“We’re all quite mad, really”

That’s what the Chesire Cat told Alice in the Disney version of the story when she informs hims that she doesn’t want to visit the March Hare or the Mad Hatter because they’re both mad. I feel as though the entire US has fallen through the rabbit hole. Don’t get me wrong – I love my country; it’s got the best combination of freedoms and protections that exists in today’s world. But the things people have been saying recently have been scaring me a little. Long-time readers of my blog (who have been with me since the beginning) will know that ever since the 11 September attacks on the US, I have been a bit wary of how our political system has been becoming more and more like IngSoc. There are days that I feel that those speaking for the US are part of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

So far everything has been going just fine. There haven’t been any abuses of power (that we know of) and, for the most part, we aren’t just randomly jailing Arabs or Muslims. (Although I did hear this week of a story on NPR where the FBI was just arresting all the Muslims in a Southern California county in an effort to find out information) I’m not much of a conspiracy theoriest, not more than the average person, so I think we’re ok from that point of view. What is really going wrong is our erosion of the Freedom of Speech/Expression combined with our willingness to kill and torture.

You have to really have been living as a luddite to go without hearing about the recent Guantanamo Bay detainee scandal. It has been released that we are chaining detainees to the floor in extreme temperatures. They are leaving then without food for extended periods of time and even, in one of the strangest things I’ve heard, subjecting them to 24 hour periods of music by Christina Aguilera. (the horror!) Some people have gone so far as to call it a Nazi Concentration Camp or a Soviet Gulag. I feel this last group of people is exagerrating qutie a bit. While there may be some torture going on, we aren’t sending people to gas chambers or making them dig their own graves. Still, we’re the US – we always harp on people when they torture – why is it any different for us??

But that’s not even the point of this post. The scary thing is the response from the White House. Scott McClellan says, (paraphrased) “Don’t say those things. You will lower troop morale.” WTF?!? Lower troop morale!?! Don’t bring accountability to our processes with prisoners because you’ll make the poor soldiers feel bad. What kind of an arguement is that? In the ancient days of rhetoric (ancient greece, early USA history) this kind of arguement would have never stood up. Don’t dissent because the troops would feel bad? That is the most 1984-like excuse I’ve ever heard! Another former military man on Tv was saying the same thing. That was the first sign of the madness here. People should be utterly outraged at what McClellan said. He didn’t say, “Ok, we’ll see what we can do or I think you’re exagerating a bit.”

The second point of insanity also worries me as a lover of the beautiful democratic government we have in the US. I have heard numerous accounts on NPR this week of different government officials saying things like, “We don’t have to be nice to them, they’re terrorists!” What if some people have been caught by mistake? They were at the wrong place at the wrong time or bought the wrong book or something and they are being detained? “No, no. I’m sure that almost everyone there is a terrorist.” That scares me. So you mean that just because they MIGHT be a terrorist they shouldn’t be treated fairly? Do you forget the people who we were so sure they committed a crime that we sentenced them to death, only to be saved by DNA evidence at the last minute? You can NEVER be sure enough that everyone you have captured is indeed a terrorist. Also, when will these people be set free? “Never. Because then they would go back to their country even more ticked off and come back and attack us. Until the War on Terror is over, they’re stuck here.” Again, you may remember the government position in 1984 that the countries must stay in perpetual warfare in order to get the citizens to do whatever they wanted. After all, how unpatriotic to dissent when there’s a war going on!

But I feel it’s just the opposite. We’ always touting to “lesser” countries how awesome our Freedom of Speech is and that our citizens have the right to say whatever they want as long as they don’t endanger others (bombs, screaming “fire” in a building, defamation). I love that about our country. There are other countries where the citizens who try to write a blog get sent to jail. Here we have people of every point of view who can express themselves however they want. That is a very beautiful thing and we have to make sure we don’t lose it.

Let us, like Alice, awake from this Nightmare of Wonderland. Let’s get back to the way we were before the Terror Wars. They will never be over and we need to get back to protecting our rights and the rights of others. Do we have to treat the detainees as citizens? No, because they aren’t. But we do have to treat them like human beings. My only hope is that we can get a breath of fresh air in 2008 when a new president is elected (Republican or Democratic). Until then, continue to do all that you can to protect your country from itself.


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