Dandelion Salad Previously posted on Dec. 19, 2015 with Abby Martin and Ralph Nader teleSUR English on Dec 19, 2015 On this week’s episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin interviews American polit…
I arrive at 500 Pearl Street, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Southern District Court of New York, at 8:20 a.m. As I enter the courthouse I’m met with a long line of prospective jurors all packed neatly into narrow cordoned off rows that snake around several times. They’re all patiently waiting to submit to unconstitutional search and seizure policies put into place after 9/11 to save us from terrorists, but actually is just a way to destroy our civil liberties.
On the phone recording we called the night before, as well as on the printed summons we received, and now on the signs inside the courthouse, we’re informed, “No cell phones, no computers, iPads, etc. No electrical devices of any kind.” As per the instructions, I left my phone at home, but once inside realize many had brought theirs. The guard repeatedly scolds us, “Turn off your cell phones. Turn off all phones.”
As I make the first turn in line I find myself face to face with Lady Justice in all her glory. Her majestic bronze presence literally takes my breath away. She looms before us blindfolded to represent her impartiality in matters of justice and the law that she administers without corruption, avarice, prejudice, or favor. She stands on one leg with the other one raised behind her as if she’s running. Her expansive arms are outstretched holding the scales of justice in perfect balance. Her presence in profound stark contrast to all of us lined up like docile sheep in front of her.
“It’s a good thing she’s blindfolded,” I say, “’cause she’d sure as hell be pissed if she could see what’s going on here.” People around me either don’t hear me or pretend they don’t. However, the guy in front of me turns around, “Well, I brought a blue pen instead of a black one. That’s my civil disobedience for the day.” “Exactly,” I respond. Knowing that statement is all too true of most Americans. Especially white Americans still complacent, living in comfort and denial, pretending not to notice what’s going on in this country and around the world.
A guard motions me to step forward. I’m instructed to place my bag, watch, bracelet, belt, jacket, into the plastic tub on the conveyor belt. I ask, “Would you be so kind as to hold my water bottle so it doesn’t get x-rayed?” He retorts, “How do I know it’s not gasoline?” “Would you like me to drink it?” He sort of chuckles, “No.” I go through the metal detector, which beeps. “Please remove your shoes and place them on the conveyor belt.” This time I pass through in silence. I retrieve my belongings and head to the jury room to put myself back together again.
This is exactly why I don’t fly anymore. I refuse to submit to this illegal search and seizure. It’s infuriating, humiliating, and unconstitutional. But that’s the point isn’t it. To put us in our place, keep us complacent and silent, and make sure we understand, “You have no power here.”
I call this the politics of fear. The politicians realize they have no real power anymore, so they must use fear to keep us in line and afraid. When people are afraid they’ll do anything to stay safe, including giving up their civil liberties. And what better way to keep us afraid then with a permanent enemy that can never be destroyed, terrorism, which is a tactic by the way. Be afraid. Be very afraid is their battle cry. The terrorists are coming! The terrorists are coming!
This federal courthouse is imposing and stately. It’s the second largest courthouse in the US, and stands 27 stories of granite, marble and oak. Unbeknownst to me, at the same time I’m here, a federal appeals court will rule the NSA’s bulk collection of American’s phone records is unlawful and was never authorized by Congress. Thank you Edward Snowden. Now let’s see how long it takes the Obama Administration to swoop in and overturn that decision just like they overturned the ruling in Hedges v. Obama.
In Hedges v. Obama Judge Forest ruled section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) was unconstitutional. This section allows for detention of US citizens and permanent residents taken into custody in the US on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to groups engaged in hostilities against the US such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban respectively that the NDAA arms the US military with the ability to imprison indefinitely journalists, activists and human-rights workers on vague allegations. But the Obama Administration swiftly brought in a team of attorney’s to appeal and overturn her ruling saying none of the challengers had a right to pursue their claim because they could not show they were harmed by the NDAA.
The jury waiting room appears to have about 500 very large comfortable chairs. They’re several gigantic windows along the entire length of the left wall that let in lots of sunlight, a small room off to the right with a TV and snack bar. The snack bar has a few vending machines filled with junk food no one in their right mind should eat plus soft drinks and coffee.
We’re asked to take a couple of forms from the front and fill them out. People continue to straggle in until almost 10 a.m. Then anyone who needs to be dismissed, which is about half of the people in the room, are asked to line up, hand in their summons, and given permission to leave. In New York you’re allowed to postpone your jury service 3 times. I’ve already postponed twice so I have no intention of postponing again. Let’s face it; the hardest part is just getting there.
After these folks are excused the large cream-colored shades over the enormous windows are remotely lowered and we’re shown a film about jury service. Sandra Day O’Connor (retired), Associate Justice and John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court are both interviewed along with a few past jurors who explain to us what a privilege it is to sit on a jury, and how the founding fathers were adamant about having a fair trial for every citizen.
We turn in our paperwork and they begin calling names to be interviewed for possible selection on a jury. My name isn’t called until much later in the day, but no worries as I’ve brought plenty of sensational reading material including Glenn Greenwald’s book: “And Liberty and Justice for Some, How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.”
Finally, I’m called to report to Judge X’s courtroom. Once inside we’re told about the case. Next, we’re introduced to the defendant and his attorney. Then to the prosecution (government’s) side comprised of 3 attorneys, 1 paralegal, 1 Homeland Security guy and 1 police officer. The Judge gives us a series of guidelines and we’re asked a series of questions. If we have any issues regarding these questions we’re to approach the bench.
One by one people make their way to the Judge. One woman tells the Judge she’s a Christian and can’t judge others. She’s excused. Another woman says she doesn’t believe in drugs, as she has children. The Judge responds, “If I let every parent go who didn’t want drugs around their children there’d be no one left to sit on a jury.”
I’m not sure if I want to speak up or not. But as I sit there I know if I don’t then I’m just another spineless hypocrite going along with a system I no longer believe in. I take a deep breath and raise my hand. The Judge asks me to approach the bench. This is intimidating as hell. The farging bench is so high you have to look up at the Judge who’s looking down on you, and I’m tall. All the attorney’s are also standing there and everything you say is repeated into a microphone so the stenographer can record your comments. As I walk to the bench I tell myself, “Whatever you do, don’t cry. Just state your truth and leave it at that.”
I’m nervous but I’m carrying Glenn Greenwald’s book to give me courage. I calmly explain to the Judge, “Your Honor, I have a problem with our justice system, as it no longer serves ordinary citizens. We now have a two-tier system of justice in this country. One for the rich and one for the rest of us. Wall Street bankers can collapse the global economy, the Bush/Obama administrations can start illegal wars of aggression and not one person is held accountable for their actions. But you have a black man thrown in jail for smoking a joint.” She listens very intently and says, “I understand what you’re saying, but do you think you can be impartial in this case?” I say, “I think so.” She asks me to take a seat in the jury box to mull it over, and she’ll call me back to the stand in a few moments.
A couple of other prospective jurors approach the bench and are either excused or asked to take a seat to contemplate their comments as well before I’m called back to the bench. The Judge again asks, “Do you think you can be an impartial juror in this case?” “Yes, I feel I can.” She says, “I’m not talking about your feelings. I need to know if you can be impartial.” I say, “Well, I do have a question. Is the defendant’s lawyer a public defender?” The judge looks taken aback but says, “He has a good attorney.” “Well, I’m looking at the set up here,” I continue, “and I see the defendant has one attorney and the government has 3 attorneys, a paralegal, Homeland Security and a police officer. The government also has unlimited resources at their disposal, so is this considered a fair trial?” “Ms. Dalton,” the judge replies, “Please stand over there.” I step aside while the lawyers and judge discuss my comments. I hear the judge say, “I don’t think so.” The judge then says, “Ms. Dalton you may return to the first floor.”
At the end of the day I’m released for a couple of days but I make a mistake and show up on Wednesday anyway. As I’m leaving the courthouse I retrieve my phone, and ask the guard if I may take a photo of Lady Justice. “No photos,” he says. “May I go look at her?” I ask. “Oh, that’s fine.” I circle her to see if I can find a plaque or some info on the artist but there’s nothing there except the word JUSTICE inscribed on the base of the statue. I ask the guards if they know who the sculptor is, but no one does. I’d already tried to locate her image on the Internet, but no luck there either.
Thursday I return to the courthouse and discover the Chambers Street subway station is filled with mosaics of eyes. How appropriate as I head to jury duty where they’ll strip us of our civil liberties before entering the courthouse.
Once inside I’m determined to get a photo of Lady Justice with all of us lined up like subservient subjects to be illegally searched, our property x-rayed, our personal items put on conveyor belts, and our phones confiscated. The land of the free, as it turns out, isn’t so free after all. Just a bunch of empty rhetoric posing as truth. We’re no longer a democracy. Oligarchs rule us. Money buys our politicians and their fraudulent elections. Greed is their God. We have the largest incarceration rate in the world. Our prison system is big business. The New Jim Crow where we warehouse blacks and other minorities for slave labor. Justice? What justice? “Turn off all cell phones. Turn off all cell phones.” The guard’s voice pierces through the rant in my head. With my back to him I lift up my phone making sure not to be seen by the two guards in front of me or the three by the conveyer belt. I take a couple of shots. I have no idea if I’ve gotten anything, but I’ve gotten what I can get.
Once in the juror waiting room we’re shown another film. This time about the grand jury and what it means to serve on one. Then the entire morning is spent selecting 23 citizens for this jury, which will meet 5 days a week for 30 days. Quite a commitment, but I resign myself to the fact if my name is called I’ll just have to deal with it. Luckily, my name is never called and around 1:30 they have their jurors.
The guy who’s been in charge of us during this entire process asks those of us who were not selected or rejected for the grand jury to go out into the hallway. Once outside he informs us, “You have completed your jury service. Thank you for your participation.” But by the time he says the word completed the entire hallway erupts into loud cheers and thunderous applause.
As I step outside the courthouse I feel such a sense of relief. The sun is shining, I’m free, and don’t have to return for another four years. Once on the subway I check my phone to see my photos. Well, it’s not the best, but you’ll get the gist.
by Jill Dalton
I am dismayed and heartbroken by what’s going on in the US, as we descend into fascism. There appears to be no justice. No integrity. No accountability. The criminals that run the government lie cheat and steal for their own benefit, as they serve their puppet masters, and sell us out to the highest bidder. The bankers and Wall Street collapse the world economy, and walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist. We have a two-tier system of justice where white color crime is rewarded, and the poor are locked away for stealing a candy bar.
The Military Industrial Complex continues to murder, rape, and pillage with immunity, as they destroy civilizations, and the war profiteers bank billions. Americans sadly condone this behavior by remaining silent. Our clean water is used to frack shale, which destroys the environment and contaminates our water supply so natural gas can be sold overseas for higher profits, and because of the Halliburton loophole are not held accountable for their destruction. The Gulf oil spill was never cleaned up just hidden by a toxic chemical, corexit, which in effect hid the body.
Our food is poisoned by pesticides and genetically modified. We live in a surveillance state where every email is read, every phone call listened to, and stored on huge computers in the NSA’s mega data base located somewhere in Utah. Our civil liberties have been systematically stripped from us. With the signing of the Patriot Act we’re now unconstitutionally searched at airports, harassed by the signs and announcements in the New York subways telling us “if we see something to say something,” and remember we may be recorded for our own good.
Obama first signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law allowing US citizens to be held indefinitely without due process on New Years Eve (December 31, 2011). The 2014 NDAA still included this draconian provision against US citizens, and the 2015 NDAA was just passed by the House and according to Ramsey Cox from The Hill, “the Senate voted 85-14 to end debate on the motion to concur with the House on S.3979, advancing the measure for final vote no later than Friday.” Friday being December 12, 2014. American jobs were shipped overseas when Clinton signed NAFTA into law, as he proclaimed this trade agreement would bring jobs, and indeed it has just not to the US. But this pales in comparison to the new trade agreement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP’s been negotiated in secret for five years, but leaks show it’s the mother of all trade bills (NAFTA on steroids), and insures countries give up their sovereignty to corporations. According to Public Citizen this agreement would: offshore millions of American jobs, roll back Wall Street reform, sneak SOPA-like threats to internet freedom, ban Buy American policies needed to create green jobs, jack up the cost of medications, expose the US to unsafe food and products, and empower corporations to attack our environment and health safeguards. Since Clinton deregulated the media leaving us with six corporations in control of all our information, we need the Internet more than ever.
