not what Jesus would do
case you haven't heard, the Bill of Rights is sick and dying.
The major manufacturer of electronic voting machines, Diebold,
has reportedly been caught rigging them to favor Republican candidates.
People are getting thrown out of malls or suspended from school
for wearing "Give Peace a Chance" T-shirts.
Lawyers are being dragged from chat rooms and arrested for saying
"Bush is out of control." Even the Dixie Chicks are being
boycotted by radio stations because of an anti-Bush comment made
to European crowds, and dissed by Simon himself. Let's not even
talk about "freedom fries" or "freedom vanilla ice
cream," for heck's sake.
The apple pie has worms.
Worst of all apart from us bombing the crap out of a country
is that with all the hoopla going on overseas, everybody
had better look out. The Domestic Security Enhancement Act (aka
DSEA, aka Patriot Act II), is on the horizon. If it passes, it may
very well be the final straw that breaks the Constitution's back.
Where to start? I'm already weary with it. My mom sends daily e-mails
urging everyone to pray. Oh, I'm praying all right. God help us
I'm afraid to my core that all I have in me is ranting and raving.
Maybe it will only amount in the end to gibberish and frothy spit,
like the Y2K farce. But I'm afraid that if everybody in D.C. goes
insane and DSEA passes ... well, given its broad definition of terrorist
activities, I could actually find myself deported to Somalia or
arbitrarily detained indefinitely without counsel just for writing
this article. Or for e-mailing anti-war stuff to friends. Or for
looking cross-eyed at John Ashcroft.
If you think I'm kidding, get your hands on the text.
It's getting personal. This means, of course, that someone else
will have to raise my three kids, all under age 12. And it's happening
already to thousands of Muslims who have been rounded up. This poisonous
act has found a window of opportunity, and an uninformed America
will be ripping off the duct tape to let it in.
But first, meet a member of my family:
My ultra-right-wing-conservative sister is a pastor's wife. She
home-schools her kids, doesn't own a TV or read anything beyond
her local paper in small-town Texas. She feels that Bush is chosen
by God. That's fine. That's what he says about himself, after all.
Lots of people believe that all authority is put in place by God,
just as the stars were. She feels that Saddam Hussein is just plain
evil (I agree) and that if we don't bomb him first, we'll be coughing
on mustard gas before the year is up.
Ahem. For her, it doesn't get any more complex than that. So much
for letting God handle it. Or, to be more accurate, God is handling
it because God ordained the president to do it.
Don't get me wrong I've prayed in tongues and laid healing
hands on brothers and sisters in Christ with the best of them. I
do know where she's coming from. Contrary to popular secular beliefs,
one does not get brain damage from the charismatic style of worship.
It's actually pretty cool, and gives a corporate sense of immediacy
and intimacy with God that can be hard to find in other settings
In fact, I have nothing against evangelicals as the term pertains
to their devotion, their immense capacity for charitable giving,
or their rock-solid sense of tradition and community. I consider
myself born-again. But I may well be one of the few evangelical,
liberal Democrats out there. I'm not sure if those words even go
together. Yeah, as far as "earthly fellowship" goes, it's
The Republican let's-hit-'em-first politics of fear that seems
to dog the majority of evangelicals completely baffles me in light
of the amazing, self-sacrificing wonder that is the love of Christ.
My favorite, albeit lamest, theory I've heard? Aerosol hairspray.
Evangelicals tend to wear it men and women alike. Liberal
Christians ... don't use as much, says one church friend. Not very
nice, but I can't help but smile.
Needless to say, my sense of disconnect causes conflict.
So I try to start to explain to my sister, as succinctly as possible,
that in the year 2000, the Iraqis decided to switch to the Euro
as their only accepted currency for oil instead of the practically
This move has threatened to send the U.S. economy into permanent
darkness if other OPEC nations follow suit, especially given the
massive trade deficits we've been running. This is but one unpublicized
reason our current administration is pissed off at them.
The sober truth is that to be able to take U.S. citizens comfortably
into the next 50 years at our current (and still growing) rate of
oil consumption, the U.S. needs, ultimately, to be able to control
the region. According to "Nightline," this is something
that The Project for the New American Century (PNAC, a Washington
think-tank that's been around since Father Bush and has since come
to power in the form of V.P. Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, recently resigned Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard
Perle and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the ideological
father of the group) has been plotting for years long before
young Bush's disputed election, long before September 11.
Stay with me here, it gets better.
Add to that a war with Iraq, the perfect opportunity for private
companies within the military industrial complex to test out new
weapons. You see, the Pentagon won't buy anything that hasn't been
"field tested" in actual battle. These companies stand
to make, literally, billions of dollars if all goes well
if all are properly "shocked and awed" by the precision-guided
The war (rumored to ultimately cost upwards of $100 billion ) is,
in fact, being underwritten in part by them. That's right. They
provide the test weapons for free, we supply the sons and daughters.
Lastly, PNAC has strong financial ties to corporations that have
already been granted contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq, particularly
with Halliburton. When these guys bypassed Congress in this awards
process, a couple of senators huffed and puffed and raised a tiny
little stink about "conflicts of interest" and "protocol"
but, really, who cares now that we're dropping bombs?
Bottom line? These very powerful guys whom Eisenhower warned
us about way back in the '50s could care less about anyone,
Iraqi or otherwise, being liberated. No one cares, that is, except
some well-intentioned Americans like my sister who support the war,
and their beloved (sorry Jesus) King Chimp, whom I believe (from
the bottom of my heart) believes (from the bottom of his heart)
that he actually will be doing them a favor.
Well, it's like trying to explain the multiplication tables to
a cage of hamsters, and there's a really loud one that keeps interrupting
with: "Why can't you just see: Saddam Hussein is Evil, he's
just plain Evil!" so vehemently that I can't finish.
This next part I'm not too proud of. Definitely not what Jesus
We fight. I tell her she's got her head in a bag. She calls me
a liberal, a pawn of Satan from the land of the tree-huggers. She
has the greater lung capacity, so I break out the biochemicals.
I tell her she'll never leave Texas because she's afraid she'll
see what a stinkhole she lives in compared to Oregon. But no worries,
because at least that way she can have our parents all to herself
like she's always wanted.
It's out of my mouth before I can stop it. The check in my spirit
is almost immediate. But, in my anger, I ignore it. What can I say?
It happens. Not just with evangelicals, either, lest folks start
feeling smug. My sister is a nice person. Just very easy to bait.
lobs her own foul-smelling grenade, that it's fine with her since
she doesn't expect much out of me when the time comes to help support
the folks, anyway. I tell her to shut her pie hole, she responds
with depleted uranium, blah, blah, blah, and before we know it,
it's full-scale toxic warfare.
Thing is, we both agree that Saddam is a Really Bad Man.
I mean, let's face it: If all this has to be, it couldn't happen
to a nicer guy. But spare me the "we're liberating the Iraqi
people" myth. What are we, aggressively stupid? I could tell
her that the weapons of mass destruction we're so determined to
neutralize are the very same weapons that we sold to Iraq when we
were in conflict with Iran. She wouldn't believe me.
"Saddam is Evil!"
I think it's especially fitting that, at this writing, Bush has
just started bombing Iraq for her birthday today, so best wishes
to her. Where does she get off calling me a pawn of Satan? I hope
I'm not, anyway. Okay, sometimes I'm not entirely sure. I try not
to be. And I will too help take care of our parents when the time
comes, you cat.
Where was I? The war. Yeah. Nothing like beginning a perpetual
war with Muslims to engender fear and repression and suspicion at
Which brings us back to the Domestic Security Enhancement Act,
or, as wags are calling it, Patriot Act's Big Brother. Actually,
Big Brother is just a bit too cuddly a term for it (especially for
people who haven't read "1984" and happen to have a perfectly
wonderful big brother, like I do).
However appropriate in the Orwellian sense, let's call it what
it really is the Abusive Stepfather that Mama married on
the rebound after getting raped in Central Park. DSEA hasn't been
introduced to Congress yet, but everyone on the hill knows about
it, thanks to the Center For Public Integrity, which revealed a
leaked draft in February.
Its forebear, the "Patriot Act," hastily passed by Congress
sans debate in the days immediately following September 11, gave
Homeland Security agencies sweeping new powers for intensified surveillance,
detention and prosecution. Remember?
The name implies that anyone who objects to this erosion of privacy
must be, of necessity, a traitor.
Now, call me an alarmist, but a careful reading of the DSEA takes
this idea exponentially further in a way reminiscent of Nazis gradually
whittling down the rights of unsuspecting German Jews. Or, if you
prefer, picture the proverbial frog in the pot, unwittingly boiling
What follows is a summary, with many thanks to law professor David
Cole's excellent article in The Nation (March 17, 2003).
