Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Death of Habeus Corpus

In the 1980's I was occasionally afraid that those calling for the internment of HIV+ people and LGBT folk might actually get their wish. SON of COINTEL PRO was functioning alive and well in my life.
... by 1983, FBI agents and private security specialists had launched broad intrusions into the lives of ordinary citizens engaged in otherwise legal activities. (from the brilliant political-social-analytic website Public Eye)
My activities and those of many of my colleagues and friends - social justice activities - all proactive, creative, and legal - were curiously interesting to hunkered down men who sat outside my home in parked cars, to tall men who stood at ease in the back of my church during communion, to the "insurance agent" who, for "insurance reasons" had to read the titles of our books into a tape recorder after being let in by our landlord.

Might you wonder what type of activities?
Perhaps you surmise, dear reader, that we deserved to be snooped upon without warrant.

I was part of a drama troupe that educated various public servants, (educators, police, etc.) about HIV/AIDS and LGBT folks.
I taught 5th grade.
I was active in MCC, a "Gay Church" that met in the Unitarian Church, the same building that housed the anti-nuke people.
I was involved in an attempt to provide an education for the children of MOVE members that would be acceptable both to the mothers and the State. (Such a compromise was not possible.)
I protested to oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork.
I lived in an intentionally diverse house of African Americans and white folks, gay men and lesbians during a decade and in a city that preferred to keep everyone as separate as possible.

Jesse Jackson spoke from our front steps on the eve of the Pennsylvania Primary in 1986. Maybe that was the dangerous activity that required surveillance.

We were never identified as "enemy combatants," picked up for questioning, or carted away to another country to be not-tortured. It was clear that there were those in "law enforcement," in "the government," who believed there was something about our activities that constituted a threat, but their interference in our lives didn't go beyond an intimidating quasi-public survelliance.

What of activists now? How chilling must it be to have a law that completely eradicates Habeus Corpus. Why bother with intimidation and scare tactics? We used to be afraid that someone would cart us off, drop us somewhere without defense. But it would have been illegal, and we held on to the shred of hope that the feds who were watching us would follow the law and would not physically interfere with us.

No hope of that now. It is now legal for someone to be identified as an enemy combatant, and carted off to G-d knows where, where G-d knows what to happen, where even the Geneva Conventions - that last bulwark of ethical instruction - aren't attended to, and, since there is no right to a lawyer, no one will even know where they are should they want to report them missing.

Maybe it can be an episode of Without A Trace. The FBI looking for someone the FBI has taken.

And what does this mean for Ministers, DREs, and other religious professionals who act as if the Reign of G-d is among us and we are to do justice? I think it can't be good. The chilling effect of this legislation, of this constitutionally unsupported square of rotting spam on a board, can't be good. It means that we may begin to second guess our public statements. And that's the cruelest censorship.

Keith Olbermann has something to say as well. First, the special report on Habeus Corpus.

And his Special Comment on Habeus Corpus is available at Crooks and Liars.
It's got a great last paragraph. It's worth waiting for though, so go read or watch the commentary from the beginning.

No comments: