Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Day Democracy Died


Now don’t misunderstand. Our system of democracy with her liberties didn’t just collapse overnight. This was not sudden at all. It began decades ago. Let’s look at some examples.

Freedom to assemble: Slowly laws have been enacted below the radar to control that right of assembly. Permit laws were put in place. Yes you can protest this group or that law. But we are only going to allow it out of sight and sound of the people who need to know you are upset about it. Sometimes permits are just simply denied. Other times the crowd size is limited, or charges are attached, or a time limit imposed. You want to protest on public property? Well no megaphones please. Not without a permit. Some guy is sitting over there with powered up amps on his radio, but you can’t amplify your message.

Freedom of speech: Well okay, as long as you don’t offend anybody. If you speak up at a public forum and the candidate doesn’t like what you have to say, he simply has security evict you. Elected officials give tickets out for public forums to determine who can and cannot attend. Can’t have any opposition can we? Now Wisconsin wants to charge people for the right to assemble and protest. Any group over four can be deemed a protest and charged.

Freedom of the press: In wars media are required to be imbedded. Recently they’ve been trying the same thing for protests in our nation. Sometimes the abuse is blatant. Lately a number of reporters have been arrested, abused, or simply removed from covering stories. Of peaceful protests no less. At the same time over the last few decades, the corporate media has gained a stranglehold on the news we hear. Fewer and fewer corporations own all the mainstream media sources. The government allows them to restrict the news most will here. If you are not corporate media, all too often you are not allowed access at all. Meanwhile more and more information is classified, not because it’s a security matter, but because it might be embarrassing.

Freedom of religion: That of course also includes freedom from religion. Look around the country at places like Tennessee, where all out efforts to restrict the right of Muslims to practice their faith is occurring. Our politicians in several cases have sided with these hate mongers, trying to pass laws “against Sharia… hello the Constitution already does that” or to otherwise restrict our practice our spiritual path. Our politics are laden with religious tests in a land where the constitution says we can’t do that.

Freedom to vote: As we speak, states around the nation are setting up legal obstacles to a person’s right to vote. They require certain types of id, make the registration process more difficult for certain classes of people, all to control the types of people who are voting for political purposes. Meanwhile paperless computer systems are the rule in many states with no way to check for fraud by those who operate the machines. Part and parcel with the right to vote is the manner in which elections are carried out. Recent cases have declared corporations to be people, who can donate unlimited amounts of money to the candidate they choose. Combined with an interminably long election season, only a person with sufficient corporate support has a chance of winning an election. This effectively takes the power to elect out of the hands of the people and into the hands of corporate donors. Oh and corporations can donate anonymously while you or I cannot. To make it even worse, in the absence of proportional representation, it is extremely difficult for you or I to run without the sanction of one of the two main parties. This limits the voices that are even heard. Together they create a circumstance where both parties represent their donors rather than us. An issue 85% of Americans can support doesn’t have a chance because the money folks would cut off a candidate for voting against their interests.

This all brings us to the most basic freedom of all. One we inherited from the Magna Carta. The right to due process and a speedy trial is the very definition of a democracy. Without it, we are but one more tinhorn dictatorship, even if we have the illusion of a democracy to pacify our fears. Inherent in our constitution was a series of checks and balances that protect us from despotism. A person can be arrested, but they had a right to a speedy trial. No one can tap your phones without a court review to ensure there is probable cause. Each branch of government served as a check and balance against the other.

Then came the attacks on New York City on 9-11. Out of anger, a rash of laws were passed. Some circumvented civil liberties by a declaration of war, not on a set of people or a nation, but against an idea. It’s a war that never ends. For the world has always had terrorism, and likely always will. So war powers are perpetual. We began arresting terrorists from elsewhere and holding them for long periods without trial. We began to torture people. We’ve taken warlike actions against nations who were never involved in the attack. Then recently, the president ordered an attack on an American citizen deemed to be a part of Al Queda. No trial by jury. No clearance by the judicial branch. A solitary executive action ordered execution without due process.

Then the other day, the final straw, the death knell to our constitution was sounded. A bill was passed by the U.S. Senate and is expected to pass the House. This bill makes it legal for the defense department to identify a person as an enemy of the state, without any court proceeding. They can be determined so even if they have not directly worked against our interests, but were seen to cooperate with those that do. It does not matter if that person is a U.S. citizen or not. They can have the person arrested and HELD INDEFINITELY WITHOUT TRIAL OR A HEARING WITH ANY JUDGE FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE IF THE MILITARY SO CHOOSES. THAT INCLUDES ON AMERICAN SOIL WHICH IS NOW INCLUDED IN THE DEFINITION OF “BATTLEFIELD.” In this Senate vote, only seven Senators voted no. Three were Democrat, three were Republican, and one an Independent. In a bi-partisan action the very definition of what is a democracy was undermined. Freedom died that day. Yes Obama can veto it and he says he will. But with that sort of overpowering support, a veto can easily be overruled.

I’m a life long Democrat, or DFL as we call it here. Ever since my first vote at age 21 in 1968, the Dems have gotten my vote. It makes this act by so many of my party to be even that much more a betrayal. Until the political process is corrected in a radically different way, it no longer seems useful. The time has come for that peaceful revolution. I pray it is peaceful at least. My two Senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar lost my vote with their support of this National Defense Appropriation Act. Unless they change their vote to uphold an Obama veto, which the veto is expected, I’ll never cast a ballot for them again. The same is true of any Democrat who votes to undermine that most precious of documents, our Constitution. I now will support all actions to effect a revolutionary change for our nation in a peaceful way. Without a constitution, laws have no meaning, and regulations are but dictates of a society that has lost credibility. It’s a sad day for me really. Still I have hope that we will fix it over time. Not our irrelevant government, but the people who must again demand a redress of our grievances and declare ourselves free. We have been betrayed. Now comes the beginning of retribution for our politicians who betrayed us, and the rebirth of a free people once again. We begin today.

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