A season for all men

Margaret: Father, have him arrested!

More: On what charge?

Margaret: He’s a bad man.

More: There’s no law against that.

Margaret: Yes there is – God’s law!

More: Then God can arrest him.  … He shall go free, were he the Devil himself, unless he broke the law.

Roper: So now you would give the Devil the shelter of the law?

More: And what would you do, Roper? Cut a great road through the law to reach him? … And when he turned on you, Roper, where would you hide, now that the law’s flat?  The country’s planted thick with laws, Roper – man’s laws, not God’s.  If you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, could you stand upright in the winds that would then blow?  I give the Devil the safety of the law, for my own safety’s sake.

That is from the magnificent movie (and play before that) A Man for All Seasons.  You’ll forgive the paraphrase, I hope, as my copy of neither source is nearby.  It’s somewhat a long lead into the topic, too, and I’ll hope you find it worth it, because this is a very big topic.    It’s been building for a long time, too.

You’ll have noticed that one of the most popular TV shows today is “Person of Interest,” J.J. Abrams’ general apology to the world for the Star Trek reboot and “Lost” finale.  It’s really a great show, too, almost in spite of itself: the premise of an all-seeing surveillance network quietly ferreting out terrorist plots and other impending crimes is enormously troublesome, and under poor stewardship, could easily devolve into a too-blunt critique of society, both badly-aimed and badly-executed.

As it is, they ask some fantastic questions, and all from the perspective of the characters, arising naturally from their interactions.  It’s masterful work, actually, and any aspiring storyteller would be well-advised to observe and emulate the approach.  That’s reason enough for it to become a popular program, but I think there’s more.  Plenty of well-crafted shows die on the vine because they can’t find an audience.  “Person of Interest” got through, because in its way it deals with exactly what Sir Thomas More was talking about 450 years ago.  The more things change…

Simply put, we are beginning to see the culmination of a long-term campaign to abrogate the rule of law and individual freedom in the United States.

This makes me sound rather tinfoil-hatted, I’m sure.  (This isn’t Spain, you know!)  And yet, there are quite a few Cromwells around us, and they have no more regard for life and liberty than the original.  The examples are growing in number and severity: Joe the Plumber, to take one example at random, asked an impertinent question of a presidential candidate – the man hadn’t even won the office yet! – and four days later, ABC news reported that he had a small unpaid tax bill and a lein issued for the amount.  Who knows how they found out so quickly.  It also came out that members of the candidate’s party within the Ohio state government began combing through their records of the man in response.

More recently, a high school teacher in North Carolina mildly suggested to one of her students that criticism of the then-candidate and now-President of the United States is a jailable offense.  Well, not yet, anyway.  But it would be very convenient if that were so, and so people have been taking it upon themselves to to make it happen.  On Twitter, it’s becoming more common for accounts to be suspended through an abuse of the spam reporting system – someone who doesn’t like what you say can encourage their many followers to flood Twitter with bogus complaints, leading to an automatic kibosh on you.

A lot of this is an attempt to continue the embargo on inconvenient facts about favored politicians.  Today marks the one-year anniversary of the story of then-Representative Anthony Weiner having sent explicit pictures of himself to young women.  The story broke largely in spite of those who work in media as alleged “reporters,” through the efforts of alternate media sources such as Ace of Spades.  To this day, some people insist that Weiner’s accounts were hacked, and the true blame lies in the questioners, not in the misdeeds of the man who had to answer for them.  Similarly, Joe Wurzelbacher asked a question of Barack Obama, and the answer turned out to cause trouble – for the man who asked.  Anyone who pointed out that the answer itself showed Obama’s policies to be unwelcome had to be racist.

