It’s also good timing in that I heard an inspirational talk with Naomi Wolf this week. While made famous by her feminist contribution, The Beauty Myth, Naomi (who I have met socially) was discussing the tremendous threat to democracy we are currently facing. At first glance, her theory that the US is on the path to a totalitarian state was most easily dismissed as conspiracy theory. Our confidence in democracy is not easily shaken. But she then outlined the predictable elements of the demise of the democratic society, using Germany, Russia, Italy, Greece and many other countries as examples. Here are some common examples and they are eery:
• Creating an external threat to focus fear. Iraq. The never ending War on Terror.
• Setting up civilian surveillance without judicial review. Hello Patriot Act.
• Military presence in major cities. We are now in violation of the constitution by having more than the National guard in our cities. Count em, 20K troops. And the military is training our police now.
• Voter suppression. Calling an active campaign dedicated to voter suppression “voting irregularities” is disingenuous.
• Setting up interrogation bases above the law. Suspending habeas corpus. Holding citizens without allegations. Torturing prisoners. Gitmo.
Now it’s been clear to me for sometime that Bush’s assault on the constitution has been very real. All my life I have been taught as the basis of privacy that you can’t wiretap without a warrant. And yet, we have conceded these tenets of our democracy so easily. Hell, we even openly violate the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention! Who is America?
Now, I always thought it was because Bush was an autocrat, and a bumbling idiot of one. Just a guy who says god talks to him and thinks he is above the law. Perhaps his idiocy disguised a much more malevolent plot. Perhaps as he said in one of his final press conferences we always “misunderestimated” him. Is it really that hard to believe that you could tilt the balance of our delicate democracy to systematically favor the party in power? Hint: look up Gerrymandering or the recent punitive actions against bi-party lobbyists.
Have we not felt like we have lost our voice? Our impact? With no bid contracts, cronyism, the polarization of the 2 party system resulting in a tyranny of the majority, has the government not been so subverted by special interests that we can legitimately question our democratic ideals?
Could this all have been orchestrated? Planned in a way to secure power for a few individuals? Perhaps their goal was much more malevolent.
Now the election of Obama certainly gives us hope. But perhaps this great achievement was in part made possible by the information age with cell phone cameras, YouTube uploads, and a culture of citizen reporting catching the very irregularities that could swing elections. And believe me, Obama will need us to push any meaningful change. He is 1 man, 1 gun. We are millions, his ammunition.
To reclaim our democracy, we must continue to embrace our ability to make our voices heard. To challenge the threats we too easily have come to accept. To protest meaningfully. To pressure our representatives into action. To force our agenda through State and National Referenda. If the Morman church can sneak Prop 8 into liberal California, what could a city like New York do? Or your local community. Or Obama’s email list. And if New York can do it, maybe all it takes is one Michael Bloomberg. One man convinced to push. It starts with you.
Are you ready to push? It sounds hard because you don’t know how. Naomi’s new book, Give Me Liberty, A Handbook for American Revolutionaries is about showing you the way to make that voice heard. We are the ones who have handed over our democracy. Maybe, just maybe, the threat is so serious that it is time we take it back.
God forbid we go into the annals of history grouped with the citizens of early Nazi Germany writing in our diaries, “I don’t have to speak up yet. It couldn’t get worse.”