Congress to Patrick Henry: Drop Dead

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Give me liberty or give me death.

— Patrick Henry, 1775

You have no civil liberties if you are dead.

— Senator Pat Roberts, (R-KS), 2006

The issue is completely straightforward.  It could not have been put more clearly by Senator Roberts.  

Congress has decided that the threat of another attack, and more dead civilians, is more important than the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States.  They are unabashed, unashamed cowards.  They believe that the American people are unabashed, unashamed cowards.  

Congress did not even attempt to make the case that bravery in this case means standing firm for America’s founding fathers and founding documents.  Democrats did not even attempt to make the case that the Bill of Rights is worth the risk of 3,000 lives, or 30,000, or 300,000.  

That Congress thinks the American people are, like themselves, unabashed, unashamed cowards — that Congress thinks the Constitution is not worth the loss of 3,000 civilian lives — speaks more about the culture of Washington and the decrepit state of the Republic than anything else could.

Another Congress could have rallied the people with calls for bravery after 9/11.  Another Congress could have made clear that while the President thinks fear of death matters more than the loss of America, Congress disagrees, and would stand firm in the face of the President’s astonishing betrayal of all we come from, all we are as a nation, and all we hope to be.

Another Congress could have recalled the sacrifices of previous generations, of our founding generation.  And this would have been easy, because in fact the threat to America is, to put this mildly, less grave now than it was in 1776.  

In 1775, the threat was from an imperial army who had vowed never to let us go.

Today, the threat to this nation comes from, in the President’s own words, “individuals who hide in caves in remote parts of the world.”  

The cowardice of the Washington class is therefore not only hard to explain, it is hard even to describe.  What would they say to Patrick Henry, to George Washington, to John Adams, to the least soldier at Valley Forge?

Individuals who live in caves in remote parts of the world scare us more than you were scared of death from the British army.  That is all that Congress could say.

There is more to this, of course.  The President is not, we understand, really afraid of death.  He is afraid of jail.  

When the President acts to suppress the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States, he does not do so out of fear of loss of life, though that is his claim.  No.  He fears the approach of justice.  He does not fear the approach of “individuals who hide in caves in remote parts of the world.”  

But that is not the point.  The point is not that the President is a criminal and afraid of jail.  The point is not that he is a scoundrel.  The point is that the President believes that the rest of the American people are as cowardly as he is.  The point is that Congress believes it too.  Worse: Congress fears the loss of an election more than the loss of America.  In a way, then they are worse than the President.  The President fears incarceration.  Congress fears, apparently, a search for an honest job.

There is no good way to put this.  The very best that could be said of Congress is that they honestly believed, in the Year of Our Lord 2008, that most Americans valued their lives more than their country.  That most Americans could not see anything larger than themselves to believe in.  Even to put it this way requires us to issue a great deal of charity to Congress.  But even this way is bad enough.

The truth is probably worse.  The truth is probably not that Congress believes the American people are cowards.  The truth is probably not that Congress believes that cowards must be obeyed because losing an election is worse than losing a country.  

The truth is probably that Congress believes Americans are good people, but that Big Media has the power to brainwash the American people into thinking that death is a worse fate than being the generation that lost America.  

This, after, all, is what is meant by, “Not wanting to be portrayed as weak on terror.”

And further, the truth is probably that Congress thinks Big Media would use that power, and would so brainwash the American people.  No doubt Big Media would try.  After all, Big Media has an interest in unfettered power.  

But whether or not Big Media could, in the end, succeed in brainwashing the American people into valuing their skins more than their country, is not as telling as the fact that Congress believes Big Media could succeed.  In this, Congress pays more homage to the power of propaganda than any number of flag pins or “Muslim smears” could.

And that, I think, is the deeper lesson in all of this.  Member of Congress in the Year of Our Lord 2008 depend totally on the power of media for their jobs, or think they do, and so all of their actions cater to media image first and the American people second if at all.  In a certain sense, then, Congress believes it is not elected by independently-minded citizens, but by CBS, ABC, CNN, CNN, and Fox.  

It is therefore hard to conclude anything other than that Congress’s faith in the power of propaganda is total.  Propoganda itself, even more than the message it portrays, is the force that must be obeyed, in the end.  

More, the belief that propaganda, even if its power is believed in, would not ever be used for good by Big Media, is also total.  There appears to be no doubt in Congress that Big Media – which is to say Big Corporations – would destroy the country before it would save it.  And this power, the power that Congress actually fears, is infinitely greater than the power of any “individuals who hide in caves in remote parts of the world.”  

Newt Gingrich claims that terrorists could “literally destroy a city” and that this is why we must sacrifice the Bill of Rights.  But the power to destroy a city is nothing, is inconsequential, compared to the power to influence the thinking of 300,000,000 Americans.  And it is likely this latter power that Congress actually fears and believes in.

Whether this power is greater than the power of the British army in 1775 is perhaps open to debate.  But either way, to utter the words, “You have no civil liberties if you are dead,” is not to combat the power of Big Media but rather to supplicate oneself to it.  In a situation like this, it becomes hard to see what the value is in being a member of Congress in the first place.  What do they represent, on Capitol Hill?  Americans or the forces that attempt to influence Americans?  If the former, why sacrifice the Bill of Rights?  If the latter, why join Congress at all?

