Stale Content Alert!
This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.
I’ve never before been as terrified by the state of American politics as I am now.
A lot of the time, when I’ve written about politics, it’s been about single issues. One of my earliest blog posts ever was about the proposed amendment to ban the burning of the American flag. Recently, I blogged about Net Neutrality (in response to an issue in Canadian politics, but relevant in the US nonetheless). I’ve been frustrated over individual cases here and there, but never in my life have I been so honestly outraged and frightened by the state of politics.
Maybe I’m just getting older and realizing how messed up things are, but I think there’s more. I think things have taken a nasty turn recently. I can’t pin a finger on it– I don’t know when it happened or what caused it– but its many symptoms are starting to make me wonder just how diseased the entire system really is. It’s at the point that I’m eager to leave next year, and I’m sincerely considering the possibility of moving away after college. If these trends continue, I don’t want to be anywhere near the US.
Put simply, I’m scared shitless by the amount of power the government is accruing, in whose interests it’s being used, and how little oversight or regulation there seems to be.
For instance. Take the recent proposed legislature by Republicans in Florida, SB 1246, which if passed would make the photography of farms without written consent of their owners illegal. And not just a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor, either–a first-degree felony. That is to say, as legally weighty as pre-meditated murder. Is Bill the family farmer the one who’s been calling for the government to keep those nasty photographers away from his property? No. No, this can’t be anything other than a direct attempt to support big agricultural corporations like Monsanto who don’t want those pesky journalists, documentarians, or activists exposing what they do on their farms.
For instance. Take the hubbub in Wisconsin. The depths to which Wisconsin Republican representatives have sunk to neuter unions and pass this absurd budget have been sickening from the start, when they tried to hold the vote five minutes before the session began in order to catch the Democrats off-guard, but became even more appalling when they broke the law in order to pass the union-breaking part. Even if we completely ignore the part of the budget bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from unions– which, notably, was cut out and passed on its own, thus undermining Gov. Walker’s claim that breaking union power had anything to do with the budget– there’s still that part that allows public utilities to be sold at any price to private corporations. Without any bidding. How is that anything but playing to the corporations?
For instance. Michigan Governor Snyder just signed into law a bill that gives him the power to declare regions of the state in “states of emergency”– and then appoint unelected “emergency financial managers” to run them. Under this new law, the governor has unilateral power to dissolve union contracts– and more terrifying, overrule elected officials. These private financial managers even have control over school districts and can determine curriculum and academics.
For instance. Take the treatment of PFC Chelsea Manning, the soldier who has been accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks. Today, she’s being forced to strip naked in solitary confinement and is being subjected to treatment people have called torture. The UN is officially investigating her treatment. This is a woman who has been convicted of no crimes. She has not been found guilty by any court. And even if she had–even if she did leak the documents and was convicted–this sort of treatment would be far beyond unacceptable. This is not how justice is supposed to work in this country.
For instance. Guantanamo Bay is still open.
For instance. Justice and law are being subverted for everyday individuals. The Department of Homeland Security grows daily, fighting wars against ill-defined enemies such as “terrorism,” using tools like the recently renewed PATRIOT act. In a similar vein, the White House wants illegal streaming of copyrighted video or audio to be made a federal felony, and an offense that can warrant wiretapping. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), killed by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, would have given the Department of Justice the power to seize the domains of anyone on the internet suspected to be connected to illegal activity. Without a warrant.
For instance. The US military is developing software that will allow it to create and manage countless “sock puppet” accounts on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, in order to create a false consensus in conversations and smother debate.
For instance. The paranoia-fueled ballooning of the TSA’s capabilities, demanding increasingly larger sacrifices of our civil rights in order to fight the specter of terrorism. The fact that TSA agents took over a train station in Savannah, GA and searched everyone in the area– without any permission from the Amtrak police chief to do such a thing. The expansion of the paranoid “If You See Something, Say Something” TSA campaign into stores like Wal-Mart.
I could go on.
This is what terrifies me. Rights, justice, democracy– I feel like I’m watching it all dissolve, to be replaced by a state run by the greedy and the wealthy, with little regard for the poor or the middle class. A state that justifies its encroachments through fear. A state with no regard for the principles it was founded on, run solely as a tool to secure more power for those who already have it.
Laurence Britt wrote an article that floated around the Internet in the early years of President George W. Bush, entitled “Fascism Anyone?” It was a list of fourteen characteristics that he noted as common amongst fascist states. While I don’t think America is a fascist state, the fact that more than a few of them ring with some semblance of truth is disconcerting, to say the least.
I want to shake this. If I could, I would shake my head and dismiss this silly pessimism. I don’t want to believe that this is happening. And when I talk to more moderate friends, occasionally I can gloss it all over. But when I start thinking about it again, this all floats to the surface once more, and it chills me to the bone.
[Editor’s note (2015/02/25): Replaced incorrect pronouns in reference to Chelsea Manning.]