Tuesday, August 29, 2006

If I Went Home Tomorrow, Would It Still Be There?

As you can tell from the recent blog about my son asserting his 5th Amendment Rights at three years old - I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether my home - The United States Of America - is still the same country. From afar - it does not appear to be. I wonder - why with the quick and easy dissemination of information today people haven’t woken up?

Everyday, I come across a new story (or an old story making the internet rounds) which make me say, This happened where? And people aren’t suing? Aren’t marching in the streets? Or if they are, why aren’t there more of them.

Then I think about all of the opportunities I had to march in the streets before I left. I remember having a teenager I had to shuttle about the city, nag about homework, and long discussions about ethics and “right choices.” I had a career as an artist (running my mouth on a stage about various topics - often political) I was running a non-profit supporting emerging artists (often very political.) I remember being on bed rest for 6 of the nine months of my pregnancy. I remember having a small breast-feeding child.

I remember writing long letters to my congress people and senators. (Unlike in the U.K. - often these elected officials wrote back to inform me that they disagreed with me and most of their constituents but were going to vote however they damn well pleased.)

But - it didn’t change the fact that I was not out in the streets. I lacked that singular courage my good friend, Lawrence, acts upon. In his sermon, Unitarian Universalist Satyagraha he describes laying in the snowy streets of Pittsburgh to protest the bombing of Iraq. Lawrence is a deeply thoughtful, beautiful soul who is the stay at home father of his two lovely girls. And I believe it is his vision for a peaceful world for his girls which drives him into the streets in peaceful protest.

These days, this is dangerous. These days, children might not have parents if we all did that. Not a year after Lawrence’s sermon, an unarmed woman was tasered at a peaceful, antiwar protest in Pittsburgh. At this same demonstration, an over 60 year old woman was bitten by a police dog from behind and children were sprayed with pepper spray.

Of course, this was tame. At least the Pittsburgh police weren’t shooting an unarmed woman with rubber bullets from behind and laughing about it. And to the best of my knowledge, in Pittsburgh, I can still file a complaint against the police without being harassed, arrested or beaten. This is not so everywhere. In many places, the police will intimidate and or use force to prevent people from filing complaints.

But, how long will this last? We are handing over more an more power everyday to people who shouldn’t really even have the authority to question or detain us, as in the case of Deborah Davis. Sometimes, they damage us beyond belief, as Nicholas Monahan and his wife experienced. But, most of all, as in the case of Larry Hiibel, they rip apart the very seams of our country’s fabric.. Even people documenting the abuse of our civil liberties can be dangerous. And yet, we have no real recourse.

I must admit, John Gilmore is spending a considerable amount of his fortune to help others protect their right to privacy. I have to admit, I admire the man. But, he is losing. Losing as this current regime invokes secret laws which even judges can’t get security clearance to read. But, he is inspiring others. Jim Harper took his challenge to try to fly without ID. But, it seems that you have to be rich or famous to challenge the system, such as a media personality like Penn did.

Now, they can place you in exile without any trail. This American father and son of Pakistani heritage have been denied the right to return home unless they relinquish their Constitutional Rights by submitting to an interview with the FBI without an attorney present. (The FBI is in Islamabad? Since when have they had juristriction outside of the U.S.?)

And I wonder, if even writing this will endanger my family, somehow. After all, it feels as if everyone is being watched and subdued these days. And while it is illegal, nobody has seen fit to seriously discuss the multiple felon who is in charge. If I were to go home tomorrow, would it still be there? I have to believe so. If only from the memories of how my friends act.

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