The State of the Union speech last night was good. I'm not opposed to any of the things he said in it. However, I did notice that he didn't mention one of the other Obama Administration policies, which is that the Executive Branch can assassinate American Citizens without any trial or due process. It's an understandible oversight because it is not a policy that will be popular among... well, pretty much anyone who isn't part of the Executive Branch. But it should still be called out, forced into the light of day, and stopped.
You don't have to hate President Obama to hate this part of his administration. I respect and admire the President and I voted for him in both elections. I also gave money to his campaign, in both elections, despite (still) not being a registered Democrat. But no citizen should turn a blind eye to bad policy simply on the grounds that it might give the other side ammunition. As much as I don't want to give the Republicans any talking points--and if they're willing to engage in hypocrisy, this Exective Branch assassination policy gives them a lot of material to use against the president--I also think it's important to live in a country that doesn't assassinate its citizens.
More generally, I think it's important to live in a country that doesn't assassinate anyone... but getting there is going to require stopping the precedent being set here.
During the State of the Union address, the other big news story was that the crazed gunman Christopher Dorner was pinned down in a cabin in the woods of CA and surrounded by LA Police. The rumor before that was that he was being targeted for a "drone strike" on US soil. To be clear, as far as I can tell that was just a rumor, but it's one that went wild on different parts of the Internet. I saw it being reposted on Facebook and Google Plus. It was a rumor that a lot of people were willing to believe--and some of them weren't people I consider crazy.
Why would they believe this? Because it doesn't look like we're that far from it.
The Justice Department claims the US can order the assassination of US Citizens under specific circumstances. And of course those specific circumstances are, at least on cursory examination, people who appear to be engaged in activities that seem antithetical to actually being a citizens of this country. It's hard for me to muster up much sympathy for a member of al-Qaida, or a group working with them. It's hard for me to find compassion for terrorists.
Which is sort of the point: you don't set a precedent for the assassination of your own citizens by targeting puppies. You find groups of people your citizenry don't much are about anyway, and you blow them to kingdom come, and the people say "I'm glad you're doing something about this problem!"
And then you look for groups who fit 95% of the characteristics of the groups who are like those original groups, and you add them to the list. Now it's not just al-Qaida and affiliated groups, it's groups who were inspired by al-Qaida.
And then you look for groups who fit 95% of the characteristics of the groups you just added. You don't need a connection to al-Qaida, you just need to be a group that operates with the same kind of philosophy--hey, terrorism is terrorism, right? If you're blowing up soft targets and trying to coerce the public through terror, you're on the list.
And so it goes, down the line, until any political group in the US that has a fringe elment (note to anyone curious: that is essentially every political group in the US) can be considered eligble for the Hit List.
"Will never happen," you might say. Well I'll tell you what. Before the 21st century rolled around, if someone told me we would pass anything even close to the Patriot Act I would have laughed at them, mocked them, and called them a loon. But we did.
After the Nixon administration, I would have thought any president who tried to advocate a policy like the "Unitary Executive" would be run out on a rail. But the truth of the matter is President Obama has taken elements of President Bush's "Unitary Executive" policy and run with it. And whoever steps in to the Executive Branch next will inherit a precedent set by two administrations and both political parties.
We need to get a lot done, and a lot of the President's ideas make sense to me. But there are things we need to do just as much as fixing the economy, protecting voting rights, creating jobs, protecting the disadvantaged, and stopping the Modern Republican Party from infecting the nation with batshit crazy. We also need to make absolutely certain, that at the very least, at absolute minimum, if an American Citizen is executed by the United States Government, he or she has been arrested, had a trial jury of his or her peers, has appropriate legal representation. At bare minimum.
How do we do this? Fuck if I know. Seriously. I'm completely at a loss to figure out how get this done, and I'd be happy to hear suggestions. I mean, the most I can think is "well, support the ACLU" but it needs to be more than just giving them money, you know? But how do you get people to care enough about something that feels so remote and disconnected from immediate concerns about immediate hardship and immediate persecution? How do you get teachers to sign on to this crusade when they're spending a lot of time and energy defending themselves from being demonized for being fucking teachers? