I spent the second half of my Canadian vacation in Montreal, so my Traveling Companion could attend Anticipation, the 67th annual world sci-fi convention. One discussion panel, which had a title like “Legal Systems Past, Present and Future,” had as a panelist a Scottish writer named Charles Stross who, at one point, while discussing some particularly nasty laws of days gone by, said “If you think the U.S. has draconian laws now …” My now-required-to-return-home passport weighed heavy in my purse when I heard this; damn Ronald Reagan, I thought, whose ramping up of the war on drugs led to a country formerly known as a bastion of freedom being known instead for things like “draconian laws.” Damn the second George Bush, whose cowardly response to the 9/11 attacks turned this up to 11. And damn Barack Obama for reneging on his promises to reverse this trend.
These patriotic platitudes remained in my head a day or so later, when I watched Cory Doctorow receive his Prometheus Award for best freedom-themed fiction (for his novel Little Brother). It’s a fine book to be sure, but has no goddamned business being considered “relevant” in a country that labels itself “free.” Of course, that’s the country’s fault, not the author’s.
During the question-and-answer portions of these panels I kept my hand down, because I couldn’t think of a non-plaintive way to ask the only question on my mind: “Yes, our country and the entire Western world is on the wrong path these days. What the hell can we do to stop it? What can anyone do?”
Do you guys have any suggestions? I’m clean out of ideas.