Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where did my country go?

Super Tuesday happened to coincide with my birthday this year. The best birthday gift I could have gotten was a victory for Ron Paul. Somewhere. Anywhere. 

But just as some fellow Paulestinians held out hope for a victory here in Washington state last weekend, it was not to be. He's had some respectable showings, coming in as high as second place in a few states, but second place doesn't win primaries and caucuses.

Sadly, it appears that the Republican base has spoken, and they're not interested in getting government off our backs and out of our lives. Mitt Romney headed up his own version of Obamacare back in Massachusetts and ordered all citizens to participate. Newt Gingrich supported the bank bailouts. Rick Santorum wants to dictate which consenting adults can marry each other. And none of them seems to have any hesitation about potentially blowing up Iran.

I used to vote Republican. I grew up in a fairly conservative house, where Rush Limbaugh was on the radio every day. I supported George W. Bush in 2000, as he campaigned on a platform of a humble, non-interventionist foreign policy.

Then 9/11 happened. Almost immediately, the big-government neocons hijacked the Republican Party, and in a climate of national fear they began beating the drums for war while passing the first of many assaults on American liberties -- the USA PATRIOT Act, an ironic name if ever there was one. The Department of Homeland Security -- a name that would have made Adolf "Fatherland" Hitler proud -- sprang to life and cracked down even further. TSA thugs were soon groping children and old ladies at airport security checks, while the right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure vanished at the hands of warrantless wiretaps, government break-ins at private residences, and collection of personal data without the subject's knowledge.

Predictably, the Patriot Act became a flimsy justification for attacking any number of Americans and their constitutional rights. A 16-year-old boy was abducted by armed government thugs who burst unannounced into his parents' home and arrested him. The Patriot Act stripped the boy of his due process, and his parents were given limited access to the boy after he was kidnapped.

"Never in my worst nightmare did I ever think that it would be my own government that I would have to protect my children from," his mother said. "This is the United States, and I feel like I live in a third-world country now."

If you spoke out against the government's actions, you were a terrorist sympathizer. Just ask the Dixie Chicks, who were blackballed when Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that Bush was from her native Texas. In the post-9/11 climate, you were either with the government or with the terrorists.

Meanwhile, our national debt grew unchecked, in large part because of the retaliatory wars that obviously did nothing to fix what happened on 9/11. And with the economy on the verge of collapse, the government bails out the banking industry on the taxpayer's dime, even though the industry's own reckless policies were largely responsible for what had transpired.

Bush passes the baton to Barack Obama, who oversees a second bailout. Then our esteemed Nobel Peace Prize winner ratchets up the number of unmanned drone attacks around the world, while his administration asserts that it's A-OK to assassinate American citizens without any semblance of due process -- and then goes and does it. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia … Obama hasn't yet met a country that he doesn't love to drone-bomb. He makes Bush look like a peacenik. Yet the massive antiwar protests that marked Bush's time in office are nowhere to be found, as the same people make up excuses for why Barky O'Bomber isn't as murderous and bloodthirsty as his predecessor was.

Against this backdrop, Congress can't agree to any kind of meaningful spending cut, even as the nation's credit rating gets downgraded. Unemployment remains high, tax burdens onerous, and the cost of living more and more oppressive. More manufacturing jobs seem to disappear every day to Communist China, where corporations can maximize profits at the hands of a labor pool that has no political right to negotiate for better wages or working conditions. Instead of paying an American worker a fair living wage, our companies employ what's essentially a step above slave labor -- and then American consumers dutifully rush down to the local Wal-Mart and snap up a bunch of cheap crap made in China, never once stopping to reflect on how they're part of the problem.

Those who do call out the big corporations for their role in wounding our economy are violently suppressed by cops in riot gear. In Seattle, the cops even decided to beat on an 84-year-old woman.
And who can forget the image of the cop who cavalierly pepper-sprayed a group of students doing absolutely nothing to warrant the assault?

