Communion Of Dreams

That well is poisoned – don’t drink from it.

This is what I was afraid would happen.

And it makes me, well, worried.  Very worried.

Prompted by 9/11, we watched the fairly rapid curtailment of civil liberties during the Bush administration (though supported & enabled entirely too much by Democrats in Congress).  The Patriot Act.  The expansion of FISAWarrantless wiretapping by the NSA.  Legal opinions which effectively gave the president dictatorial powers, and which allowed for torture of terrorism suspects.

Coupled with this was a dramatic rise in rhetoric on the right, to the effect that failure to get in line -completely- with the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” was called nothing short of treason.  Anyone who objected to the “temporary curtailment of civil liberties” was likely to be painted as a traitor, or worse.  It was not a good time to be a civil libertarian, or a liberal, and for eight long years many felt that we were under seige.  I half expected more violence or even some excuse to suspend normal civil law and elections.  And I was hardly alone.

But the elections were held, and changes were made.  A new president, with a very different concept of the rule of law, was elected and has taken office.  Granted, it was during the worst economic crisis we’ve faced in 70 years, but a lot of us had hope for the future.  Hope that we could indeed start to work together as a nation.

Of course, the losers didn’t see it that way.  Oh, some did, and there has actually been a substantial increase in the popularity and public support of Obama since the election and since he took office.  But the core of the right has just gotten wound tighter and tighter, to the point where the rhetoric has taken on violent overtones.  It started back during the election, with Gov. Palin’s characterization of Sen. Obama as “hanging around with terrorists” and the sentiments that engendered among her audience.  Since then, it has only gotten worse.

Former UN Ambassador Alan Keyes (who has run for a variety of offices under the GOP banner) via YouTube:

“Obama is a radical communist, and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois and now everybody realizes it’s true. He is going to destroy this country, and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.”


“I’m not sure he’s even president of the United States, neither are many of our military people now who are now going to court to ask the question, ‘Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the constitution?’ We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don’t stop laughing about it and deal with it, we’re going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion and civil war.”

The ‘civil war’ theme has been picked and run with elsewhere on the right.  There were the Glenn BeckWar Games” scenarios recently, which played out the idea of widespread civil unrest leading to civil war.  You’ve got Chuck Norris writing an insane column for a major right-wing website promoting the idea of secession.  Here’s a bit of that:

For those losing hope, and others wanting to rekindle the patriotic fires of early America, I encourage you to join Fox News’ Glenn Beck, me and millions of people across the country in the live telecast, “We Surround Them,” on Friday afternoon (March 13 at 5 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. CT and 2 p.m. PST). Thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation. You can host or attend a viewing party by going to Glenn’s website. My wife Gena and I will be hosting one from our Texas ranch, in which we’ve invited many family members, friends and law enforcement to join us. It’s our way of saying “We’re united, we’re tired of the corruption, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

Again, Sam Houston put it well when he gave the marching orders, “We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: None is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name.”

“Cell groups”?  Really?


But that isn’t what worries me.  Well, it does, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry here.  What really worries me is that this kind of rhetoric has prompted a backlash on the left that was entirely too predictable: a desire to use the powers of government already put into play by the Bush administration to quash this perceived threat.  Not everyone agrees, but just look at comments in any of these different discussions and you’ll see what I mean.  There are a lot of people who are fed up with the nonsense from the right, who say “shit, man, we put up with Bush for 8 years and you’re whining after only 8 weeks of Obama???  Fine, let’s take care of this now, using the tools you gave us.”

It’s a completely understandable reaction.  But it is also extremely dangerous.  It is, in fact, a poisoned well, and we drink from it at grave risk to ourselves and our Republic.

Because if we use those tools – if we employ the power of the government to suppress the freedoms of our enemies – then we legitimize all that the Bush administration did.  And if that happens, I’m not sure there is any turning back. And down that path lies madness: violence, martial law, suspension of the Constitution, the whole crazy nightmare.  Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)

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