Constitutional Amendments Four Through Eight, R.I.P.
American citizens suspected of terrorism, of course. But terrorism means whatever the government says it does; in 2009 came the entirely unsurprising news that the Department of Defense believes – and teaches – that protests are a form of “low-level terrorism.” In which case pepper-spraying elderly women at a peaceful protest almost makes sense.
If suspicion of “terrorism” is all it takes for the military to disappear you …. that’s enough to make me nostalgic for the days when I had “only” to worry about TSA molesting me if I ever want to fly again. How long before the next step inspires nostalgia for the days when I needed “only” fear eternal military detention, sans evidence or a trial?
Bin Laden is dead, Saddam and Gaddafi too, yet the less boogeymen we have, the more power the government grabs in the name of fighting them. What can I, personally, do about this? Nothing comes to mind. I’ve been ranting about the decay of civil rights ever since the PATRIOT Act was new – for the past half-decade, I’ve even ranted as a bona fide journalist whose rants sometimes make it into mainstream publications with infinitely more readers than my little blog here has. Singing the same song over and over, in a slightly different key each time – and always nothing changed, nothing changed, nothing changed no wait it just got worse!
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is madness. But accepting that same result I’ve been getting is capitulation. I haven’t capitulated yet – I still refuse to fly in American airspace, because I have no interest in being unfaithful to my partner and if I did it wouldn’t be with some blue-gloved TSA thugwaffle – but how much longer do we have until avoiding airplanes isn’t enough to stay out of the government’s crosshairs?
Earlier this year, when the PATRIOT Act was extended yet again, I noted in the Guardian:
A few months before Bin Laden died, Pew Research did a survey showing he and al-Qaida had already lost most of their support throughout the Muslim world. So, with Bin Laden dead and his organisation toothless and despised by its own former power base, why not repeal the Patriot Act and return to the constitutional standards of 10 September 2001?
Oh, right: won't happen because the Patriot Act was never about Bin Laden in the first place.
And the terrifying new powers the government keeps grabbing for itself were never about keeping the country safe. We didn’t have to give up amendments four through eight during the Cold War or World War Two, and Hitler and the Soviets were bigger threats to us than Bin Laden could ever have hoped to be.
But what can I do about this? What can any of us do about this? Hell, just asking those questions might be enough to get people disappeared, in the America of the imminent future.