Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Machine Head -- LA Gothic

So. Bush says the government doesn't listen to the phone conversations of "ordinary Americans." Funny. I don't think the White House even understands how the very idea of "ordinary Americans" violates the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights. Of course, the idea that they get to decide who is "normal" doesn't send chills down the spine of most Americans, because they blithely assume they are "normal."

It's an overused quote, but the poem attributed to Martin Niem├Âller is apropos now. This is the original German, but you don't have to speak German to get it. (I got it from Wickipedia.)

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.


In the US the poem got screwed up because the victims in the original are Communists, Social Democrats, Trade Unionists, then lastly, Jews. Well, in the US in the 50s, you couldn't stand up and say that Communists and Trade Unionists shouldn't be rounded up, or you'd get blacklisted or something, so they got rid of the unsavory groups, stuck Jews at the top, added Catholics, that sort of thing.

Right now, they're coming for the Muslims and Arabs. Are we going to raise our voices? Are we going to protest? Or are we going to go about our business, assume that we're "normal," and be shocked and surprised when our door is battered down and we're led away at gunpoint?

"Oh, silly Lee," you say. "So dramatic. America is Different. That would never happen Here." But every coup, every civil war, every genocide has before it someone saying the same words about that particular country, that particular leader. Every genocide has many victims who die because they trusted that things wouldn't get that bad. There's no way to know how bad things will get, but we know that what's happening now in the US has led to terrible things other places in the past, places supposedly as civilized and tolerant.

And even if it never gets past abusing the rights and bodies of Arabs and Muslims, what value does America really have if we tolerate violations of civil rights to those deemed "abnormal?"

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