Citizen United ensures our votes no longer matter. Whoever has the most money wins. So corporations deluge our elected officials with cash and these cowardly politicians kowtow to them, and either pay us lip service or just plain ignore us. Corporations have no loyalty to any country. Profit is their only motive. Many large corporations no longer pay taxes, as they continue to make unprecedented profits, and receive tax subsidies on top of that. The wealthy are exempt from paying taxes too. That leaves us. We pay the taxes. But the middle class is disappearing fast, as Congress looks to raise taxes on the poorest among us. Economic inequality is higher than ever with, according to Forbes, “400 people owning as much as the combined net worth of half of all Americans.”
And after 12 years of war we find ourselves in this hyper masculine permanent war culture, which does not serve the planet or us. The US has become the largest terrorist organization in the world. Using deadly force, torture and rape instead of diplomacy. Diplomacy is for pussies after all.
The US has the largest incarnation rate in the world. We’re warehousing Blacks and Latinos at alarming rates. There are more black men in prison then were slaves. Since there are no jobs we put them behind bars or better still in solitary confinement. Black and Latino men are incarcerated for smoking a joint or murdered for walking down the street or selling a cigarette to make ends meet. In New York City we have the racist ‘stop and frisk’ law, which allows the police to stop anyone, meaning any male of color, for any reason. Our police forces have been militarized and now use lethal force instead of asking a question. Everyone is a threat. We are the enemy.
The mindless murders of black men by the police and the refusal to indict their executioners even when, in the case of Eric Garner, his murder was caught on tape, is more than a little disturbing. At last count, since the murder of Michael Brown 14 teens have been killed at the hands of the police. These murders of black men bring to mind the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. State troopers murdered Jackson on February 26, 1965, as he tried to protect his mother and grandmother from a trooper attack on civil rights marchers. His death led to the Selma-Montgomery march and the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act.
“As long as justice is postponed we always stand on the verge of these darker nights of social disruption.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
These unjust events in Ferguson and New York and many others around the country make it perfectly clear the state does not believe black lives matter. But this is not just a race war it’s a class war by the ruling elites. It’s a war on the poor and impoverished. It’s now a crime to be poor in this country. Police have also been murdering dogs at an alarming rate as well. Seems the police feel very threatened by anyone or anything. We’re told being a police officer is a very dangerous job. However, the numbers show a very different story. According to a recent Huffington Post article,
“A total of 76 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2013, the FBI reported Monday.” “Of those, 49 died in accidents and 27 were killed as a result of felonious acts—the lowest such figure in more than 50 years of FBI reporting, dating back to at least 1961.” “…the Bureau of Labor Statistics list of the 10 most-dangerous professions doesn’t include law enforcement officer.” “In Utah, for example, the Salt lake City Tribune recently reported that police in the state were the second-leading cause of homicide from 2010 to October 2014. Over that period, officers were responsible for more of the state’s homicides than gang members, drug dealers or child abusers.”
Preemptive wars. Pre-emptive policing. Shoot first; ask questions later or not at all is not policing, but military tactics used to subdue the enemy. We’re no longer citizens; we’re the enemy.
So what can we do? For starters the government ain’t gonna save us. Obama and the Democrats ain’t gonna save us. They sold us down the river for corporate money long ago. That leaves us. You and me. We’re the solution.
I’m so grateful there’s an outcry around the country, and we must stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters. What is done to them is done to all of us, and if you think you’re safe because you’re white, well, guess what, we’re next. As we descend into this militarized police state the only thing between us and them is us. We must stand together. Black lives matter. We all matter. The answer is love.
These protests are a cry for unity, love and justice. The powers that be want to keep us divided and hostile to each other. We’ve been brainwashed to believe we’re separate, and in competition with each other, but this is a lie. We’re wired to love and cooperate with one another. But we must wake up from this bad dream. It comes down to consciousness. We must disconnect from the negative programming and reunite in love. All this injustice needs to be healed. We must open our hearts to love and stop being victims. Deprogram from this false narrative. Reconnect with our true selves. Reconnect with love. We are enough. We must play our part. The world needs us. The world needs more love, compassion, and kindness. The people united can never be divided. Thus far, the state has no solutions, and offers only violence. We must make a commitment to peace, truth justice, and nonviolence. It’s our only hope. We are one.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Report from the Left Forum (6-1-14) with: Chris Hedges, Dr. Cornel West, and Richard Wolff.
Moderated by: Laura Flanders.
By Jill Dalton, NYC June 5, 2014
This seminar was part of the Left Forum’s three day symposium, Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World with Transformative Justice, held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City (May 30 – June 1). The turn out at this conference was their largest to date, which I consider a very good sign.
