Monthly Archives: December 2014

The First Amendment

Torture is wrong. Those who tortured and those who authorized torture should be prosecuted as war criminals. That America allowed this is a stain we can never erase.

I believed this when we began the torture, and I still believe it now, after the release of the Senate report on CIA torture. The release of the report made me feel the same anger I felt back then.

You see, I haven’t been angry for a while. Anger was replaced by pessimism. I believed in Obama, but he betrayed us. Before he was elected, he betrayed us on FISA. He said he’d close Guantanamo within a year, and it’s still open. The war criminals still walk free. Years passed and nothing happened. What could I do?

Plus, there were even bigger problems. Global warming is an existential threat to humanity. Nothing I read makes me feel like the problem can be solved. In fact, it always makes me more pessimistic. Shit, things are warming faster than we thought. Shit, we can’t even prevent some amount of the warming now. Shit, shit, shit. Hope? I’m far away from that. Philosophically I’ve even begun to entertain the thought that we, as a species, don’t deserve to survive because of our crimes against the planet.

The market crashed and the market recovered. But we never put the bankers in jail. We never fixed the systemic issues that allowed this type of crash in the first place. The Occupy movement was a failure — so far, at least. It was crushed by the state. The state literally beat the people down.

The trends are frightening. We used drones to assassinate an American citizen without a trial. We have a prison, that’s still open, where we tortured people — some of whom were innocent. The police have become increasingly militarized — they literally have military equipment. The police use excessive force against citizens protesting. Journalists get thrown in jail. (Then the police get embarrassed and they let them out.) Remember “free speech zones”?

Can’t anyone else see the connections between what happened in the war on terror, what happened during Occupy, and what can happen now? In some ways, democracy is such a fragile thing. We’re only a few steps away from a police massacre of citizens and a few more steps from people shrugging at such a thing. We’re only a few steps away from protesting citizens getting locked up in secret jails, along with the journalists covering them. It really doesn’t take a large leap of logic.

We’re seeing a systematic erosion of free speech rights. The people have a right to peaceful assembly. However, every protest is being categorized as a riot. Disrupting people’s normal life by blocking the road, or really, any pause in the status quo, is seen as an assault. (I even saw someone on facebook categorize it as an economic cost.) Then, that is used as a pretext for the state to use force against its citizens. We’re already seeing them lob teargas, shoot rubber bullets, and beat people with batons. They shoot unarmed people with real bullets. Do you really think it takes a large leap of logic for them to turn those real bullets on a protest?

I know we like to think that good always wins, that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, but we can lose. And we can lose badly. Many attempted revolutions have failed before. Cicero never saved the Republic.

Getting your head chopped off, like Cicero, is pretty bad. I’m curious, though, if we have it worse. As generations pass, death becomes more mechanized. The state can kill a lot more people. Plus, it was pretty hard to find Cicero. With the trends in state surveillance, it’s much easier to find Ciceros (and Snowdens).

[… more thoughts in future blog posts … there’s a lot more to unpack …]

[… and thanks Stevie for making me start to think about this …]