Almost American

Are we any safer?

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have given life to an era controlled by the buzzword, "national security". It has shaped almost every aspect of our lives; the way we fly, the way we work, the way we travel, the way we utilize the internet and the way we interact with others. We are no longer a trustful nation; we are suspicious and have become much less tolerant of the customs of others. 9/11 has divided a nation. It has polarized us into two camps, with very little in between. When we were stripped of our rose coloured glasses, we took a hard right and never looked back at what we once were. We, as a nation, are guided by fear.

In a little over a decade, we have funnelled untold billions into war, into spying; not only on our enemies, but our allies and the citizens of America themselves. We have reached a point where the current democratic President; a former Constitutional lawyer, ensures us that he is well within his legal rights to not only fly over sovereign nations we are not at war with and unleash military bombardment via drone on what one can only describe as horrific human suffering, but also target American citizens who are not an imminent threat to the nation. We have tortured, we have denied due process and we have collected so much data that the haystack within which we seek the elusive needle has become so large that it only stands to reason it is more difficult to find.

The administration promised to us by the Obama campaign is a far call from how this administration actually governs. Hope and change? Not a chance. The rule of law? No cigar. Transparency and accountability? No evidence of that either. In fact, the rights of the American populace have lost significant ground under the Obama administration. The subversion of the Constitution and disregard of our civil liberties practiced by the Bush administration was codified into law on December 31, 2011 under the National Defense Appropriations Act. The revolving non protest zones were also implemented under Obama. While we rail against the GOP/Tea Party's obstructionism and sheer ridiculousness, we fail to recognize our loss of electoral power we, "the people" have suffered under this administration.

While Bush is viewed as the warmongering President, it was Obama who within the first nine months of his Presidency led the two largest surges, increasing troops in Afghanistan by 64,000. Under Obama, 222,000 troops, not including private contractors, were deployed in the Af-Pak/Iraq regions which outnumbered Bush by 34,000 troops. This is not a testament to the Bush/Cheney government, but Democrats need to assess Obama's performance based on Obama's governance, not his public appeal. Democrats need to imagine a Republican face on the questionable actions of this administration and then measure their outrage.

There is far too much defense of this administration's questionable actions in the name of GOP obstructionism and dysfunction. The revelations made public by Edward Snowden on neither the NSA's mass surveillance programs nor the aggressive drone program qualify as a by-product of a highly dysfunctional Congress. My considerable concern regarding President Obama are not founded upon what President Obama fails to get done due to an obstructionist Congress, but rather is based on what the President, himself, does in the names of the American population.

The 2008 election success was a direct result of not only Americans' weariness of perpetual war, but also because they were promised a different America, based in the restoration of the rule of law and the restoration of civil liberties and constitutional rights. Rather than pulling us back to a time where the Constitution, the law of the land was respected and held sacred, we find ourselves governed by a President, a constitutional lawyer, who challenges the boundaries of the Constitution to justify the continued erosion of the rights and liberties of the people. It is evident that Barack Obama believes the Constitution to be pliable, a means to an end, rather than holding the Constitution, the law of the land, as the end.
We often hear the question if we are safer now in the post 9/11 era, or are we less safe? The homeland security machinery has grown exponentially. The technological era has NSA's vigilant, all seeing eye, sifts through vast amounts of data and stores it on massive servers. The increased cost associated with domestic security alone is estimated to have cost a few hundred billion dollars providing unparalleled resources to the national security apparatus. We waged war on two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, and have expanded military operations into Pakistan, the Yemen and Somalia costing trillions of dollars. Yet, the question remains, are we as a nation safer?

With every drone strike that destroys a village, maims or kills a civilian, we create countless terrorists. With every speech filled with hubris and rhetoric targeting faith or race-based demographic groups, we beget hatred. With every pronouncement of American exceptionalism, we breed resentment. Through this, our leaders have designed a machine that gives birth to terrorists and terrorism more effectively than any recruitment efforts offered by terrorist groups. When human beings bear witness to the reduction of their loved ones to unrecognizable pieces of flesh, shredded apart by missiles that drop from the skies above by anonymous, omnipresent drones, fundamental reason is replaced by a sense of hopelessness, revenge and apathy. Can we not recognize the violent murder of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children and friends, annihilates humanity, the very thing that safeguards against violent acts, such as terrorism? Once we destroy hope and kill dreams of whole populations of what they hold near and dear, we have become Al Qaeda's best recruitment tool. Are we safer now than we were on September 10, 2002? I don't think so.