Chris Hedges, Dr. Cornel West and Richard Wolff began a ten-part series starting with, according to Chris Hedges, America’s only real revolutionist, Thomas Paine. In Paine’s three great works, Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason, he laid down the foundations by which rebellion is morally and legally permissible. With the rise of the corporate state, they ask whether the conditions set by Paine have been met, and if Paine’s call to overthrow British tyranny should be our own.
I’d been warned via email the event would be crowded, so I arrived forty-five minutes early to procure a good seat, and after a few minutes of inquiring who was saving or sitting in which empty seat, managed to procure myself a seat in the front row. As predicted, the lecture hall filled to overflowing, and the overflow was directed to another room where the proceedings were live streamed.
In Laura Flanders’ opening remarks she runs down a list: 7 million in prison, the war on terror, 46 million hungry and in poverty, and the 0.1% with 20 million or more have doubled their wealth since the 60’s. Then she quotes Thomas Paine,
These are the times that try men’s souls.
These are indeed the times that try men’s souls, but the question Paine asks is,
What is to be done?
Flanders asked the crowd two questions. First, do we want change and second, are these revolutionary times? Richard Wolff pointed out the crowd gave a strong cheer regarding change but wobbled when asked about revolution. This is understandable,” he continued, “as revolution is scary.” Many of us, myself included, believe the American population is asleep and apathetic but Wolff reminds us, “Revolution is not limited to the U.S. Revolution is global.”
Power and Language
Hedges explained the importance of Paine. “Paine understood the monarchy. He understood British power and could explain the structures of power. He understood what power was, and how it functioned, and was able to write in such a way that, according to Cornel West, “the common folk could understand it.” Hedges continued, “Hubris blinded the British monarchy just as our system of government is blinded now.”
West went on to say Paine was able to create a vocabulary and write ‘as plain as the alphabet.’ Paine, a Quaker, was opposed to power, and the rights of kings and belonged to no political party. Born in the UK, Paine arrived in the United States in 1774 and in 1776 wrote Common Sense, which was read far and wide including by George Washington to his troops, and this work inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to stand up and fight for their independence from Great Britain. Paine gave them the language to understand what was actually going on, and why they needed to fight for their freedom from British rule.
Later West gave us some language to explain what’s truly going on today. “Poverty is the new slavery,” he tells us. “Prison is the new Jim Crow. Economic inequality is slavery. The plutocrats, oligarchs, banks, Wall Street, and corporations are the monarchy.”
Richard Wolff pointed out, “We now face more than enough evidence, outrage, injustices, attacks on our freedoms, and rights on our security.” Our system is unequal, unjust, and intolerable. “Reform?” he asks. “Been there/done that/doesn’t work. They undo our reforms. They spent forty years undoing the New Deal.” Thomas Paine concluded, “We’ve got to change the system. Revolution means tell the King of England to go home. You’re out of here.”
Wolff maintains it’s the same for us. He mentions the economist Thomas Piketty, who in his 700-page book, Capitalism in the 21st Century, concludes capitalism always produces growing inequality of wealth and income. Wolff continues, “We’ve got to have the courage to make systematic change.”
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
West challenged us, “We must be willing to die. We must act humanely, think critically, and that means sacrificing popularity.” He pointed out how many intellectuals today have been seduced by power, prestige and money. Not willing to take a risk but rather hide behind a veneer of being cynical and despairing.
Hedges again emphasized how important language is. Paine reclaimed words like democracy that, at the time, was considered a very negative term. Today the elites have crafted a specialized vocabulary we can’t penetrate. Paine gave them the vocabulary. We too must search for language and call things by their real name.
West reiterated the need for “righteous anger and indignation. Speech that is unafraid.” This is what Malcolm X did and he suffered the consequences. Truth tellers are pushed to the margins, vilified, assassinated or all three. This is what happened to Thomas Paine when he peeled off the cover and gave a scathing critique of George Washington. He called America a bastion of capitalism and white supremacy. Paine also said indigenous people were wiser than white people. West reminds us that today, “We’re isolated from each other. We’re separated from our red, black, yellow, and white brothers and sisters.”
Wolff pointed out, “All the people who stood against Paine are now forgotten but Thomas Paine survived.” Thomas Paine addresses, “What is to be done?” and gives us insight into what we face now. Wolff reiterates, “Democracy was a very negative term but now is the holy of holies.” “Our democracy,” Wolff points out, “is a fake–a complete fantasy. We live in the opposite of a democracy. Our institutions are undemocratic. We pretend we live in a democracy. We need to shock the population. We’re not treated like human beings.” Wolff continued, “Paine teaches us to think about revolution as a way to change a system.” “We permit institutions to be organized in an undemocratic way. We leave decisions to the few people at the top–the corporations. We have to be in charge of them. We must reorganize production.”
Vilification and Historical Amnesia
Hedges explained the two weapons used against Thomas Paine were: vilification and historical amnesia. Paine was followed, slandered, libeled, marginalized, arrested, pushed to the margins, narrowly escaped execution, and they finally broke him. He died a pauper in Greenwich Village. “Six people attended his funeral. Two of them were black.” But even as Paine was prosecuted and vilified he preached we must protect our enemies. Hedges went on to illustrate our historical amnesia by asking, “Where are the monuments to him? He was an important founder. He’s been ignored. The establishment works hard to erase our radical tradition.”
In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Truth telling is very dangerous business indeed, and certainly not for the faint of heart. West points out, “most of our friends are cowards.” I’ll add most of us are too cowardly and lazy to get off the couch let along stand up to the system that enslaves us, call it out, and ultimately change it. But according to West, “The truth has to emerge.” We need courageous examples such as Malcolm X, Herbert Harrison Victoria Garvin, David Walker and I’ll add Dr. King, Gandhi, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. West reminds us, “We must be courageous or we’ll go under. The people organized are powerful, but the gangsters who run things are powerful too. We’re up against a lot. Their crimes against humanity include our educational system, prisons and drones” to name a few.” “Poverty is prison, and, as West points out, “if whites instead of blacks were in prison and poverty in these numbers we’d be hearing a different story. “ “White supremacy, lies and crimes,” West assures us, “the black elites will be behind this as well.”
We thought (the United States) could lead us to freedom, but they led us into feardom, not freedom.
Wolff contends, “We don’t know where we are in the revolution. Be a critic. Push to see where and how far you can go. Can’t worry about what we’re up against.” He quotes, “For decades nothing may happen, but then in a moment decades happen.”
The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
“Liberty?” Wolff asks. “There is no liberty.” We live in an NSA corporate surveillance state. He explains, “Our problem is the economic system. Our climate situation is another consequence of capitalism. We have obscene social inequalities. Our economic system is dysfunctional to most of us.”
Surveillance, without regard to the rule of law or our basic human dignity, creates societies that fear free expression and dissent, the very values that make America strong.
I downloaded Paine’s Common Sense to my Kindle a couple of years ago and began reading it, but never finished it. I ordered a paperback of Common Sense along with The Rights of Man, as it’s easier for me to study these works with a hardcopy. I also just ordered and received Democracy, Inc. by Sheldon Wolin. Hedges always mentions this professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University, and his work on “managed democracy and the specter of inverted totalitarianism.” Not exactly light reading but important to understand what’s actually going on, and perhaps gain insight into how to change the system.
We are the empire.
I’ve included a link to this amazing ninety-minute talk with these three enlightened truth tellers. Please check it out for yourself. Then we, like Paine, must ask ourselves, “What is to be done?” And then go a step further. What can I do? How can I get involved? It’s time for a revolution. Our system no longer serves us, and is a threat to humanity and the planet. We must stop these illegal wars of aggression that murder millions in our names. The U.S. military is the largest terrorist organization on the planet. Our elected officials no longer listen to us. We’re merely commodities to the elites, as is the environment, which they are in the process of destroying. As Hedges pointed out in his closing comments,
Whites are now enduring what people of color have already endured. The minimum wage is critical. What they’ve done to college students is criminal. Something is coming– no jobs, mortgage crisis, climate change. There will be blowback.
According to Thomas Jefferson we need a revolution every twenty years. I’d say we’re long overdue.
God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
by Jill Dalton
Who the heck is Arun Gandhi, you might ask. He’s the fifth grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India who led India to independence and inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the globe by employing nonviolent civil disobedience tactics. Arun is also a peace activist in his own right. He’s the President of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, and travels the world speaking about the practices of peace and nonviolence. For over thirty years he was a journalist for The India Times, and currently writes a blog for The Washington Post.