The message was clear: Protests against corporations would not be tolerated. The sudden and simultaneous nationwide crackdowns were orchestrated on orders from the federal level. Your constitutional right to peaceful assembly? Irrelevant. Corporations and their lobbyists own virtually every politician in D.C., so naturally the politicians were going to do their bidding.

Turned out the crackdown on the Occupy movement was just the beginning, as Obama -- on New Year's Eve 2011, when no one was watching -- signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense-spending bill that this time around included a provision making the Patriot Act look like a walk in the park. With nearly unanimous approval in Congress, Obama signed into law an act that turned the entire world into "the battlefield" in the war on terrorism, including "the homeland," where the military now had the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens for any reason. Your right to a fair and speedy trial? Gone. Your right to know what you've been charged with? Gone. If the government decides it doesn't like a political stance you take, or a group you belong to, you can now be counted as a terrorist and taken off to rot in prison for the rest of your life, with no recourse whatsoever to the law, or to the rights guaranteed to you as an American citizen. 

Of course, the government can get around that whole pesky "guaranteed constitutional rights" thing by simply stripping your citizenship -- which is another law currently before Congress.

Attempts to censor the Internet were stopped in their tracks, but it's clear that the fight for our liberties goes on. And the one man who's vowing to fight for them, Ron Paul, is either ignored or ridiculed in the mainstream press. Why? Because he poses the same threat to the status quo that the Occupy movement did. Because he speaks truth to power. Because he has a plan to fix our corrupt and broken system, by slashing trillions from the bloated federal budget and returning our foreign policy to one of noninterventionist sanity -- or, as Thomas Jefferson put it, "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Paul gets more military donations than any other candidate in the race, and it's because those who have fought know that what we're doing is fruitless, that we're only making a bad situation worse, that blowback is real. You can't act like the big bully on the block and not expect retaliation.

But that's a truth no one wants to hear. We want to keep spending money, funding our debt with more debt; and we want to keep imposing our will on the rest of the world at gunpoint.

People call Ron Paul "dangerous" and "crazy." What's dangerous and crazy is continuing down the path we're on. No good can come of it, and something will eventually have to give. If Ron Paul is dangerous and crazy, then so were our Founding Fathers -- because Paul's platform is really simple: If it's in the Constitution, he supports it. If it's not, he doesn't. If that's dangerous and crazy, and people refuse to vote for it, then we have truly lost our way as a nation. The ideals of peace and liberty we were founded on have crumbled, and it seems that's the way most people want it.

As Ron Paul brilliantly put it, "Truth is treason in the empire of lies." That's the empire we live in now, and it's one that I want no part of. If we reject Paul and the Constitution, we reject the last hope this nation had to rescue itself from its own downward spiral.

And this is why I have every intention of expatriating. I've felt at odds with my nation's foreign policies as far back as the first Gulf War, seeing the folly of rushing off to war under the flimsiest of rationales while everyone around me blindly and unquestioningly adopted the popular "Support Our Troops" mantra of the time. I now feel at odds with our economic policies as well. And now that Congress and the president have launched a full-blown assault on our Constitution and turned us all into potential terror suspects, I don't feel as if this is my country anymore. This is not the land our Founding Fathers fought and died for. They'd be ashamed of what we've allowed to happen, and they'd be appalled that no one is willing to stand up and fight to hang on to those freedoms. 

The people we're turning to for answers to our problems tells me that no one wants to change the status quo; they just want to keep doing what we're doing as a nation yet somehow avoid the ultimate consequences of those actions. Easy answers, not hard and painful truths. Welcome to America 2012. 

That leaves the frustrated patriot two options: Stay here and take it, or refuse to be a part of the nation's decline and seek out a friendlier government elsewhere in the world. I opt for the latter, because, sadly, I don't believe there are enough people left in this country who care enough to make a change. 

If there were, Ron Paul would be winning in a landslide.

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