Let me ask you to undertake an exercise in pure imagination.
Imagine an America in which a new King George can steal from the poor to give to the rich.
Imagine this new King George can attack another country that presents no imminent threat to us.
Imagine this new King George can listen to your phone conversations, go through your mail, read your email, arrest you, torture you, and jail you for life without the intervention of the courts.
Imagine this wasn’t England a few centuries ago. Or Stalin’s Russia. Or Pinochet’s Chile. Imagine this was America in the 21st century. The actual country you live in, that people call a democracy.
Imagine some blogger wrote that it’s time for you to wake up and smell the royalist takeover. Imagine this blogger claimed a royalist coup was taking place in the name of a so-called “war on terror.”
Imagine this “war on terror” was a total hype. Imagine it could not be called a war, because the terrorists didn’t have a country to have a war against. Imagine the terrorists were simply a bunch of bad guys – no more than 10,000 criminals – hunted by the world’s cops.
Imagine that the number of Americans killed by international terrorists since the 60s, including those killed on 9/11, was about the same as those zapped by lightning, or by accident-causing deer, or by allergic reactions to peanuts.
Imagine a certain John Mueller wrote: “In almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who die at the hands of international terrorists is not much more than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States.”
Imagine that this scattered, limited phenomenon was hyped by the new King George into a huge and scary thing.
Imagine that when the US was threatened by something far worse than a few thousand terrorists — to wit, countlesss nuclear warheads aimed at our cities — our leaders never felt they needed the right to lock up people on their say-so alone, or the right to put prisoners beyond the reach of our courts with the legal trick of calling them “enemy combatants.”
Imagine our country occupied another country, and some of the people in that country kept on fighting against us, because they wanted us out of their country. If foreigners occupied America – wouldn’t you want to fight against them?
Well now, imagine there WERE people occupying your country. Imagine they called themselves Americans, but there was this blogger who called them royalists. Heck, he said he sometimes felt like calling them “enemy combatants.” Imagine they had actual names like George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales, as well as a few other names not fit for children’s ears.
Imagine this blogger said it was appropriate to call them royalists because they were assuming royal powers with the Patriot Act, warrantless spying on US citizens, extraordinary rendition, torture, the locking up of innocent people, and so on.
Imagine this blogger reminded you that former US presidents tried similar power grabs. John Adams had his Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 with which he threatened newspapers and deported foreigners. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in the Civil War. Roosevelt rounded up Japanese-Americans in concentration camps in WW2.
These actions were undertaken against scarier threats than a few thousand terrorists, yet today they look somewhat unbalanced. In fact, they look downright hysterical. A blot on the names of Adams, Lincoln and Roosevelt — good men who gave in to popular fears, and brought themselves shame for this.
Imagine we had leaders today who were bringing shame on themselves — and us — again, this time because of fears manufactured by these leaders themselves.
Imagine these leaders were royalists who said America needed an executive of “unitary” power. Imagine these royalists believed the President had the right to turn Congress and the courts into lackeys, and could sign a law with a “signing statement” that claimed the law did not apply to him. Imagine these royalists declared a long and permanent “war on terror,” to make us believe we needed a president who was permanently above the law.
Imagine, finally, that America started with a document called the Declaration of Independence, which contained the following kicker, capitalized for your reading convenience, about what the people could do if they felt they were being abused:
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes … BUT WHEN A LONG TRAIN OF ABUSES AND USURPATIONS, PURSUING INVARIABLY THE SAME OBJECT EVINCES A DESIGN TO REDUCE THEM UNDER ABSOLUTE DESPOTISM, IT IS THEIR RIGHT, IT IS THEIR DUTY, TO THROW OFF SUCH GOVERNMENT …”
Now that you’ve imagined all this, here are two questions:
1) How long will you let this design evince itself?
2) How much will you have to suffer before you exercise your right and your duty?