On Sunday, March 23rd, 2014, thirteen years after Arun Gandhi first came to Unity of New York and spoke on forgiveness in the aftermath of 9/11, I had the honor and privilege to hear both Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi speak. The title of their talk was, “Lightning or Lamp?”
As fate would have it, Bethany Hegedus, an aspiring or (to use her term) “pre-published” writer, had escaped the Twin Towers on 9/11 and was sitting in the audience that evening in 2001 listening to Arun tell stories about his famous grandfather. As she listened she thought, “These stories need to be told, and put into a picture book.” She’d never done a picture book or even thought about doing one, but the message was implanted in her.
She emailed Arun and thus began their collaboration, which culminated in, “Grandfather Gandhi” a beautiful picture book illustrated by Evan Turk who was 14 years old at the time Bethany and Arun first spoke.
Their newly published book tells of a young boy, Arun Gandhi, more interested in imitating John Wayne or playing bank robbers and sheriff than doing his studies, suffering from guilt over his anger at an older boy who shoved him while playing soccer, “How could he, a Gandhi, be so easy to anger?” Arun ran to his grandfather’s hut knowing, “I’d never live up to the Mahatma. I’d never be at peace.” He’d never seen his grandfather angry and was surprised to learn that yes, even his grandfather felt anger. “Do not be ashamed, we all feel anger,” replied the Mahatma. “Anger is like electricity. Anger can strike like lightning and split a living tree in two.” “Or it can be channeled, transformed. A switch can be flipped, and it can shed light like a lamp.”
Arun Gandhi is quite unassuming and speaks in calm hushed tones but his message was direct and clear.
Violence is destroying humanity. 9/11’s happen everyday around the globe. Violence, destruction, and the killing of people happens everyday somewhere. We need to wake up to this. Violence is growing more and more, and yet we claim to be civilized. We are not civilized. We must change our thinking. The people who believe change is possible are assassinated. We put our peace leaders on pedestals but they expect us to follow them.
Gandhi told Arun shortly before his assassination,
They will follow me in life, worship me in death, but they will not make my cause their cause.
Arun encouraged us to,
Wake up and make their dream our dream, and create a better world. Peace will come through children. They must be taught the right behavior. Anger is the force that leads to the violence we experience. 80% of violence is generated by anger. Learn to use anger constructively. We don’t acknowledge our anger. Anger is wonderful. It is the fuel to an automobile. Without anger we won’t act. We need to be ashamed of how we use it. Use it to bring light to civilization.
Arun describes himself as a peace farmer.
A farmer goes out, and plants seeds. They hope the harvest will manifest. I plant the seeds of peace in you, and all of us together can change the world.
Violence is indeed destroying the world. We are a culture that glorifies war and violence. It’s everywhere. In our movies, television shows, commercials, cartoons, glossy magazine ads. Our largest export is war and weapons. We’re the largest weapons manufacturer in the world.
Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals. New York Times, August 28, 2012.
And even though the overall violent crime rate in the U.S. continues to drop our police forces are becoming more and more militarized, and they are employing violence against U.S. citizens at alarming rates.
What we have here is the absurdly dangerous militarization of America’s police departments. Our sprawling Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon (which gave the MRAP to Bastrop) are haphazardly spreading war equipment, war techniques and a war mentality to what are supposed to be our communities’ peacekeepers and crime solvers. Jim Hightower, “The Dangerous Militarization of Our Local Police Forces.”
And there’s plenty of money for the militarization of our police forces. A recent article in the Economist, “Cops or Soldiers?” cites Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop.”
Federal cash—first to wage war on drugs, then on terror—has paid for much of the heavy weaponry used by SWAT teams. Between 2002 and 2011 the Department of Homeland Security disbursed $35 billion in grants to state and local police. Also, the Pentagon offers surplus military kit to police departments. According to Mr. Balko, by 2005 it had provided such gear to more than 17,000 law-enforcement agencies.
These programs provide useful defensive equipment, such as body armor and helmets. But it is hard to see why Fargo, North Dakota—a city that averages fewer than two murders a year—needs an armored personnel-carrier with a rotating turret. Keene, a small town in New Hampshire, which had three homicides between 1999 and 2012, spent nearly $286,000 on an armored personnel-carrier known as a BearCat. The local police chief said it would be used to patrol Keene’s “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations”. A Reason-Rupe poll found that 58% of Americans think the use of drones, military weapons and armored vehicles by the police has gone “too far”.
