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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Get Up, Stand Up

I just spoke with a young man who has been living in NOLA for a couple years. B. knows another guy in NOLA who works for a government agency down there. When the flooding happened, he’d left some confidential work on his home computer, so, B. explained to me, a day or two afterward, they helicoptered this guy in to retrieve it. As they got closer to Lake Pontchartrain, he saw how bad the situation was and they decided to turn around. But it wasn’t just the flooding and bodies that caused the hesitation. The National Guard were already there (long before they arrived according to the news) and they were shooting people. B’s friend saw one man running with something in his arms that was from a shop and a Guard shot him in the back of the head. Shot him dead.

Those of you saying to yourselves, So what? should reflect that first of all, such an action is unconstitutional. Would you rewrite the constitution to improve upon it? Does that approach make you a true patriot above other mere citizens?

Most civilized cultures in the world would also call that action barbaric: What? A television is worth more than a human life? In what kind of value system? A Christian one? And thinking people might want to explore various angles and possible actions and possible outcomes, assuming that the taking of human life is a serious matter. (Not only the human lives you happen to know, but radically enough, ALL human lives.)

Some of you inclined to press your brain cells into further service may find yourselves reflecting that if a rich, white suburban adolescent who didn’t really need a television—say he already even had one in his bedroom—went looting for a simple prank and was shot and killed, there would be “Serious Consequences.”

But what scares me even more than this racist, classist, lawless, secret military on the ground that showed up in New Orleans, is the thought that the scenario may be much larger than this one disaster. Has anyone noticed that more and more power and money have been moving over toward the military? That the executive branch has essentially taken—through deception and political pressure--the power to declare war away from the Congress? That our media—sometimes referred to as the fourth branch of government-- are more and more controlled, reporters spitting scripts handed them by the White House and not even daring to question an authority speaking a blatantly obvious lie? That despite all the money and manpower given to Homeland Security, they have apparently been working on things other than securing our borders or preparing to assist American citizens in trouble after crisis? That cameras are proliferating not only on our streets, but at gatherings of people trying to lawfully engage in their democracy through protest?

It’s time, people. It’s past time. Don’t wait until it’s too late and then moan and lament that nobody saw it coming, or realized its true nature, as so many good German citizens once did. (Some of them even committing suicide when they learned the realities of what had been happening in their Fatherland.) There is only one way to preserve a democracy: A certain number of people must stay informed, think, and participate in it. Remember what this country’s ideals are, what it should keep striving to be. And remember that Power is not interested in the same things; it has always been this way.

It’s time.

Get Up, Stand Up.

Think and Be Dangerous

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