“If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he’d say, ‘Forget the airline passengers. Let’s strip search the government.’” — Swami Beyondananda
“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” — Navajo Proverb
We have a body politic that has – until now – largely chosen to stay asleep as the Constitution has been de-constituted and the Bill of Rights has devolved into a bill of wrongs. Take the USA Patriot Act – please! And now, adding injury to insult, comes the National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision that would allow for “indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial.”
Why have we allowed that?
Well, first who would want to believe that a government constituted to serve “we the people” would instead sacrifice us if it served their interests? Most non-paranoid people have a hard time accepting that our government would use that power against you or me or Aunt Sally. This willful unwillingness to look inconvenient truths in the eye was best demonstrated by a woman I overheard several years ago. After being presented with evidence of nefarious abuses of government authority, she said, “Well, it may be true. But I don’t believe it.”
And then, when people do admit to themselves that the evidence certainly points to huge and toxic abuses of the public trust, the next cause of paralysis is the simple question, “What can I do about it?” Indeed, what can anyone do about it?
Fortunately, that question is being addressed in more and more conversations, from Tea Party gatherings to Occupy demonstrations … and even in conversations involving both (see here Jeff Golden hosting a dialog with two from each side).
In spite of those who insist on sleeping through every alarm, as we stand on the threshold of a truly “precedential” year, people are waking up “left” and “right.” We are in the midst of an evolutionary upwising. The veils are dropping everywhere, and who knows? Maybe 2012 is the year the Irony Curtain finally falls, and truths – convenient or not – reveal themselves.
But before it does, one additional “irony supplement.”
The bill was passed on Bill of Rights Day.
OK, OK. So where and what is the holiday message?
13 Wise Men, Franken Sense, and the Land of Punt
Well, first let us celebrate the gifts of 13 wise men who voted against the bill, including Sen. Al Franken (D-Min), who offers this bit of Franken sense:
With this defense authorization act, Congress will, for the first time in 60 years, authorize the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, according to its advocates. This would be the first time that Congress has deviated from President Nixon’s Non-Detention Act. And what we are talking about here is that Americans could be subjected to life imprisonment without ever being charged, tried, or convicted of a crime, without ever having an opportunity to prove their innocence to a judge or a jury of their peers. And without the government ever having to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I think that denigrates the very foundations of this country. It denigrates the Bill of Rights. It denigrates what our Founders intended when they created a civilian, non-military justice system for trying and punishing people for crimes committed on U.S. soil. Our Founders were fearful of the military–and they purposely created a system of checks and balances to ensure we did not become a country under military rule. This bill undermines that core principle, which is why I could not support it.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and this wasn’t the way to mark its birthday.
OK, Franken sense. Ha-ha. But folks, it gets funnier than that. Here is the Wikipedia quote on the origin of frankincense:
Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years. A mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died in 1458 BCE.
The land of Punt.
Isn’t Washington, D.C. the “land of punt?” When faced with tough opposition, instead of persevering to a worthy goal, politicians have learned to punt. Let the next guys deal with it, after I am safely retired and my golden parachute has landed me inside a gated community (with the locks on the inside, thank you, not on the outside).
Here are the Senators – six Democrats, six Republicans and one independent – who refused to punt and voted against the bill: Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Don’t like Al Franken? No problem. Check out Jon Stewart’s clip of Sen. Rand Paul opposing the bill.
Will We Change the Political Game in 2012?
As to what will happen, don’t ask the Swami to make a prediction. He doesn’t want to jeopardize his “non-prophet” status. But here’s a hint: Paraphrasing Pogo, “We have seen the savior, and it is us.”
We the people – from all sides, and from every angle – have to “reoccupy” America, by occupying the public discourse like never before. It’s great that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher have been using comedy to deconstruct a system that has outlived its uselessness. Comedy is great. However, it is now time to be able to air truths without the veneer of fiction or comedy. Forget reality TV, folks. This is reality.
To do so, we will have to “overgrow” the blame game and rigid positionality. We will have to gather together in sacred circles (the new “cells” of a revitalized body politic), and then we will have to circle up our circles with other circles that will necessarily include folks from a different political tribe.
Here is one prediction, though. 2012 will provide perhaps the biggest test the United States has faced since its inception: Will a critical mass of the heretofore uncritical masses awaken to the clear and present danger, and set aside significant differences to gather under “one big intent?”
Will we finally establish the heart and soul of we the people at the center of public policy and discourse? Can we actually have government of, by and for the people, where the government does OUR bidding and not the bidding of the highest bidder?
To quote Willie Mays, “That’s what we’re going to play the season to find out.”
Yes, we still have tons of copies of my e-book with Joseph McCormick, Reuniting America: A Toolkit for Changing the Political Game in our awarehouse. Inspire yourself for a truly new New Year for just $9.97. Click here.