There’s A Canyon Between Us. Do We Build A Bridge Or Say “Adios” To Democracy All Together?
South Dakota has outlawed abortion, Missouri wants to make Christianity the state religion and the Bush administration is trying to revive the horrors brought on by the Sedition Act. I’d say we’re a country in trouble. Sure, the South Dakota law will likely be deemed unconstitutional and the Missouri bill is just a political stunt, but the fact that the fundamentalist right feels empowered enough to force these issues is a sign that we have taken a wrong turn down a dark and dangerous road. Have we reached the point where we need to banish our leaders and write off a few of our states as lost causes? We fought a civil war to keep the union together, were we wrong all those years ago? We certainly have little in common and apparently the documents that our countrymen died to protect aren’t worth all the trouble.
Our constitution was meant to be a living document, able to change with the changing times. The Civil War was about many things, but part of the mix was the emergence of two diverging ideas of how our country, as laid out in our founding documents, would evolve. Funny that the same is true today when we have the “strict constructionists” on one side, believing that white men have divine rights bestowed by their creator (who the hell they think created the rest of us is beyond me) and the progressives on the other side who want to keep the march toward freedom going, tearing down each and every barrier to equality that is put in front of us. Progress is what a progressive is all about (truth in advertising by golly), and if you’re not with us, you’re regressive.
But we are a whole country still and it would be great to find a way to work together. The first step is accepting the reality of where we are. Bush supporters are here, they’re deer (caught in the headlights), get used to it! Believe me, I’m trying, but in order for us to come to any semblance of a consensus, it will be necessary for them to shake themselves out of their stunned stupor and recognize that they’ve been lied to by this President and that their party has been taken over by the Christian Taliban. We can’t help you there, this one’s on you.
If there was any doubt that the religious right hit pay dirt with the confirmations of Justices Roberts and Alito, the gall of South Dakota and Missouri legislatures fueled by religious extremisms in passing a law banning all abortions and attempting to establish a state religion should put those doubts to rest. If traditional conservatives hope to have any credibility, they better disown this administration and cut the wingnuts off at the knees. If conservatives aren’t interested in taking giant leaps backwards, they better speak up now or suffer like the rest of us at the hands of the Christo-fascists that they are enabling. But even more distressing than what the fanatics are doing, is how hard it is to dig up any news at all about their efforts and successes.
The biggest threat to our democracy is the silencing of the media. It’s hard to believe that the Bush administration feels the need to silence what little dissent there is by attempting to criminalize unfavorable reporting, yet he is. The Sedition Act, which made it a crime to use disloyal language about the government, was repealed in 1921 but the Bush administration is using the Patriot Act, the secretive NSA and Alberto Gonzales’s henchmen at the DoJ to spy on, investigate and eventually prosecute reporters who publish articles about government wrongdoing using leaked information. Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue discusses in detail the lengths to which the Bush administration is going to silence reporters in his article, “Bush Declares War On Freedom Of The Press.” Who needs the Sedition Act when you think you’re King and the Congress and the Courts refuse to correct you?
But what is the responsibility of the press? Just because the press was singled out in the Constitution as having a freedom crucial to a working democracy, does that mean they are obligated to use it? There is no guaranteed freedom of pollution by corporations, no freedom of profit at the expense of workers, no freedom of retail giants to exercise their dominance wherever they choose. In fact there is no constitutional right explicitly given to any private industry other than the press. It seems that this fact should place a special burden on them, but with media consolidation a fait accompli, it’s simply not the case. They are a private business like any other and their main objective is making money, plain and simple. Informing the public of what our government is doing is only a small piece of the product they sell and if the truth conflicts with their profit margin, they have every right to exclude it, distort it or repackage it in any manner they see fit. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. The fact is, they make more money from Republican deregulation and tax giveaways than we could ever provide as consumers and because of this, their allegiance is not to us.
However painful, accepting the reality of the business of media is critical to our understanding of how the government now works, but a line is being crossed. There is a big difference between having to and being able to report the truth, even if it’s inconvenient for the Bush administration. Criminalizing reporting is a blatant violation of the first amendment, and even the big boys who’ve been happily towing the line and circling this administration on their short leashes are likely to get a little bent out of shape on this one. They should be able to see that their success may not forever be tied to the government and that they will want the option of following their own path when their interests diverge. Let’s hope that they do. If they refuse to stand up against this administrations attempt to silence them, there may be little hope left for the rest of us. Willful silence is one thing, but forced silence is quite another and the little guys will need the big boys in this fight. We at the bottom may have more to lose at this point, but hopefully those at the top have the foresight to recognize that that could change in an instant.