanamo is still open, the climate of anti-Muslim racism persists, and the torturers at the highest levels (e.g., Cheney and Rumsfeld) have never been held to account.)
So I am protesting. Even though it puts my own liberty potentially at risk.
In his signing statement, Obama said he would…
Two problems with that. Number 1, he has not shown himself trustworthy in upholding those values in the past.
And second, there is no guarantee that the presidency won’t be delivered to a much more repressive figure with no such scruples. The contenders on the Republican side include several sworn enemies of freedom for those of us who don’t happen to be straight, conservative, and some repressive flavor of Christian: Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum (in alphabetical order).
This is merely the latest in a gradual erosion of our civil liberties committed during both Democratic and Republican governments; two other examples (among many) are the shift over the last two decades of ballot counting to insecure, easily manipulated, and highly suspect electronic counting devices that in some cases don’t even HAVE a paper trail (and that led directly to the disastrous worst-in-history administration of George W. Bush) and the citizens United Supreme Court decision that nakedly grants corporations the power to buy elections.
Yes I protest.
I have never forgiven myself for not doing enough to stop the coup that let Bush seize power in 2000—in part because I didn’t see Gore as any great champion of my values, in part because I could not foresee just how bad that eight years was going to be—but mostly because I was feeling too shut down and disempowered to help organize a movement like we saw in Mexico, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere.
I still don’t feel like I can personally organize a movement. But I can at least protest, and send some money to a civil liberties group. I hope you will too.