While we were sleeping… Feeding the monster

While we were sleeping, we were stripped of our civil liberties, constitutional rights, personal wealth and political power. While in a stupor induced by frenzied conspicuous consumption, we allowed our government to sell out our interests to global corporatocracy. We reveled in the lower prices that followed free trade without the realization the devastating cost was our livelihood. No noise of protest, nor a mere whimper was heard when they stripped us of our rights and liberties in the name of security. While they kept us afraid with colour coded threat levels, civil disobedience and protest manifested with movements such as Occupy Wall Street were quashed with the new powers they anointed themselves.

While Rachel Maadow and pontificating Lawrence O’Donnell mercilessly mock the GOP and Tea Party, the GOP is imploding upon itself. The irony didn’t escape me when I watched the GOP shut down the government, costing the economy an estimated $24 billion over a healthcare plan they didn’t support, which was virtually identical to the plan successfully implemented by their Presidential candidate, former Governor Mitt Romney, in his home state. It’s kind of like watching the World Wide Wrestling Federation with all of its contrived melodrama and staged matches in horrific glee. You want to turn it off, but can’t bring yourself to do so. While you were concentrating on watching that right hand like a hawk, you completely missed what the left was doing. Governance reduced to a cheap, tawdry parlour trick.

While this despotic corporate-ruled government knowingly and intentionally runs this country into the ground, they’re making sure that they are taking everything and everything they can get their mitts on. We are almost there and let’s be honest, it ain’t going to be pretty sight. They; intentionally, with foresight, malice and intent are hollowing out the nation from the inside out. We won’t see the rot until the whole fetid mess finally collapses upon itself. We are unwitting partners in our own demise. If you believe the government isn’t complicit in the crimes Wall Street perpetuated on the middle class, I’ve found the fountain of youth and want to share it with you at a one time bargain basement price (phone lines will be open for only one hour…be sure to call while we still have some in stock…). Do you really believe that while JP Morgan Chase faces numerous criminal investigations and has already been fined $13 billion, Obama’s favourite banker, Jamie Dimon, no longer plays golf with the President? I doubt it. Although these these people are directly responsible for the greatest global financial meltdown since the Great Depression, the collective “we” believe in the very institutions they lead. Although history has shown us class struggle is eternal and witnessed first hand it’s devastation, we still believe in capitalism and the institutions it represents. We must be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome as time after time, we have witnessed the destructive forces of a system of unfettered capitalism. We have bonded with our captors.

What lies in my heart of my contempt is how the comfort zone we exist in blinds us to the incremental erosion of the power “we the people” hold. We often dismiss the activist who has foresight and understanding the perilous path we are on. We characterize his activism as “crazy” often portraying the protest he partakes in as criminal. We don’t notice that our income, little by little, erodes with each passing year. We justify the decimination of our rights and liberties in the name of security. We believe our elected representatives serve our best interests, not the interests of Corporate America. When we have nothing left, have lost our personal wealth, have lost our rights and have lost our voice taken by the very corporatocracy we created, do we realize that we fed the monster, grew it and are no longer able to reign it in.

We slept on while our President; a constitutional lawyer whose campaign platform called for the return to the rule of law, along with promised government accountability and transparency, codified the very things he railed against. While condemning the previous administration, he expanded executive powers far beyond Bush, further subverting the Constitutional rights and civil liberties of the American people. We slept on while we remained embroiled in a unwinnable war leaving behind a landscape of a nation that may never recover. We slept on while unmanned drones dropped an arsenal upon the population below in countries we are not at war with. We slept on when a young, courageous, young man gave up everything; his work, his family, those he loved, his liberty and country in order to make us aware that not only does our country spy on its enemies, it does the same to allies and citizens alike. We showed more interest in the final season of Breaking Bad.

