"If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people."
October 19, 2008
This quotation is taken from former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister Tony Benn in Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko." It sums up the British rationale for creating a National Health Service after WWII. (See the clip below the cut.) I can't think of a better summation of the failures of the U.S. government over the past 20 years. If a society is judged by how it treats its weakest members, ours is failing.
Which is why, finally, I decided it's time to vote: Not because I actually trust politicians. Oh hell no. Or the political system either. But because I'm not afraid, not demoralized, not sick and I don't take orders very well. I am, however, very tired of the top 1% of this country calling the shots and crapping on the rest of us. When "trickle down" economics was first introduced, someone said "We all know what the only thing that trickles down is," and he was right. The poor and working class in this country have been steadily disenfranchised and stripped of their ability make a living, while the wealthy fail to pay their share of taxes and live off the backs of their workers and the spoils of deregulation, greed, and war. Do I sound like a Socialist? Get over it. We're actually allies of a number of socialists countries, and their systems work pretty well—actually better than ours in some cases. Socialism ≠ Communism. At least the socialist states aren't 29th in the infant mortality stats like we are.
Besides, as Rob pointed out to me last night, Kansas, originally founded as an anti-slavery state, was one of the first to put strict controls on its banks. It was also a hotbed of IWW activity. So socialism, working socialism, is not completely unknown even in this country. And why should taking care of each other be seen as a bad thing? Here's Tony Benn on the rationale behind the British National Health Service's founding [h/t to Will Shetterly and a salute to Michael Moore]:
I also decided to vote because for the first time, there's going to be an active Army unit stationed in this country whose only task is to help with "civil unrest":
[B]eginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the [1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division] will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North" ... "the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities."
They are tasked to help with "civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack …"
What this means is that U.S. citizens can now be "controlled" by the military on our streets through technologies -- such as Tasers and rubber bullets -- that terrify and torment and stun but do not usually kill citizens the way that citizens in Iraq are terrified, tormented and stunned by U.S. military forces.
The job this unit is being given belongs to the National Guard. It's why the Guard was formed and it's why the Guard's individual units are under the direct control of their respective state governors, not the federal government. Here's a very good article on the ways in which the original Posse Comitatus legislation barring the armed forces from "enforcing the law" in this country has been eroded, and what it might mean.
I'm not keen on living in a police state where the army is used to back up police who are already far too likely to violate my civil rights. I value my free speech, my right to assemble, my right to protest, my right to practice whatever religion I please or don't please, my protection from unlawful search and seizure and imprisonment, my right to privacy and to the integrity of my own person and property. The last twenty years, and especially the last eight, have seen large and dangerous erosions in those rights. Does it scare me? No, it pisses me off. I fully subscribe to the notion that people should not be afraid of their governments but goverments should be afraid of their people. I've sat by too long. The times they are a' changin'.
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