In civics and history classes, the ideas and ideals which were the bedrock of America were constant. Flaws were found, for they exist in even the best of intentions, but I saw a country moving into such better reckoning, realizing that not just landowners and not just white males had Liberty, Freedom and lawful protection. For a while, it was as if the vast majority of this country both understood that and worked ceaselessly to achieve it.
Now the thoughts in our national capitol and in the minds of too many well-educated citizens are tuned to a single note - Fear.
Leaders locally and nationally have shown contempt for our bedrock ideals. The most unnerving and shocking example of this is tucked away in a bill quietly signed into law by President Bush - a worthy bill containing pay increases for the military, accountability for (some) government contractors, better housing a military bases.
But then there's this section which leaps backwards hundreds of years - a little paragraph which eliminates the rights of states and grants to the President and the President alone authority to send in military troops into any town, city or state, regardless of whether a town city or state requests or requires such might.
Public Law 109-364, in Section 333 states:
"The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--
- `(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--
- `(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and
- `(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or
- `(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).
- `(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--
- `(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or
- `(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.
- `(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.
"On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained a "widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation's governors."
Senator Leahy went on to stress that, "we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders."
A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with little study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."
I know some may argue that the failure of the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina makes such changes necessary. But let's remember that this president staffed FEMA's leadership with idiots who had zero working knowledge of responding to natural disaster. Hundreds of long-time FEMA staffers quit their jobs in disgust and, no surprise, the argument was then made that FEMA should just be a part of Homeland Security -- which is now responsible for flu vaccines and responses to tornadoes and ... what was that other thing?? Oh, yeah, Terrorism.
My home, my country, was once known as the "home of the brave."
Today, it is home of the terrified.
So terrified, that both leaders and citizens are willing to abandon any belief or any law if they feel, for the moment, it might provide an illusion of safety. They have abandoned reason.
I do understand know why so many voices on Right-Wing Radio and Newspapers and Cable networks and Blogs all sound as if they are shrieks of fear. They are fearful. And they appear to fear everything.
They have no confidence in themselves, their country, in Liberty or Freedom or Law. In their hearts, they feel only loss and terror.
Such people are like those who are drowning, and when a rescuer appears to help them, they will likely attempt to drown that person as well due to their relentless panic.