( – promoted by buhdydharma )
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.