It shouldn’t be alarming to answer legit questions about one’s past if one wishes to hold high office in the United States.  It most definitely shouldn’t be alarming to ask those questions.  And the President is hardly a man to forgo a boast, even when it would be prudent… even when such boasts land an 80-year old doctor in a Pakistani jail.  He boasts about everywhere he’s been in life, but he refuses to divulge the least detail about what he did while he was in all those places, which is astonishing in the extreme.  And this embargo about his undergraduate career, his tenure at the Harvard Law Review, and elsewhere, is nearly total.  The man has written two memoirs already (or at least, has had written for him), and there is anger about the details others point out that he himself shared.

Most recently and alarmingly, a man named Brett Kimberlin, along with a few of his more ardent friends and supporters, have been systematically suborning the legal system as a tool in vendetta against anyone who questions his own past.  Now, there’s quite a lot of past to question in Kimberlin’s case; and it becomes relevant because this gentleman is very active in politics now, and through his tax-exempt foundation, receives a lot of money to further his causes.  And a lot of that money winds up fueling a savage campaign of intimidation and force against those who don’t share his aims.  This is more than just lone gunmen shooting at people (and that’s horrible enough), but a willful and systematic series of crimes to further one’s causes, abetted and supported in the name of a political cause.  This should be enough to permanently and completely discredit this cause, but instead we see elements of that cause moving into the mainstream of political thought, and all under disguises, covertly, cloaked by a spluttering outrage that anyone would dare to ask about such things.

Sometimes I’ve toyed with the idea of posting under my own name, but things like this stop me.  And that means that such tactics work.  But they won’t work completely, and my own small psuedonymous voice will join the chorus.  Either we’re going to have a country where people can say what they please and do what they like – saying none harm, doing none harm, thinking none harm – or we’re going to be ruled, not governed.  Ultimately there’s no inbetween.  Each successive step from one to the other is always for our own good, but the means used to enforce “our own good” inevitably become used for “MY own good,” and we are never the MY.  Ever.  Harold Finch’s Machine catches terrorists.  He uses it to try to prevent or punish other violent crimes.  It never stops there.  The Consitution is a bulwark against this, only inasmuch as it is followed, and it can only be followed and defended by the people living under it.

Now, this list may leave the impression that the President and his party are actively abetting Kimberlin.  I don’t mean to do that.  It’s a big country, and nobody can be responsible for the deeds of every last person living in it.  It’s likely enough that there’s no direct link, no godlike “Machine,” no shadowy conspiracy – just a grab bag of radicals, progressives, and useful tools whose causes have wound up aligning.  But here’s the thing – IF there’s is such a link, then saying so ought not to be a criminal offense, nor an action that leads to the real peril of bodily harm against you and your loved ones.  If there is NO link, it still shouldn’t be against the law to ask, nor should the law take up the cause against anyone who does ask.

Listen, I don’t think that those currently in authority want to see people blown up by homegrown terrorists or foreign powers.  I don’t think they really want every citizen to be a Julia – mindless and helpless wards of the state.  I don’t think they even realize that keeping to their style of governance will eventually do this.  But I am convinced that it will.  History has too many examples to ignore.  When the TSA operates as an ultimate authority over any air traveler in the USA, when our future generations are obligated before their birth to pay a debt that amounts to one-quarter of the total monetary value of the entire planet, when the government refuses to enforce its immigration laws and sues individual states that do, when they dictate doctrine and ministry to churches, and command even the minutae of daily life – light bulbs, plastic bags, schoolyard behavior, what we can eat and say – then they are merely laying the table for far more ruthless people to sweep them away and take the levers of this power for themselves.  And they’re always surprised when this happens to THEM.  “But you were on our side!” they wail.

And here’s the other thing – whether by accident or design, if we are seeing an alignment of causes inimical to the freedom of the people of the United States, then we must say something.  We must ask the questions.  We must point out whenever the people who dream of seizing power over the country are furthering their goals through the people who actually exercise that power.  It would be fatal to turn this into just another “us vs. them” where one side attacks the underpinnings of the country, and then accuses those who speak against it as being motivated only by partisan feeling, prejudice, or malice.  It would be fatal precisely because those who are doing this to our country will simply make it their country, and then we won’t be free to be an us or a them anymore.

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