Did you ever run across something that’s so bizarre, so out there, so freakin’ weird, that you think you must have heard it or read it wrong? I did recently, when I read the story that the Congress of These United States was ready to pass a law making it perfectly legal for the government to use the Army to arrest American citizens here in America and hold them in custody, indefinitely, without charges or trial, if in the government’s wisdom that person was a terrorist threat.
Yes. Apparently still shivering with fear over the possibility of another September 11-type attack, Congress was ready to pass an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize the use of the military as a domestic police force and give clearance to arrest and detain citizens on the mere suspicion of terrorist complicity; there would be no messy and time-consuming need for formal charges to be filed, or for due process or habeas corpus to be respected. Congress seemed confident that the American sheeple either wouldn’t notice or were so scared of terrorists that they would happily line up to trade in some of their Constitutionally-protected liberties for an unkeepable promise of safety in the future and the warm confidence that comes from thoughtlessly submitting to government authority over their lives.
(When, please, are we going to stop being scared of terrorists? I’m not saying we should ignore threats, or even that we should demand to keep our shoes on at the airport, but living our lives in quaking fear of possible terrorism isn’t much different from looking over your shoulder all day every day just in case there’s a tornado following you.)
But Congress didn’t pass that law, because enough people saw what was coming and made enough noise to shame the members into backing off. They approved an additional amendment that specifically disallows the arresting-American-citizens-here-in-America-without-charges part.
What in the wide, wide world of sports were they thinking? Seriously: what drives the thought process of supposedly mature and rational adults to think it’d be OK to do this, even though the Constitution expressly forbids using the military as a domestic police force and forbids indefinite detention without charges?
One of the richly ironic results of this misadventure is that it caused political enemies and philosophical opposites to unite: the “Say what?” reaction came from liberals and conservatives and moderates, who all recognized a ham-handed attempt to take a big bite out of the personal liberties that America promises to all of its citizens. And they rose together—as Americans—to emulate Buckley and yell “Stop!”.
The lesson? Keep your eyes and your ears open, because someone will try something like this again; they always do. It’s up to us—all of us—to see that they don’t get away with it.
OK, now that you’ve eaten all your vegetables, here’s dessert: