The Inherent Surprise of Erosion


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So this is how democracy ends? With a whimper and not a bang?” – from the movie, The Revenge of the Sith

Several years ago, during one of his jaunts to the Cannes Film Festival, George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) made a rather striking entrance when he arrived with a number of actors dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers, marching in full unison across the press floor in all their intimidating glory. This event was done as part of Lucas’ introduction to the then newly released movie, ‘The Revenge of the Sith’ wherein the story revolved around the collapse of the ‘Old Republic’ and the formal establishment of ‘The Empire’. Lucas then went on to give a brief speech underlying his concerns about how similar developments were taking place in the United States – that of a dying Republic being recast into something more sinister.

The point is made: democracy is not something to be taken for granted, and things change.

And it’s happening here and now.

As part of this blog, we discuss trends of the future; unfortunately, the possibility that we will be living under a formal dictatorship is one trend that could potentially happen within our lifetime, and with that development, the end of our traditional notions of american democracy and individual freedoms. Decay and erosion don’t just happen overnight: they take time. But like a rotting tree, everything seems fine on the outside until a big storm comes along and knocks it down.

With the holidays, much has been made in regards to the ‘financial cliff’ along with a bunch of other news items – such as the Mayan calendar, end of times, etc. But during the past month, a quiet revolution has already taken place: the virtual elimination of the 5th Amendment – our right to due process.

No, this posting isn’t some tea party rant, militia madness or mother earth / liberal whining: it’s right there in black and white.

It’s called the National Defense Authorization Act, and it’s now in committee about to go on the United States Senate floor for a full vote. As reported in the New York Times the other day (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/politics/congressional-committee-is-said-to-drop-ban-on-indefinite-detention-of-citizens.html?ref=charliesavage&_r=0) what this act states is that:

Lawmakers charged with merging the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act decided on Tuesday to drop a provision that would have explicitly barred the military from holding American citizens and permanent residents in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects, according to Congressional staff members familiar with the negotiations.

The Senate approved that amendment — sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — in a surprise vote last month. While it appeared to be a rare step to bolster protections for domestic civil liberties, rights groups opposed it because it did not cover other categories of people so they feared that it would implicitly open the door to using the military for domestic police purposes.

So assuming this bill passes, the military can act within matters and jurisdictions formally pertaining to domestic concerns; now anyone can be shipped off to ‘holding cells’ without any right of legal due process or protection.  No phone call to your lawyer: no Miranda rights. Literally, if you are so deemed as a threat, you could be taken from your home, place of work, school or wherever – never to be seen unless it is so deemed permissible.

And it gets worst: this is coming from those whom you’d think would actually keep this kind of thing from happening:

Of the four main negotiators on the defense bill, only one of the Democrats, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), opposes domestic indefinite detention of Americans. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), believes detaining Americans without charge or trial is constitutional, and only voted for the Feinstein amendment because he and some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate convinced themselves through a convoluted legal rationale that Feinstein’s proposal didn’t actually ban the practice. Both of the main Republican negotiators, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) believe it’s constitutional to lock up American citizens suspected of terrorism without ever proving they’re guilty.

This legislation was also noted by The Atlantic Monthly, who also reported (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/12/scandal-alert-congress-is-quietly-abandoning-the-5th-amendment/266498/) that this movement is becoming more and prevalent within the higher levels of thought and actions amongst our elected officials. Fear and greed now pervade much of our government: the fear of appearing soft on terrorism and the potential profit in the expansion of tremendous market services catering to such fear.

So what? We’re not terrorists – right?

Problem with legislation like this is that there are too many opportunities for abuse. Now, the Occupy Movement membership coud be arrested as enemy combatants acting in a seditious manner and taken away into cramped cells in a similar manner to the miserable schmucks who flew those planes into the World Trade Center.

Don’t like your neighbor or your boss? Now, if you’re convincing enough, you could drop a dime and have him/her taken away: make up a story where you are convinced that he/she is involved in nefarious acts threatening the security of our country.  Or (as another example) one writes a blog critical of actions and decisions made by the elected officials – only to find their lives “disrupted” by a visit from their local military personnel.

Sounds paranoid? It’s happened before: just look up U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950’s and the ‘red scare’ paranoia of the time – and this before we had the NSA (National Security Agency), modern computer technology and 911.

There are few things as stifling to social and technological advancement as a dictatorship. To be sure (at first) things go along nicely but as history has shown dictatorships function within the strict context of control – and with that, any new tech ideas or notions (such as Internet freedom) will likely be stifled and/or suppressed owing to the need for control. Over time, the cycle becomes self-fulfilling: a republic ultimately degenerates into a dictatorship with rising social inequality, facing the likelihood of social unrest, collapsing infrastructure and crippled economic and business growth (save for a very select few) owing to governmental funding geared far more on controlling its citizenry, rather than encouraging socio-economic growth and individual empowerment and education.

In effect, a Third World Country.

Funny how this legislation isn’t making major news anywhere; not even The Daily Show or The Colbert Report is making any mention of this.

None of this should come as any surprise, but (unless people act) there will come a moment when the hammer comes down and folks suddenly realize that this ain’t the country our grandparents knew. If we’re not careful, What was once a proud and strong oak tree, the Republic is now pretty much about to become broken kindling – politically, economically and socially.

It’s clear that 911 was the storm that brought everything down; but in the end, it’s still our fault.

Unless we act now, we will have let that bastard Bin Laden win.

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