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A Sad Anniversary

This has been hard for me to write. It’s part of the reason I haven’t wanted to write anything for a while. I didn’t think I’d be here at this point.

I started my blog because I was devastated that the US was torturing people. Worse, the powers-that-be were making excuses for it. The US has been guilty of crimes before. But in the bad old days that was just it: they were guilty. The thing was to pretend it wasn’t happening. Now they were doing something much worse. They were saying it was okay.

I come from a family that fled Communists, Nazis, and Fascists. (Yes, that was a lot of fleeing and it took three decades.) Maybe that’s made me hypersensitive to the ultimate personal price of dictatorships. They are horrible, awful, terrifying places and nobody really survives. You can try to escape with the clothes on your back, or become subhuman, or die. That’s all. There are no other choices. So it’s a matter of life or death to avoid that road at all costs. Never put so much as one toe on the path that ends in that hell.

There are two hallmarks shared by dictatorships: detention without trial and torture.

We’re doing both. We’re saying that committing crimes is legal. Is there any way to make the rule of law more meaningless?

At first, I never thought that people would stand for it. I knew there’d be a convulsion and the whole country would reject the lethal disease we had. But instead the shock became dulled. Too many people in the US patted themselves on the back for not being as bad as those other real dictatorships. We’d only put both feet on the beginning of the path. That was totally not the same as reaching the end.

You know what? Once you’re on that path, in terms of what happens next it doesn’t matter who started it. It doesn’t matter if you do nothing. All you have to do to reach the end is not get off. It’s downhill all the way.

I had to do something. The whole Government needed to be changed from top to bottom. The people who made excuses for it had to be changed. Corporations, media, education, it all had to be changed.

I didn’t know how to do any of that. What I did was start a blog in feeble protest, five years ago last May. I’d never understood how the Good Germans could stand by while their government went to the devil between the two World Wars. Now I know. I never thought I’d become the sort of person who could understand that.

I never thought I’d see liberals making excuses for bigotry and war, just because it was their own side doing it. I never thought it would hurt to remember how much hope I felt that the long nightmare of criminal government was coming to an end. I never thought I’d find out that it can get worse than having an unpopular dictator. You can have a popular one.

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No Tinfoil: We Have Been Living in a Dictatorship

constitution_quill_pen

On Monday the Department of Justice posted nine memos containing stunningly un-American legal opinions that were kept secret during the Bush years. These memos were used to justify a shocking expansion of executive power and to nullify most of our Constitutional rights. Scott Horton of the Harpers Magazine writes:

We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.

Finally, the truth breaks into the mainstream media. Some of us did realize it, Scott; but I’m glad you’re writing about it now. I just hope you keep your eyes and ears open, because I’m not so sure that President Obama won’t try to hang onto some of these powers. Continue reading