When Is It Time To Panic?
Someone recently told me that it’s not quite time to panic, that things in this country may be bad, but we haven’t yet reached the point of no return. So I’d just like to toss out the question. When is it time to panic? When does mere concern turn urgent, and will we all recognize the signs in time?
Is it time to panic when the press is used as the propaganda arm of the administration, when reporters take money from the government to promote their agenda? Apparently not considering that Armstrong Williams and Jeff Gannon were exposed as paid propagandists and the General Accounting Office found that the Bush administration’s distribution of “news” stories in support of their policies violated the law, yet they continue to use them.
Is it time to panic when they use their influence with a separate branch of government to quash any investigation into crimes they may have committed? We are still waiting for phase II of the Congressional investigation into pre-war intelligence that was clearly cherry picked, manipulated and in some cases down right manufactured. The Democrats in the Senate made headlines last year when they forced a closed session in an attempt to draw attention to the stalled investigation. Bill Frist came on television and blasted Democrats for pulling this “stunt” and promised that the investigation would go forward, that they had intended all along to do so. The closed session was called on November 1, 2005 and ended with the promise that Phase II would be completed. Five months later and still nothing has been done.
Is it time to panic when the Bush administration can violate the law and possibly the Constitutional rights of American citizens without repercussion? I guess not, considering that last week, Republicans in the formerly separate branch of government known as the Senate, refused to open an investigation into possible violations of law by the Bush administration in its secretive NSA warrantless surveillance program. Even with the presence of whistleblowers from within the NSA who are willing to testify under oath to the Senate, the truth continues to be buried by partisans on the hill. So much for checks and balances and the people’s right to know.
Is it time to panic when this administration starts attacking sovereign nations without provocation? We have already done so in Iraq and the propaganda machine is in overdrive selling the next pre-emptive strike on Iran. Support for tactical strikes (possibly using nuclear weapons) are being sold to the people via the same means and methods employed before invading Iraq. There is no reason to think that the con job won’t work just as well the second time around. It’s not as if being proven wrong on weapons of mass destruction will carry any penalties.
Is it time to panic when the Bush administration ignores treaties and violates international law? We’ve seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, read the reports on Gitmo and heard the tales of rendition. Instead of owning up to abuse and torture, the Bush administration has twisted the law and declared the Geneva Conventions “quaint”. We may be disgusted by what is being done in our name, but there has been no price to pay for those who formulate the policy. Only those who implemented the policy at the bottom of the chain of command have paid any price at all.
Is it time to panic when our votes are counted in secret? Like Stalin said, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” We are allowing our votes to be tabulated by machines that run on proprietary software, that are easily manipulated and in most cases unverifiable. Whether or not elections have already been rigged is not as important as whether or not they could be. If there is no integrity to our voting process, there is no integrity in the outcome.
Is it time to panic when the rubber stamp Congress tries to criminalize reporting? Instead of investigating the warrantless surveillance being conducted by the NSA, Congress has decided to pass new legislation that will simply make the illegal program legal. In doing so, they may also be making it a crime for reporters to report on the program at all. According to the Washington Post, “The draft would add to the criminal penalties for anyone who ‘intentionally discloses information identifying or describing’ the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program or any other eavesdropping program conducted under a 1978 surveillance law.” Senator DeWine, R-Ohio, assures us that it is not the intention of the bill to silence reporters and that if need be, they will patch the problem language. I don’t know about you, but Senator DeWine’s words give me little comfort.
Or is it time to panic when, as Patricia Goldsmith beautifully details today, there is no opposition left? It has long been the case that our two party system is nothing more than political theater. We have two political parties feeding from the same corporate troughs and serving the same corporate interests. If we continue to buy into the lies of either side and continue to separate from one another reducing public discourse to screaming at one another from opposite sides of the wedges driven between us, we give the only power we have left away to leaders who will only abuse it. If we willfully divide ourselves, we will be easily conquered.
I don’t want to panic before it is warranted, but I sometimes wonder if we will recognize the last straw. Don’t we remember that in Germany, the Nazis took control of government, not in a violent coup, but by passing laws that gave them increasing power and control over the people and the news they received? We keep hearing that it’s not time to panic just yet, but if history has a lesson for us right now, it’s that panicking too late won’t do a damn bit of good. Do we really, as a country, want to sit idly by watching evil become a way of life? Most of us judge the German people not as victims, but rather as willing accomplices. Will we judge ourselves the same?
I have been wary of using the Nazi comparison, but since Sandra Day O’Connor, the voice of reason on our high court for decades, feels comfortable warning of a dictatorship, I guess I feel justified. We are being fed propaganda, our government is becoming increasingly secretive, dissenting voices are routinely being silenced and this administration appears to be accountable to no one. If it isn’t quite yet time to panic, I fear the time is fast approaching.