When the 1% are the sole residents of a cocoon of comfort and privelige, the people will wake from their self inflicted hibernation demanding their rights, political power and personal wealth only to discover one fundamental truth that while we were sleeping, we passed the tipping point, losing our voice, our rights and our power. Nothing short of revolution will save us.

Our folly…Aspiring to be what we deplore.

Whenever I read Chris Hedges, two things happen simultaneously. I become depressed, which my husband refers to as my doom and gloom mode, and along with the depletion of spirit, I am also hugely relieved to know that I am not the only one thinking what he so eloquently illustrates. I used to wonder at what point did money became more important than human beings? Let us make no mistake, history clearly shows us that the class struggle is an eternal battle, playing itself out time after time. It seems that we are unable to break this vicious cycle, failing to learn from the errors of the past, only perpetually repeating it.

When things are going well, we become complicit in our middle class existence. This is our folly. While enjoying the fruits of a battle hard fought, we forget that the 1%, the elitists, the corporations haven’t surrendered and continue to wage their battle against equality, against a living wage and against basic, fundamental human rights. Their single minded purpose, their search for the holy grail lies in profit margins and even when we win a battle, the war will never end. You see, they never forget, never reach a saturation point, a point where they believe it’s enough, a realization that their obscene wealth can never be spent, nor understand that in most instances, circumstance of birth is what defined them, not some unique quality which sets them above those they view as disposable entities, their fellow human beings.

While we rail against the 1%, we also aspire to belong to the club. We speak contemptuously about careless, meaningless, empty lives, yet in our pathetic way, we attempt to emulate them on a small scale. Conspicuous consumption drives us, buying our children brand name running shoes made by a child labour force in a third world country, too dumb to realize Nike won’t make our children better athletes.

When our standard of living increases, we too participate in shameful behavior. Rather than express compassion and empathy towards those less fortunate than us, we insist hard work was the singular factor in our success inferring that all those less fortunate only need to work harder. We forget that men are born unequal due to circumstance of birth. We firmly believe that those less fortunate than us are directly and solely responsible for their plight and they failed because they didn’t try hard enough. We forget how fragile it all really is and fail to realize that we will never; no matter how hard we work, become what we aspire to, to be the 1%.

Chris Hedges is right. Whether it a Democratic or Republican holds the highest office in the land, they both serve the same corporate master. I think back to Election 2012, between Candidate Obama and Candidate Romney and realize that they are just two dances to the same tune. Both serve corporate interests over the interest of the American populace they are elected to represent. We do not have a government that serves the majority, it’s a government driven by self and corporate interests.

Open Letter to the George Zimmerman Jury

To the Jury of the George Zimmerman Trial:

I usually don’t second-guess juries. I believed in the justice system, although imperfect, provided trial by a jury consisting of peers, who, when provided evidence presented by both the prosecutor and defense, came to a decision regarding the accused’s innocence or guilt. I certainly have been heartbroken about some verdicts, but rarely questioned a jury’s verdict.

The acquittal of O.J. Simpson didn’t invoke feelings of jury incompetence, and although I certainly believed that Simpson was guilty, I viewed Simpson’s acquittal a direct result of prosecutorial incompetence. Mark Furman, the prosecutor’s star witness, would not have been believed by even the most naïve, gullible individual. Much rested on his testimony and when it was uncovered the he was a racist, a liar and immensely untrustworthy, anything out of Mark Furman’s mouth was questionable.

This verdict has made me so incredibly angry. With anger, I feel a deep sense of hopelessness and shame. Upholding the “Stand Your Ground” law, where it is legal for an armed white man to follow a black, unarmed teenager solely because he feels “he is up to no good”, and shooting him dead on the streets, you, the jury, have effectively killed a dream. I think of Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream, standing at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 speaking to 210,000 Americans.

