Saturday, February 6, 2010

Postcards from the Empire: The United Police States of America

I don’t want this column to be seen as bashing the US. However, there is much to validly criticize about the current model in the US and much to dissent from, also.

There is little that comes from above that I agree with here in my accidental country of birth—I didn’t agree with it when Bush was president—and I still oppose the policies with all my might now that there is a new Emperor.

During the Nuremberg trials, the chief prosecutor for the US, Supreme Court Justice, Robert H. Jackson, made the distinction between the actions of the Third Reich and the German people. While “just following orders” could not be used as a defense, merely living in a country that was committing atrocities could not be turned against a “regular” German citizen in a court of law.

Now, while I agree with the legality of that stance, I do not agree with the morality of this position. How can one just turn a blind eye and ones back to atrocities that their country is committing? Here in the US, we have a term for people who just “go along to get along;” We call them “Good Germans.”

I read a story from a citizen of Germany during the rise of the Third Reich and he said that the changes to his nation were incrementally small, but before he realized it, Germans were gassing dissidents, Jews, gypsies, Christians and other “enemies of the state.”

We see the same thing occurring here in the US—the assaults on our freedoms had been incremental, especially during the Cold War, but since September 11th, the outright, full-frontal assault here has escalated dramatically.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is unambiguous:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,

or of the press;

or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

However, the USA PATRIOT ACT and the Bill of Rights cannot co-exist in the legal system here. It’s just not possible and many laws have been passed limiting our freedom of expression. US court rulings have consistently stated positions on what are called “Free Speech Zones” (sometimes cages where US citizens are forced—mostly far away from what we are protesting), that the state cannot put limits on what US citizens say, but can limit the “time and place.” Believing that every inch of this planet should be open to the basic human right of expression, I refuse to be herded into these cages like an animal.

Perhaps one of the noisiest cities in the world, NYC, now has laws that prohibit the use of bullhorns to express our message. How can we be heard above the propaganda of the Ruling Class?

While exerting my First Amendment rights here in the US, I have been chased and roughed up by cops, tear-gassed, shot at with rubber bullets and targeted by what is called a Long Range Acoustical Device. I have been arrested over a dozen times for PEACEFULLY protesting.

Since 9-11, dissent has been steadily and more violently oppressed by the state, but we must courageously protest, unless we be counted among the “Good Germans” that were complicit with our government by our apathy and/or silence.

Torture, wars of aggression, environmental degradation and economic oppression are the business of the US Empire—and we imperial subjects are the ones that have to strongly resist the crimes.

The world lost a leading voice for peace, justice and truth this past week when Howard Zinn passed away at aged 87.

Howard was a wonderful historian, but also profoundly supported grass-roots movements to improve conditions in the poor and working classes. He will be deeply missed, but we must be inspired by his work and dedicate our efforts to his memory.

This column appeared in the Spanish version of Correo del Orinico in VZ in the 3 February edition.

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