When friends abroad ask us normally vocal, not to say loud-mouthed, activist progressive Americans about Obama's signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, authorizing indefinite detention of persons the government suspects of terrorism, there comes a silence, so thudding it is almost loud. And it is not just us -- it is our newspapers as well. Where are the outraged editorials in the New York Times? Where are the petitions, the call to arms, the jump to the phones and Internet that marked the recent responses to a cut in funding to Planned Parenthood, or a potential anti-piracy online bill? Both of which were important, but nothing to this radical assault on our most ancient civil liberties.
Where is everyone on this? And where am I? Because the silence is mine as well. I am horrified by the law, but can somehow not bring myself to the barricades against Obama. Maybe after the next election, but the truth is, whatever he does, he is the light against the Republican darkness. They, the Republicans, with their hatreds and their fundamental injustice, their Bushes and their Cheneys and their Roves with their infantile "Bring it on" wars that kill and maim and despoil, but always somebody else; their Catholic Bishops who protect predator priests but go mad at the thought of real health care for women; their disappear-your-job Romneys with their businessman talk and skip-the-taxes walk; their "bad girls have to have babies" Santorums; not mention their overweight, under-read, all-white rabble whose biggest thrill in life is hating the busboys and gardeners.
And against all this -- Obama.
He's not perfect. It's been a tough four years. And why he signed this bill, I can't imagine. It doesn't jive with what we think he believes, what he's stood for, and against, throughout his whole life.
But who knows how it really works in there? The last real clue we got was when Hillary Clinton ran to the window with news of the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Words that rang true, and still frighten me. Look at the Court. Look at the Kennedys. Look at the banks.
How big is the conspiracy? Has it been checked at all? We seem only to know what it was afterwards, when the hand has moved on. McCarthy and Hoover are history, but do we know who were they serving? Who they would be serving today?
Not Obama -- of this I feel quite certain. Which is to say there is a place in my heart where I still trust him. A place in my mind where I, sadly, believe that there's also the matter of his staying alive. Staying this side of the line -- am I mad here? -- that the Kennedys crossed.
Tell me I'm crazy -- I want to be a paranoid-delusionist here. But more than that, more than anything, I want Obama to have a second term, which is why I am not shouting about this terrible bill, at least not yet.
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