In one month, the future of the country will once again be up for grabs. And while legislative control is not as exciting as the presidency, it’s still the duty of every citizen to pay attention. If you feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, here’s your opportunity to demand that we pull over and ask for directions.
Here’s a quick recap for those who haven’t been keeping score: Iraq is devolving into a civil war. The CIA has revealed that Iraq has become a fertile jihadist recruiting ground. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. One of the fundamental tenets of Western law, habeas corpus, the right of the imprisoned to challenge their detainment in a court of law, has been suspended for aliens classified as enemy combatants or awaiting classification. This essentially allows the President to detain anyone, anywhere in the world, and hold them indefinitely without trial, forever. The Geneva Convention prohibition against “outrages upon personal dignity” against prisoners of war has been stripped from unlawful enemy combatants and those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States” or its allies.
Don’t think this applies to you, because you’re a law abiding citizen who has nothing to hide? Better to fight them over there than over here? Remember that the steady erosion of rights always starts with someone else. It’s not so bad when it’s a suspected terrorist being held in a cell, tortured until he confesses. But when the United States drops all pretense of being the land of the free, we all suffer. It puts our fighting men and women in further danger if they are captured, and it foments international anger. It’s bad enough that the Middle Eastern street thinks that America is the great Satan, we don’t need to confirm it for them. If we’re really in a great clash of civilizations, shouldn’t we show our enemy what we really stand for?
On the home front, things aren’t much better. Yes, gas prices have fallen significantly over the last month, and the Dow is back near its historic high. But the Federal debt is over $8.5 trillion. That’s $28,541 per citizen, even more to add to your college payments. Foreign central banks have begun selling their shares of our debt, getting out of a bad investment before it gets worse. New proposed air pollution standards lower restrictions on particulates. New historical climate data reinforces the scientific consensus on global climate change. Senator Mark Foley sent explicit emails and instant messages to a sixteen year old page, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert knew for years.
I’m assigning everyone homework. Think of it as a one unit course for the next month. First, read a real newspaper. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Find out if your senator is up for reelection, and look at their platform and that of their opponent. Then decide who you want to run the country. And maybe look at your local house race. Register to vote in your home district with the National Mail Voter Registration form. Request an absentee ballot; links to every state election office are available.
It is critical that you participate this year. In 2002, the Republicans parlayed their midterm victory into a mandate for total governance. Remind everyone in power that a slim margin of victory is not a writ for dominance by either side, but a reminder that there are two sides to this debate. It’s your country too; fight for it.
Published in the October 13 Tech