Big Brother

A deep and unshakable fear

 

Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Image of Big Brother from 1984This isn’t really a post about my life, it’s (another) political post, so if you’re looking for something else, look elsewhere. This has been hanging over my head lately, and I need to get it out.

I’ve never before been as terrified by the state of American politics as I am now.

A lot of the time, when I’ve written about politics, it’s been about single issues. One of my earliest blog posts ever was about the proposed amendment to ban the burning of the American flag. Recently, I blogged about Net Neutrality (in response to an issue in Canadian politics, but relevant in the US nonetheless). I’ve been frustrated over individual cases here and there, but never in my life have I been so honestly outraged and frightened by the state of politics.

Maybe I’m just getting older and realizing how messed up things are, but I think there’s more. I think things have taken a nasty turn recently. I can’t pin a finger on it– I don’t know when it happened or what caused it– but its many symptoms are starting to make me wonder just how diseased the entire system really is. It’s at the point that I’m eager to leave next year, and I’m sincerely considering the possibility of moving away after college. If these trends continue, I don’t want to be anywhere near the US.

Put simply, I’m scared shitless by the amount of power the government is accruing, in whose interests it’s being used, and how little oversight or regulation there seems to be.

For instance. Take the recent proposed legislature by Republicans in Florida, SB 1246, which if passed would make the photography of farms without written consent of their owners illegal. And not just a slap-on-the-wrist misdemeanor, either–a first-degree felony. That is to say, as legally weighty as pre-meditated murder. Is Bill the family farmer the one who’s been calling for the government to keep those nasty photographers away from his property? No. No, this can’t be anything other than a direct attempt to support big agricultural corporations like Monsanto who don’t want those pesky journalists, documentarians, or activists exposing what they do on their farms.

For instance. Take the hubbub in Wisconsin. The depths to which Wisconsin Republican representatives have sunk to neuter unions and pass this absurd budget have been sickening from the start, when they tried to hold the vote five minutes before the session began in order to catch the Democrats off-guard, but became even more appalling when they broke the law in order to pass the union-breaking part. Even if we completely ignore the part of the budget bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from unions– which, notably, was cut out and passed on its own, thus undermining Gov. Walker’s claim that breaking union power had anything to do with the budget– there’s still that part that allows public utilities to be sold at any price to private corporations. Without any bidding. How is that anything but playing to the corporations?

For instance. Michigan Governor Snyder just signed into law a bill that gives him the power to declare regions of the state in “states of emergency”– and then appoint unelected “emergency financial managers” to run them. Under this new law, the governor has unilateral power to dissolve union contracts– and more terrifying, overrule elected officials. These private financial managers even have control over school districts and can determine curriculum and academics.

PFC Bradley ManningFor instance. Take the treatment of PFC Chelsea Manning, the soldier who has been accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks. Today, she’s being forced to strip naked in solitary confinement and is being subjected to treatment people have called torture. The UN is officially investigating her treatment. This is a woman who has been convicted of no crimes. She has not been found guilty by any court. And even if she had–even if she did leak the documents and was convicted–this sort of treatment would be far beyond unacceptable. This is not how justice is supposed to work in this country.

For instance. Guantanamo Bay is still open.

For instance. Justice and law are being subverted for everyday individuals. The Department of Homeland Security grows daily, fighting wars against ill-defined enemies such as “terrorism,” using tools like the recently renewed PATRIOT act. In a similar vein, the White House wants illegal streaming of copyrighted video or audio to be made a federal felony, and an offense that can warrant wiretapping. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), killed by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, would have given the Department of Justice the power to seize the domains of anyone on the internet suspected to be connected to illegal activity. Without a warrant.

For instance. The US military is developing software that will allow it to create and manage countless “sock puppet” accounts on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, in order to create a false consensus in conversations and smother debate.

"If You See Something" posterFor instance. The paranoia-fueled ballooning of the TSA’s capabilities, demanding increasingly larger sacrifices of our civil rights in order to fight the specter of terrorism. The fact that TSA agents took over a train station in Savannah, GA and searched everyone in the area– without any permission from the Amtrak police chief to do such a thing. The expansion of the paranoid “If You See Something, Say Something” TSA campaign into stores like Wal-Mart.

I could go on.

This is what terrifies me. Rights, justice, democracy– I feel like I’m watching it all dissolve, to be replaced by a state run by the greedy and the wealthy, with little regard for the poor or the middle class. A state that justifies its encroachments through fear. A state with no regard for the principles it was founded on, run solely as a tool to secure more power for those who already have it.

Laurence Britt wrote an article that floated around the Internet in the early years of President George W. Bush, entitled “Fascism Anyone?” It was a list of fourteen characteristics that he noted as common amongst fascist states. While I don’t think America is a fascist state, the fact that more than a few of them ring with some semblance of truth is disconcerting, to say the least.

I want to shake this. If I could, I would shake my head and dismiss this silly pessimism. I don’t want to believe that this is happening. And when I talk to more moderate friends, occasionally I can gloss it all over. But when I start thinking about it again, this all floats to the surface once more, and it chills me to the bone.

[Editor’s note (2015/02/25): Replaced incorrect pronouns in reference to Chelsea Manning.]

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2 Comments

  1. Chucho

    MoveOn.Org sends me a lot of emails. And they’re all… really depressing to say the least. But these one has stood out to me (the first one is from 7 March, this year).

    “The Republican budget would:

    1. Destroy 700,000 jobs, according to an independent economic analysis.

    2. Zero out federal funding for National Public Radio and public television.

    3. Cut $1.3 billion from community health centers–which will deprive more than 3 million low-income people of health care over the next few months.

    4. Cut nearly a billion dollars in food and health care assistance to pregnant women, new moms, and children.

    5. Kick more than 200,000 children out of pre-school by cutting funds for Head Start.

    6. Force states to fire 65,000 teachers and aides, dramatically increasing class sizes, thanks to education cuts.

    7. Cut some or all financial aid for 9.4 million low- and middle-income college students.

    8. Slash $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, a cut that experts say would “send shockwaves” through cancer research, likely result in cuts to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research, and cause job losses.

    9. End the only federal family planning program, including cutting all federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood to support cancer screenings and other women’s health care.

    10. Send 10,000 low-income veterans into homelessness by cutting in half the number of veterans who get housing vouchers this year.”

    and 19 Feb:

    “Top 10 Shocking Attacks from the GOP War on Women

    1) Republicans not only want to reduce women’s access to abortion care, they’re actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven’t.

    2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to “accuser.” But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain “victims.”

    3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)

    4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.

    5) In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

    6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids’ preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.

    7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.

    8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.

    9) Congress voted yesterday on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.

    10) And if that wasn’t enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can’t make this stuff up).”

    They provide sources, if you’d like. I don’t mean to say that the problem is all republicans; they wouldn’t be getting away with shit like this if the Democrats weren’t as well. Also, bear in mind the source.

  2. Christine Rodrigues

    Power corrupts. And America is really powerful. I guess it makes sense.

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