According to the clock ticking down over at Evolutionary Middleman, it’s actually 152 days as I write this. One of my favorite sig lines, and bumper stickers, is “1-20-09 – the End of an Error“. Of course, by now you all realize what I’m talking about – the final days of the Bush Ascendancy. My, how time flies when you’re having…what? Certainly not fun. It seems like only yesterday that I was watching the returns of the 2000 election on NBC, and jumped up and cheered when Tom Brokaw called Florida for Gore, only to have my excitement and giddiness hopelessly dashed on the rocks of Politics-as-Usual by the subsequent turn of events. I think that’s when I started drinking in earnest.
I was reminded of this by a story in the local paper. It seems that a man, a Gulf War veteran by the name of Erich Scherfen, has found that he and his wife are on a terrorist watch list. It may be because he is a converted Muslim (with a Pennsylvania Dutch name, no less) who is married (which goes far in explaining his conversion) to a Pakistani woman who emigrated to the US in 1974. But he doesn’t know, because the government won’t talk about it. All he knows is that when he travels through airports, he and his wife are detained, sometimes for hours, and that the detainors tell him he’s on some list.
This would be a major inconvenience all by itself, however, to add insult to injury, Erich is a commercial pilot, contracted to fly for an operation called Colgan Air, who will not allow him in a cockpit until he’s removed from the list, and oh, by the way, get that done by September 1 or you’re fired. Neither Erich nor his wife, Rubina, have any criminal record, and they seem dumbfounded by the result of their government’s overzealous attribution to them of terrorist links. So, they have enlisted the services of the attorneys at the local ACLU (an organization normally vilified as anti-religious) to assist Erich in getting his name off of whatever list he’s on that prevents him from earning a living. They have filed suit in Federal Court for the Middle District of PA to get the government’s attention. Since litigation most likely will not be completed by September 1, I expect that a part of their strategy is to simply shame the government into taking him off the list, by using the attendant publicity associated with the lawsuit. The Press conference was my first clue. Since the attorney from the ACLU that represents them was also one of the attorneys in the successful Dover trial, Witold Walczak, I have high hopes for a quick and successful outcome.
Panning out to look at the bigger picture, this seems like business as usual in BushAmerica. In a system of government supposedly run by the people, for the people, it seems that the government is being run only for Republican fat cat politicos and their progeny. The rest of us seem to be here only for our consumer and tax paying qualities. While terrorism is a valid threat to its intended victims, as random and loose knit as they tend to be, it really isn’t a good reason to justify the wholesale repudiation of the individual freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, especially those of the First Amendment.
It wasn’t that long ago that I felt good about being an American, not embarrassed. I felt that other countries justifiably looked up to the oldest and most successful democracy in the world, despite our many faults, which to my thinking were outweighed by the ideals our Constitution put forth as an example to the rest of the world. Even with all our warts, we were still worth emulating.
But when your government can arbitrarily stick your name on a list, which in turn prevents you from working in your chosen profession, forcing you to hire a lawyer to enforce the basics rights guaranteed by the Constitution, without any explanation or reasonable justification for doing so, I begin to wonder about the country I live in. When the apparent reason your name is on the list is because of your choice of wife and religion, I stop wondering and start to worry. And when the majority of Americans seem to agree with what the country is doing, or by their silence acquiesce, then Canada starts looking better and better.
We have so many things to <sarcasm>thank</sarcasm> Bush for. Like the No Child Left Behind Act, Guantanamo Prison Camp, The Iraq War and all those WMD’s he found, the outing of Valerie Plame (see, he really doesn’t care about keeping people employed in their chosen professions), Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. He’s done nothing to preserve Social Security which is still expecting problems when we boomers come of age. He’s frittered away the budget surplus he inherited from his predecessor. He has handed over our privacy to the telephone companies and the spy agencies. He has increased the role of religion in public life, despite the First Amendment’s now fractured wall of separation between Church and State. He has destroyed the good will and empathy of the world that naturally was directed our way after 9/11, and Osama bin Laden is still living wherever he damn well pleases. He has done everything to increase the gap between the poorest and wealthiest in this country. He has attempted to destroy the credibility of science and scientists, by discouraging policies aimed at thwarting global warming, by supporting the teaching of Intelligent Design, and by generally failing to heed the advice of his own science advisers, allowing science to become politicized instead. He has used fear, bigotry and xenophobia to pit American against American, further polarizing a country inhabited by people already naturally polarized by their diversity, for the sole purpose of maintaining political hegemony for his party. He has rewarded incompetency, while ignoring excellence. He has elevated to a political art the act of lying to the public. He just may have theocratized the Supreme Court. In short, he has, by all reasonable standards and all objective criteria, been the worst President this country has ever seen. He makes Nixon look like Lincoln, in comparison.
So it’s with a wistful eye that I look to November, hoping against hope that Bush is a mere aberration, a mistake, an error, one we can cancel with a simple election.
I’ll drink to that! I just hope we don’t go from BushAmerica, to McSameAmerica.
[UPDATE: An Appellate Court out of the 9th Circuit has ruled, coincidentally on the same day, that people on these watch lists can sue to have their name removed.
Airline passengers on the government’s no-fly list can sue the government to get their names removed, according to a federal appeals court ruling Monday that swept aside complicated judicial rules that insulated the government from lawsuits over the sprawling list of suspected terrorists.]