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View Diary: Another Cabbie. Another Incredible Story. UPDATED (287 comments)

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  •  Friends from other countries (35+ / 0-)

    Now, while I will not be silenced, I feel I cannot be specific about other people who could get in trouble for their stories, so I will only be general here: I have friends from countries in the former Soviet Union and from a middle eastern country who have lived directly under dictatorships.

    What we are seeing here is not unique.

    What we are seeing here has been repeated innumerable times - not only in the generations of our parents and grandparents and the generations before them, but also in our own generation, just not in this country ... until now.

    Shut It Down Now!
    Beware the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.

    by mataliandy on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 10:53:11 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  I just listened to a story on NPR (9+ / 0-)

      A woman from Romania who had moved to Europe to escape Ceauşescu and worked as a radio host under a fake microphone name.  She returned and apparently they're opening up the secret police's files over there and it's causing a lot of pain.

      What interested me was how the secret police actually worked.  They basically convinced the entire population to spy on each other through a combination of incentive (offering drugs to sick people that could only be had at high prices or on the black market), or fear.  That kind of scheme is something I don't think Americans are quite ready to accept.  Right now, believe it or not, most Americans don't fear their government.

      And I keep coming back to this point -- a cab driver may see how things look and think we're all fucked, but in reality the American population isn't cowed, they're just tired and a little sleepy.  We have been fooled into fearing an external enemy that is literally a "Phantom Menace" and only really wide-awake people are actively afraid of the internal enemy we should be.  Our national personality is relaxed more than it ought to be regarding that but get people thinking that the government is tracking them and even the far right will flip out and reject Bush and his program. And they are armed.

      We have a long history of rude, in-your-face independence behind us.  We do not have a national personality that lends itself to tyrrany, I don't think.  Our nation was born fighting tyrrany.  The same somewhat uncontrolled impulse that led many Americans to support Bush in attacking "terrorism" would, I think, turn rather sharply in his hand like a wayward knife and cut the shit out of the Republicans if people starting seeing death squads moving up and down the streets, or suited agents appearing at everyone's door encouraging us to whisper each other's secrets to the Government.

      Your .sig is interesting in this context.  It is the averted gaze that is killing us now.  But we aren't a homogenous culture that just sits down and takes it.  Every group of immigrants that came to the U.S. had to fight like hell to get what was theirs.  Even five and six generations out we remember it.  The reason we're in this pickle now is that Republicans fooled people for a few years.  But the illusion is gone.  America is waking up.

      Stalin tortured people & held them without trial. Was the USSR safer for it?

      by slippytoad on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 12:11:38 PM PDT

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      •  too late (6+ / 0-)

        The same somewhat uncontrolled impulse that led many Americans to support Bush in attacking "terrorism" would, I think, turn rather sharply in his hand like a wayward knife and cut the shit out of the Republicans if people starting seeing death squads moving up and down the streets, or suited agents appearing at everyone's door encouraging us to whisper each other's secrets to the Government.

        By then, of course, it would be too late.

        "Murder, considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse." St. Cyprian (200-258)

        by valleycat on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 12:24:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think so (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kilo50, FindingMyVoice

          If a few secret police thugs wandered into the wrong redneck neighborhood and were found miles away in the trunk of a car, the next round of secret police thugs would tread less boldly.  America is a nation of many disparate cultural groups, but we are all Americans.  Unlike many another former British colonial territory, or Soviet protectorate, we keep all our ethnic tensions simmering on top, thanks very much.  So we're not homogenously going to respond to being tyrranized.  And we're not going to be so readily turned against one another.  I remain convinced that my Republican friends only remain Republican because they don't know or won't hear about how bad it is.  I don't blame them because they are just not in the right place to see what the naked truth is.  The numerous stories posted by former Repubs on this site convince me that once the shine wears off, it wears off hard.  And they will still be my friends, and I would still stand up for them and they for me.  Believe it or not.

          Stalin tortured people & held them without trial. Was the USSR safer for it?

          by slippytoad on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 01:09:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mile Wide, Inch Deep (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Michigan Paul

            is what I hope Bush's "coalition" truly proves to be.

            The religio-fascists are a pretty dysfunctional bunch anyway.  Weak inside, and don't take adversity very well.

            They can roll across the steppes very well, but one day up against Stalingrad, Moscow, or Leningrad, and they're not feeling much like their cherished Wehrmacht anymore...

            If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State...

            by HenryDavid on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 02:45:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  They will *now*. (8+ / 0-)

            "You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.


            "But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D."

            No one ever stands up.  I went into work today thinking, my god, we've got to do something -- but with who?  And what?  It's alright when you're online, but when you're in public, surrounded by people whose opinions you don't know -- that's another thing entirely.

            •  Best post in months (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              viscerality, DSPS owl, lemming22

              Lemming22, you have it so right.  You hit the nail on the head.  People won't stand up because we all are waiting for the hundreds of thousands to join with us to march to the streets of Washington and throw the fascists out on their ears.

              But all that happens is an occasional anti-war march or protest, that gets little mention in the local or national media.  And I haven't even seen an anti-war protest around here in months.  The last organized action was I believe about this time last year, when the American death toll in Iraq reached 2,000.

              About 40 of us manned protest signs along Michigan Avenue on the border between Lansing and East Lansing, stood in the autumn chilly winds for a couple hours and then dispersed.  I don't even think it was covered in the local media.

              I wish I had confidence people would stand up, but I know they won't.  So, I can try to think about leaving the country, which really is not in the cards for me by a long shot.  So, its in God's hands.  And I'm scared.  Very scared for my family and my country.

              "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."-FDR

              by Michigan Paul on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 10:02:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you. :) (0+ / 0-)

                Read the book.  Seriously, there are parts where it's one of the most terrifying things I've read in recent history.

                And we don't know what to do.  Our country is so used to being functional, we don't know what to do when it's dysfunctional -- when all the checks and balances stop working.

          •  Snitches and stupidity keep everyone in line (0+ / 0-)

            While I was in Miami I had friends who had recently left Cuba in what they call "the lottery," the chance that 25,000 Cubans get every so many years (it is supposed to be annually but Castro stops it for years in a row) to immigrate legally to the U.S., as randomly selected by the government from petitions, or applications, they send in. They told me that, in Cuba, there are people who are designated in each neighborhood to spy on others on their street.  So, even if not ALL Cubans are pro-Castro, they know they will be tattled on by their neighbors and jailed as political prisoners, so they keep themselves in line in public.  This quells any mass demonstrations. I can see that happening here - heck, what about gays, and even straight couples, who are prosecuted for having "deviant" consensual sex in their own homes?  Someone had to spy on them and tattle!  And I've seen on tv many people who have horror stories, especially from Texas, of being prosecuted for private things no one could have known they were doing in their homes -- there has to be more of this going on than we know.

            From the elections of 2000 and '04, it appears that a good 40-50% of the U.S. population would blindly follow their leaders into fascism.  If you ever listen to fascist theory as proscribed by Mussollini, the father of modern fascism, he says that it is the state knowing better than the individual what is best for the state and requiring the individual to step in line.  Does anyone else see that happening here already?  We are told that we have to do what's best for the nation, and anything else is prosecutable.  You think that you don't have neighbors who would take to that like a horse to water?  All it takes is one person in each neighborhood....

            I grew up and now live again in a very rural area in Pennsylvania, and I can tell you that these people who you think are rugged individualists are actually drug-addicted, lazy creeps who would go with any flow as long as they got their paychecks and weren't required to lift a finger otherwise.  They would not defend their freedoms, they don't want freedoms, they want to do the bare minimum, if that, to stay alive.  All the government would have to do is extend food stamps to the working class and they would be held in check.  They don't know what the political parties stand for, they can't remember a thing they learned in school and they don't care, and many of them are Republicans because they've been told that Democrats are all gay God haters and they don't want to go to Hell because their church tells them gay God haters go to Hell, so they hate the Democrats.  And if you show up with a liberal education and try to reason with them, you are a gay God hater and they are conditioned to argue with you with the worst logic available that you cannot dislodge with even the tightest facts.  Trust me, I've tried, and I'm a PhD student in U.S. history, I know the facts and these people are oblivious morons who don't care who has rights and who doesn't, including themselves.  They feel sorry for me because I am a gay God hater in their eyes (and for the record, I am straight and I love God, but then again, my God doesn't cast souls into any kind of hell other than the one we are living right now).

            I also came to understand why many Cuban-Americans are so pro-Republican, and it has nothing to do with the GOP stance on Castro (like our government likes to tell us): it is that they are used to a communist government that controls all thoughts and actions, and can't deal with the freedom of the U.S., and luckily for them there is a political party in the U.S. that mimics what they lived in Cuba, and that is the GOP.  Not that all the Democrats are much better, as Maccabee said at the end of this article, it is just a matter of degrees of fascism.  Like the Roman Empire, our government has become too big, too invasive, and too self-serving, and that can't be cured by a regular election.

      •  A very idealistic viewpoint (10+ / 0-)

        I've lived in this country for almost half a century and I've never once seen an "innocent" bystander stand up against police abuse -- or abuse from any other authority for that matter. We live in a country where people cower in front of private security guards, where we're all careful to be ultra-respectful even to airport employees.

        Maybe you live in some part of the country where people brandish guns and shoot at government agents who dare to trespass on their parcel of land. But I don't, and, frankly, I've never even seen any place like that except in old movies.

        More to the point, "they" are not going to come after people you identify with. Not at first, at least. Just as tens of thousands of Americans watched, laughed and ate fried chicken while their neighbors tortured and killed hundreds of black men every year between 1890 and 1940, modern-day Americans won't utter a word of protest as long as the people being rounded up are darker than them, have beards or are wearing hijab.

        You really think Americans are "waking up"? Great. Wake ME up when they're fully awake and ready to send a few thousand of their leaders off to the Hague.

        •  Come to central PA sometime (0+ / 0-)

          It happens, not frequently, but not infrequently enough to be unheard of. There's a tiny but growing militia movement in parts of the state, and just last year the father of Russ Diamond, who unsuccessfully tried to get on the ballot as governor this year, got into a firefight with several gov't agencies when they came to serve him a warrant.

        •  I live in Kentucky (0+ / 0-)

          Lots of people have guns, they live in the sticks, and trespassers are fair game.  Yeah, I can see it happening here.

          Stalin tortured people & held them without trial. Was the USSR safer for it?

          by slippytoad on Sun Oct 01, 2006 at 06:34:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  But that already happens (0+ / 0-)

        ...encouraging us to whisper each other's secrets to the Government
        They have giant electronic traffic billboards that light up with "Report suspicious activity.." and a tip number when they don't have any traffic messages. This is right in the DC metro area.

      •  One million citizen snitches in place (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Michigan Paul

        since 2002.
        Doesn't anyone remember when Ashcroft's call went out for citizen spies after he formed Operation TIPS?
        Over a million Americans enthusiastically responded to act as neighbourhood spies on the lookout of those who appear "unfamiliar" and who act "not normal".
        Don't you remember the formation of Citizen Corps and the establishment of The Citizen Corps Councils?
        FEMA oversees this,don't you remember?
        It's all in "The USA Freedom Corps Policy Book"
        You have read The Policy Book,haven't you,citizen?

        But that does not reassure Representative Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio. When I ask him about Operation TIPS and its one million snitches, he takes a deep breath.

        "It appears we are being transformed from an information society to an informant society," he says. "Do the math. One tip a day per person and within a year the whole country will be turned in, and we can put up a big fence around the country, and we'll all be safe."

      •  I think that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Michigan Paul, DSPS owl

        thinking what happened to Germany (or Chile, or Argentina, or Spain, or a host of other democracies that went nuts) cannot possibly happen here is a tad naive, and dangerous.

        things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

        by terrypinder on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 08:02:18 PM PDT

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      •  Dream on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DSPS owl

        Really, you and I must be living in a different country, because all I see around here are people who could care less about losing their civil liberties because they are so afraid of the phantom monster in the closet- "the evil Arab terrorists."

        Every other week, a new message from Al Qeada comes out, and scares the daylights out of them one more time.  And what is so disgusting about it is that most of these people are Democrats, some are  union members, a few are  low-income people on public assistance, and are just not following whats going on.  All Bush has to do is conjure up his phantom menace of the "Arab terrorist" who's out to kill them and their family and they will follow him like sheep to the slaughter.  And most of them don't even like Bush or his economic policies or social policies, they're just so damned scared of the terrorists.  

        I really don't know what we are going to do to reach these people, who in my opinion are the majority of the country.  

        "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."-FDR

        by Michigan Paul on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 09:54:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  One can hope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DSPS owl

        I hope that you are right.  As I go through my daily activities, it seems silly and paranoid to believe that things are as bad as I believe they are.  I look around me and everyone is still obsessed with trying to live the 'American Dream' .   And then I remember that we just legalized torture.  I remember the Patriot Act and Katrina.  I remember that we are responsible for Abu Gharib and innumerable secret CIA prisons and Guantanamo Bay.  I remember that most people still equate 9/11 with Iraq.  I remember that over the last 6 years, there have been two stolen presidential elections.  The list could go on and on.  So, I'll end with this...regardless of what new horrific discovery is made about the Bush Regime, if you ask a lay person of what he/she thinks about the "War on Torture", most people are neutral.  They may not like the way it's carried out but they feel that this is necessary.  And that is what ultimately scares me.  So, while I fervently pray that you are right, I'm not really sure if you are.  But I hope you are....  

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