And there’s big money to be made by using excessive force and SWAT raids on U.S. citizens, which is now legal due to a ruling by the Supreme Court which allows, “that police may enter a house without knocking if they have ‘a reasonable suspicion’ that announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow the suspect to destroy evidence (for example, by flushing drugs down the toilet).”
Because of a legal quirk, SWAT raids can be profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything, which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime. Crucially, the property-owner need not be convicted of that crime. If the police find drugs in his house, they can take his cash and possibly the house, too. He must sue to get them back.
Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarization, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.
Balko is also concerned about the type of recruit our forces are now enlisting.
Mr. Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”).
Throughout history totalitarian regimes have always turned against their citizens. We are no exception. U.S. citizens have been turned into the “other.” We’re now the enemy. We’re all potential terrorists. These police forces are no longer here to protect and serve us. They are occupying our cities and towns under the guise of keeping the peace. According to John W. Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute, which is dedicated to the defense of our civil liberties and human rights.
The point is this: America today is not much different from the America of the early colonists, who had to contend with British soldiers who were allowed to “enter private homes, confiscate what they found, and often keep the bounty for themselves.” This practice is echoed today through SWAT team raids and the execution of so-called asset forfeiture laws, “which allow police to seize and keep for their departments cash, cars, luxury goods and even homes, often under only the thinnest allegation of criminality.”
Terrorism, the current catchall word, allows our government, the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, and police forces to do whatever they want without having to show probable cause, and without being held accountable for their actions. They might as well say the boogieman is coming. When I was a kid it was the “commies” that were going to get us. The Domino Theory assured us they would take over the world one country at a time, and enabled us to go into Vietnam because of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, yet another trumped up lie.
The U.S. is the largest terrorist organization on the planet, and it needs to stop. We must wake up to the violence being committed everyday around the globe, as the American people stand idly by, while millions are murdered in our name. We must stand up en masse and demand a better way. Demand our illegal wars of aggression, claiming to be about democracy and freedom, cease. We’re like the Germans in WWII who turned a blind eye when Hitler was doing his dirty work until it was too late.
And our corporate media is nothing but lies and propaganda used to brainwash the masses. The information is out there—hiding in plain sight, but most don’t want to look. It seems we prefer to live in denial watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians or playing Angry Birds. Like any co-dependent relationship, we are the enablers to this criminal enterprise hell bent on global empire, and destroying anything that gets in the way of world domination.
The fear, lies and propaganda our leaders use to sell these bogus wars are shameful. Why does anyone still believe anything they say? Terrorism is not the problem. Muslims are not the problem. The problem is the U.S. invades sovereign countries to steal their oil and other natural resources.
I’m furious over what is going on in this country. We have turned into a massive surveillance state embroiled in over 100 military actions around the globe. Billions are spent on these wars, as food stamps and unemployment benefits are cut, education homogenized, tax cuts for the rich renewed, corporate welfare abounds, and our infrastructure crumbles. There are no jobs and no jobs bill. Our callous politicians turn a blind eye to the suffering of the American people and merely serve their corporate puppet masters.
We pretend to be a nation of laws, however, not one banker has been prosecuted or even questioned about their role in the economic global collapse, and not one politician has been held accountable for taking us into Iraq based on deceit and lies. And we continue exporting war, death and destruction under the guise of democracy and freedom. Our civil liberties have been stripped from us to “keep us safe.” This is just another ruse endlessly touted by the corporate media whores and our bought and paid for politicians.
Our current system is broken. It no longer serves the planet or us, and it’s not sustainable. It’s built on debt, poverty, lies, slavery, world domination, patriarchy and war. It’s time for a new paradigm. A just and decent world is possible. We can live in a world in which there is no hunger or poverty. We can live in harmony, dignity and prosperity. It’s time to take responsibility and stand up to the heartless thugs in the White House and Congress. We need to tell them we’re not buying their bullshit lies any more or their fear tactics, and while we’re at it we want our civil liberties back.
“A wave of action is coming on April 4th, the date they killed MLK, the date Cindy Sheehan lost her son, the date cherry blossoms and resisters to fascism begin to show after an endless winter of many, many years. Take a look at https://waveofaction.org”
Like Gandhi said, it’s time to channel our anger, turn on the light and move into action. Together we can build a peaceful world. The decision is ours.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.