It used to take my breath away. Now it just sickens me. Every time I hear about a new instance of BushCo using the Constitution to wipe its collective repressive ass, I wonder if we will ever emerge from this fever dream. It seems so unreal. How can we have gone so far so fast? It's gotten to the point where comparisons to Nazism and Soviet-style communism are not so much analogies as point-by-point checklists. Suppression of civil liberties? Check. Demonization of "enemies of the homeland"? Check. Pre-emptive invasion of non-threatening countries? Check. Labeling of dissenters as traitors? Check. Elimination of all limits on power? Check. Control of the ballot box? Check.
But sometimes I am still brought up short, thinking, How can otherwise rational people who purport to believe in the fundamentals of American democracy think this is all OK? The latest insurmountable logical hurdle for me came yesterday when I read mcjoan's article on the authorization of warrantless physical searches by the administration.
So this morning I was puttering out in the yard, still baffling after the revelation of this latest travesty, trying to work through how anyone
could justify this to themselves, when the lightbulb went on for me:
In a closed logical system, if you start with the right premise, you can build an entire organizing belief system on top of it, and it will all make perfect sense.
If one can assume certain things as "given," then one can rationalize pretty much anything. Clearly, I had been working from the wrong premises, from the wrong set of "givens." My basic premise had been that it was the duty of every elected official to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and I had built the rest of my belief system upon that. That premise gave rise - amazingly enough - to my belief that, among other things, warrantless spying and physical searches were illegal. Hey, whaddaya know!
But if I were willing to check that pre-9/11 set of "givens" at the door, and proceed from a different set of "givens," then I would be better able to see how it was that I could be so wrong about so much that I thought I understood about how my government was supposed to work for me. (Geez, what a knucklehead I am!) So I took the facts about what the Republicans are doing out in the real world, worked backwards to get at the essential premises, and from there constructed the rationale.
And it looks a little sumpin' like this:
(a) We are at war with terrorists
(b) When we are at war, the President's power cannot be limited
(c) The President's assessment of terror threats is infallible and absolute
(d) Potential terrorists are outside the protections of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures
(e) Anyone who expresses dissent is a disruptor and a potential terrorist
(f) Therefore, anyone who expresses dissent is outside the protections of the Fourth Amendment
Simple, elegant, and it follows perfectly - once you establish the premises.
Seen in this light, it all makes perfect sense:
- Alberto Gonzales's testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee (brilliantly deconstructed by chapel hill guy);
- the inclusion in the PATRIOT Act of the definition of "disruptors;"
- the tortured (now, there's a perfect word) legal justification for ignoring FISA;
- the insanely tight controls put on Presidential appearances (Cindy Sheehan at the SOTU, along with many others)
in short, everything
this group of Republicans has done to quash and intimidate dissent since 9/11. By hanging their hats on the hook of "fighting terrorism," they have proclaimed that virtually nothing is beyond the pale. And, by that reasoning, those who would speak out against such wholesale violations of our civil liberties are, ipso facto
, siding with The Terrorist Enemies.
Wow. cskendrick's elaborate artificial universe has nothin' on the one these guys have constructed!
In our next installment:
Alberto Gonzales's imaginary friend explains why torture is OK.