“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

You could have delivered a clear message to America that we no longer tolerate young, black American males shot down in the streets while walking back from the convenience store. You could have delivered a message that we have come a long way from the days where a black life was weighed less than that of a white life. You could have been courageous and held a far from stellar citizen accountable for taking the life of a young black man for the sole trespass of walking down the street in the rain. You had a responsibility, you were to seek justice. Did you fail to remember we are a nation “indivisible with liberty and justice for all”?

The undisputed facts of case proved Mr. Zimmerman to be guilty of manslaughter of at least manslaugter. Mr. Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin after being explicitly told not to. Mr. Zimmerman had a loaded gun in his possession. Mr. Zimmerman lied in either his police statement or in his 911 call. Inconsistencies can certainly be expected when an individual finds himself in a high stress situation. The 911 call and first police statement aren’t even close. One of the two narratives, is a work of fiction. All flowed from the actions of a white man who patrolled the neighbourhood with a handgun culminating in the death of Trayvon Martin.

While Melissa Alexander sits in jail for the next 20 years, leaving behind a eleven year old twins and a toddler, for firing a warning shot when she felt threatened by her estranged husband whom had a restraining order against. Her attempt to invoke a “stand you ground” defense was denied by the judge. It is true that Ms. Alexander went to her car to retrieve her gun, but is a 20-year sentence appropriate? Would a white woman in similar circumstances have faced the same fate? Ms. Alexander is African American and has a Master’s degree. Where is justice served by locking up a mother of three for a good portion of her life?

Fast forward, armed George Zimmerman (white) followed an unarmed, African American teenager, Trayvon Martin. In his 911 call, Zimmerman told the dispatcher “We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy,” …”This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something,”… It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about”.

Zimmerman stated, “These assholes. They always get away”. George informed the dispatcher Martin was running. The police explicitly instructed George Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon Martin. When the police arrive, Martin lay dead on the ground and George Zimmerman is walking around the body.

The known, undisputed facts of the Trayvon Martin case would have convinced an objective juror of Zimmerman’s guilt of at least the charge of manslaughter. To acquit a “wannabe” cop who shot an unarmed teenager is dereliction of your judicial duties. Zimmerman’s defense invoked the controversial “Stand Your Ground” legislation, yet who actually was standing their ground? Zimmerman, after being told to NOT follow the unarmed, black teenager continued to do so. Zimmerman felt the “suspect” (see Zimmerman’s written statement) was acting suspiciously. Since when does one walking in the rain constitute an act of suspicion? If Zimmerman had encountered a white male walking in the rain would his “highly trained” suspicion meter have kicked in?

According to Zimmerman, Martin approached and attacked him. This was after he stated that Trayvon had fled and had been instructed by the police not to follow. If we are willing to take Zimmerrman’s narrative at face value (which is doubtable), and Trayvon Martin confronted him leading to an altercation, wasn’t Trayvon Martin just standing his ground? Why is a black teenager like Trayvon Martin’s fear of being followed by a white, “creepy” man dismissed and George Zimmerman’s fear for his life accepted and validated. It is much more plausible and understandable for one to imagine a black teenager’s fear walking in an unfamiliar area followed by a white, older man “wannabe” cop than to accept Zimmerman’s claimed fear for his life.

I think that you all failed miserably in your duties. Your verdict has made it very, very clear that the “Stand Your Group” law is only available to white men who seek confrontation with African American teenagers. Let’s make no mistake. Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin because he felt young black men walking around are suspicious. I am certain, beyond any doubt, that if Trayvon Martin was a white, young man, Zimmerman would not have followed him, the chain reaction that exploded into the death of yet, another black young man.. Zimmerman’s initial interest in Trayvon Martin was piqued solely because Trayvon Martin was an African American, young man and he equated African American, young men as those were “up to no good”. This is racial profiling in its barest, bigoted form.

You have given license for white men to shoot down African American males and claim self defense. Sure, there is enough blame to go around. Rather than showing courage and being an example of a justice system that works, you bowed to your preconceptions, your narrow mindedness and yes, your bigotry.

You have set back any ground gained by the civil rights movement and set us back to 1950 America white Americans refer to it as a golden, simpler time while black America was oppressed, denied equality and denied justice. It seems nothing fundamentally has changed.