Back during the days of a hyperactive Bush administration, I became involved with a group of elders in Lassen County who had created a forum in order to share their left-wing opinion.
As liberal refugees in a largely Republican county in northeastern California, the forum, known internally as the Progressives, developed a safe place to air their grievances in the policies of the U.S. government. Some submitted their opinions to the local weekly newspaper, Lassen County Times, and were thick-skinned enough to weather the fierce rebuke of their neighbors, many of whom blindly supported an administration that legislated No Child Left Behind, and the Patriot Act (both passed in 2001).
But what sealed the deal for the Progressives was President Bush’s statement, made during an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people, on September 20th, 2001, wherein defining the will of the United States in protecting its people against the type of terroristic atrocities horribly committed on September 11th, Bush said: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
In extrapolating that message, the Progressives interpreted a deeper meaning—that standing up against the Bush administration’s policies, or opining disdain for Bush as a war monger (Bush called himself a “war president” on February 7th, 2004, in an interview for “Meet The Press”), might mean being unceremoniously arrested, and worse, disappearing into the sinkhole of Guantánamo Bay prison.
Two members of Progressives, now deceased, decided to test the feds, who were purportedly snatching up Internet traffic by using certain keywords painstakingly gleaned from private emails.
Chuck, who was already on the verge of death, and had posted a DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate”) in the foyer of his home in Doyle, California, started out by including words such as “terrorist lover,” “baby killer,” and “Osama-like” in emails related to rants about George W. Bush.
The other member, Nancy—who by the way, is probably the classiest lady I’ve ever corresponded with, but didn’t have the pleasure of meeting face to face before her death from lung cancer—used similar keywords, though with more sophistication, such as “government sponsored genocide,” “terrorist cell,” and “weapons of mass destruction.”
What was most odd was how these two individuals (who incidentally, didn’t have many nice things to say about each other, but shared similar social and political views) fervently seemed to want Bush’s henchmen to knock down their doors, and drag them off to prison, so they could make a point, perhaps by using the scholarly defense of the ACLU for the benefit of free speech for all Americans. They indicated a desire to get onto the No Fly list, though to the best of my recollection neither of them ever had any reason to leave Lassen County in a car, train or bus, much less a commercial airline (of course, one would have to drive ninety miles to Reno to board an aircraft).
And no, the feds never even blinked at them, not once.
In fact, during this period, one of my family members, diagnosed with a mental illness for over thirty years, sent actual threatening emails to Mr. Bush at the White House, telling Mr. Bush that he was a fake president, and that the family member would arrive in fanfare to supplant Bush’s authority, because the family member was God of the Universe.
Though Homeland Security scrutinized this family member, nothing came of it, except for being a constant on the equivalent of the No Fly list, something I’d liken to the Delusions of Grandeur list. Most recently in an attempt to arrange for a personal meeting with President Obama, this family member was investigated by the Secret Service, which probably added him to the Harmless Nutcase list. As far as I know, the TSA never added the name to the No Fly list, and this individual has traveled by commercial airline several times since being investigated by both agencies. Go figure.
Now, we have the revelations of PRISM, the NSA’s (No Such Agency) ongoing “clandestine” surveillance program. In laymen’s terms, the NSA has streamlined their information collection under PRISM, tapping into actual fiber-optic cables that enter and exit North America. It’s Orwellian, and disturbing, and yet, after the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, flung a lot of relevant shit at the fan, PRISM is pretty much fading from the collective consciousness of the American people.
Why the lack of constant outrage? It’s because we’ve entrusted our government to protect us, and because we’ve been engendered with an “Us and Them” type of attitude, the same frame of mind that allows us to turn our backs on the murders perpetrated by our government (military personnel and civilian contractors) upon innocent families—yes, that’s thousands of men, women and children—during our occupation of Iraq. The fact that many are Muslims gave Americans ingrained with an elitist idea that as Christians, we are God’s chosen people, the license to cease to care. Combine that with the Bush administration policies of turning Us against Them, we have somehow minimized—or even justified—our not-so-unique form of genocide.
Religion aside, murder and genocide should always be an outrage, especially when it involves innocents. Somehow, our outrage and shock and defiance have been placed in a lead-lined box, and buried deeply in concrete, with our heads.
Perhaps it’s the only way to survive the lingering effects of social atrocity. I’m reminded of this every time I pass twisted wreckage along the edge of the freeway, constituting a fatal crash, or when, even several years following the murder of five family members by a lunatic son/uncle/brother just two blocks up from my house, you could still discern a blood trail staining the sidewalk.
Unlike blood fading away beneath the relentlessness of the elements, and the mercy of time, the madness of war remains as a constant, a reminder that despite our great civilizations, we are still entrenched in our primitive needs, whether driven by greed, religion, hunger, or thirst.
In the end, how often do we, as a species, pay the price by giving up our hard-won freedoms, thereby losing our humanity and compassion, instead of demanding the out-and-out truth?