DSEA, in lethal conjunction with already existing provisions and
regulations that have accumulated gradually over the years, gives
the government the power to:
- Strip the citizenship of any U.S. citizen, regardless of birthright,
who is caught supporting even lawful activities of a group that
the administration has deemed a "terrorist" organization,
thereby nullifying the 14th Amendment ("No State may make
or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of immunities
of citizens of the United States: nor shall any State deprive
any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws."). Wrong political ties? Kiss it
- Expand deportation powers so these brand-new "aliens,"
who are now obviously "stateless," can be deported to
a country of the administration's choosing, regardless of whether
it has a government or not (hello Liberia).
- Or, detain the noncitizen indefinitely as a "suspected
- This can be done with no charges, no trial, no proof of criminal
or harmful conduct, no witnesses essentially without public
or judicial scrutiny of any kind, thereby nullifying the 6th Amendment
("In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the
right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the
State ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him: to
have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor,
and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.").
Basically, if the attorney general decides anyone is a threat
to our "national defense, foreign policy or economic interests,"
he'll have unlimited authority to deport any noncitizen he chooses,
for any reason that satisfies him, no questions asked. To quote
the government: You will no longer be a problem.
Up until now, the government has targeted mainly Arabs and Muslims
with these consequences. NPR reports that when Arab and Muslim aliens
have been required to be registered, fingerprinted and interviewed,
even the lawyers of legal resident aliens have been shown the door.
Still think it can't happen to you? DSEA would also:
- Authorize secret arrests. Hmm, you mean like (gulp) Chile? The
former U.S.S.R.? Can you spell "totalitarian"?
- Reverse court orders that were entered prior to September 11,
2001, that prevented illegal police spying, whether they require
individual judicial review or not.
- Secret government wiretaps and searches? You got it! No warrant?
No problem when Congress has authorized the use of force. Let's
just cut the bull and call it perfectly legal!
- Give the government the same access to credit reports as private
companies, again with read my lips no judicial supervision.
In the past, we've guarded this part very carefully because, let's
face it, giving the government access to private information like
that is like telling a 12-year-old with a bag of ants, a sunny
day and a magnifying glass to go play. Private companies generally
don't have the time/power/resources or even the motive to abuse
the information in the same way.
- Eliminate the distinction between domestic terrorism and international
terrorism for a host of investigatory purposes. But hey, terrorism
is terrorism, right? Look, we've always turned a blind eye when
our international intelligence folks have played loosey-goosey
with ethics. DSEA is telling us we now need to get the deluxe
expansion pack for domestic criminal law-enforcement tools that
have thus far been reserved for international terrorism investigations.
How many times have you watched an international spy movie and
thought, "Phew! Good thing we don't run into those folks
every day!" Yep, everyday life could get pretty interesting.
And with broader definitions of who can be considered a terrorist
conveniently in place, it could get downright exciting for the
No wonder Christ's best advice about dealing with the mighty Roman
government was (paraphrasing very loosely here): "In your best
interests, just keep your mouth shut as best you can, pay your taxes
and, for heaven's sake, don't call attention to yourselves."
Thankfully, we're not there yet. Then again, it's been about a
year and a half since we've had a major terrorist attack. What will
they force on us if we're getting attacked every day? Do you really
trust your favorite politician to stubbornly and bravely swim against
the current and risk being made an example for the sake of liberty?
We all need to get our heads out of the bag, stop arguing with
friends and family members and get to work. Otherwise, most of us
won't know what hit us, because we're all too busy screaming partisan
epithets at each other or sorry blocking downtown
Portland at rush hour with more protest marches.
I know, I'm talking about "church" for activists, and
in that light, it certainly has its place. But while we're still
mired in the '60s, the rest of the 21st century is going to jump
on us like ugly on an ape. Which is just the way certain powers
that be want it and I'm not talking about the guy on the
roof of the Sistine Chapel.
We can expect DSEA/Patriot Act II to rear its many-horned heads
sometime shortly after troops are already deeply committed to war,
when public support for the president will be highest.
everything will be okay, because he's ordained by God.
Sure, why not? Especially after the, er, miraculous way he came
After so many years of blessing ourselves at the expense of the
rest of the world, a truly wise, just God may be saying: "OK.
Fine. Here's enough rope do what you will."
And then, as I say, God help us.