When I first learned about Naomi Wolf's book, The End of America--in which she chronicles America's slide toward becoming a police state, I considered it a well-played game of "what if...?" I regarded it much in the same way that I regarded Alan Weisman's The World Without Us--as a mental exercise exploring alternate realities, which serves to make us more appreciative and better stewards of our own reality.
Sadly, I was mistaken.
The ten steps to fascism that Wolf laid out in The End of America have occurred--all ten--like clockwork. Steps nine and ten occurred recently with the mass arrests of citizens and journalists at the RNC, and October 1st's U.S. military missions against U.S. citizens made possible by the suspension of Posse Comitatus in 2006. (Yes, reinstated later, but a signing statement made by Bush on the law frees him from obeying it.)
This is not an exercise in alternate realities. This is happening in America. With all that we know of human nature, the lessons from history, and the inevitably corrupting effect of power on the human brain, there should be no doubt left in our minds that if all the chess pieces are aligned, it is only a matter of time until checkmate.
So why do we do nothing? As Naomi Wolf points out in this early lecture she gave explaining why she wrote The End of America, many WWII-era German immigrants in this country are able to recall the pre-WWII German population's inaction through disbelief. "This happened in Germany, and we did nothing," Wolf recalls hearing repeatedly.
Much in the same way, I grew up thinking "They won't suspend habeus corpus, this is America." And, "They won't tamper with the voting system, this is America." And, "They won't tap our phone lines, this is America." And, "They won't use the military against us, this is America." But they've all happened. And yet, my kneejerk reaction--even after all these crimes against my freedom and voice as a citizen--is still, "They won't declare martial law, this is America."
Why!? And why is this true for so many fellow Americans? And what's more, why is mentioning these crimes met with scorn and contempt--as though I'm just stirring up trouble.
I'm not crazy. I'm just reading the news! Upon first glance the administration has plenty of excuses it could use to declare martial law: the plummeting economy, a potentially botched election, racists rioting at Palin rallies, domestic terrorists (real or make-believe), even simply not getting its petulant way (as with the bailout, as the video below will point out).
It seems that the folks over at CorbettReport are reading the news as well. They've put together this timely video explaining that the threat of martial law is real, and likely.
So, my fellow Americans, I ask you: What do we do to save our democracy...and our own skin?
J.S. McDougall is the head blogger at Chelsea Green -- a news site and book publisher covering the politics and practice of sustainable living.