But the answer to that last question is obvious.  Money and power.  That is why one joins Congress.  You did not need me to tell you that.  Perhaps, though, the bleak clarity of the answer is new.  It was not prior to this so like a cold wind in the trees.  There is nothing at all of democracy in this.

________________

We have to figure out what to do about this.  I have no better answer than to remake the lines of communication and therefore the paths of power in this country, so that they flow from citizen to citizen rather than from Congress to Big Media and back again.  The blogosphere is, of course, the beginning of an attempt at this.  What we need are ideas for an expansion of this resistance, of this push-back, of this informational revolt.  Apparently, the very country is at stake.

17 comments

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  1. Also at Daily Kos.

    • robodd on June 21, 2008 at 3:30 am

    if we locked everyone up before they committed a crime, there would be no crime.  I do see one problem, the who would do the locking up thingy.  Still workable, perhaps computers or robots.  A small sacrifice of our freedoms, I think.

  2. …who allegedly is a Democrat.  I told him I was appalled and outraged by his yes vote on FISA; that he swore to uphold the Constitution, not the telecoms; that he was elected by the people, not the telecoms.  Then I told him I hoped that cowardly (tho I didn’t actually call him a coward) incumbents like him would be primaried out over the next few elections.  And, if they weren’t primaried out, that people would vote for their opponents, because if incumbents Dems were going to vote like republicans, why not just put in a republican–at least we wouldn’t waste our time expecting anything of them.

    Guess I needent call him if I have any problems that a representative could help with…

  3. Mmmm…

    Republican/conservative/wingnuts who live in their mother’s basement

    Dick Cheney, and his myriad “undisclosed locations” and “secret bunkers”

    …they’re all terrorists, too.

    What an amazing coincidence.

    • Mu on June 21, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    . . . we don’t just destroy a city, we destroy our whole country.  

    What am doin’ sayin’ this “we” crap; there ain’t no “we” to it — it’s the capitulators in Congress!

    Mu . . .

  4. Is it “we” or is it “democrats in Congress” or “the US government”?

    Is it “enemy combatants” or is it “prisoners”?

    Is it “compromise” or is it “capitulation”?

    Is it “invasion” or is it “occupation?”

    Is it “harsh interrogation” or is it “torture”?

    Is it “extraordinary rendition” or is it “illegal extradition”?

    Is it “signing statements” or is it “flouting the law”?

    Is it “limited immunity” or is it “exemption from the law”?

    The full list is much, much longer.

    It’s not enough for them to destroy Iraq and anyone who lived there.  Do they have to destroy the meaning of the language as well?  It’s amazing we can still think.  

  5. “The FISA legislation we will consider gives our intelligence community the tools it needs and the public the civil liberty protections it deserves. In addition, it rejects calls for automatic immunity for private sector companies. While this bill isn’t perfect, the perfect should never be the enemy of the good. I applaud the Democrats and Republicans who reached this compromise and produced legislation that deserves support from both sides of the aisle.”

    ‘The public the civil liberties it deserves’ WTF?  Civil rights are a not privilege we can be bamboozled out of because   ‘tools’ illegal are needed to fight enemies who are cooked up to scare us. I thought the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were the Law. As in “The Law is King”.  Obama’s statement is just as  mind boggling as per his campaign promises to uphold the Constitution. I guess if we are so stupid as to buy this we don’t deserve these rights. Compromise my ass. Inherent  rights of the executive branch, to break the law, then have it retroactively made law is the only thing that being upheld here.

    You are too kind to Congress LC. There motivation and agenda be it either party is has the same end and is at odds  with democracy or even civil rights hard won through out history. The media is just the mouthpiece for ‘two legs better’ that emenates from both Parties. My question how stupid are we to go down this road again?            

    • Edger on June 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Gifted poetry.

    Thank you.

    • kj on June 22, 2008 at 1:15 am

    the 2002 class were the ultimate in caver-inners.  just setting records every year, aren’t they?

    as to figuring out what it do about this: it takes forever, and we don’t have forever, but i’m still of the thought that one-on-one challenge to the winger memes are the all i can accomplish in this lifetime.  most people know the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’  as for all the other ideas that have been floated for years; taking back the language, learning to frame issues, netpaper publications left in doctor’s offices like Tom Paine pamphlets… most of that hasn’t come to anything grand, but the discussions have been helpful.  the work hasn’t all been in vain.

    patience and an acceptance that failure is the end result of many actions, but failure doesn’t mean the end of action, is the best i can come up with today.  

  6. Sen. Roberts “What are you left with if you’re alive without

    civil liberties?”  Doesn’t sound like any country I’d like to

    live in.  The state of New Hampshire understood this many years ago…

    On their license plates:  Live free or die

    You have no civil liberties if you are dead.

    — Senator Pat Roberts, (R-KS), 2006

    LC – this is an excellent summary.  We HAVE to find a way to

    get this word out to the general public.  Dumb as they are I’m

    sure they’d get it if they became aware of just how seriously

    fucked our country is right now.

    • Edger on June 22, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Money and power.  That is why one joins Congress.  You did not need me to tell you that.  Perhaps, though, the bleak clarity of the answer is new.  It was not prior to this so like a cold wind in the trees.  There is nothing at all of democracy in this.

    The 110th Congress is the Legislative Branch.

    .

    .

    .

    Of The Bush Administration.

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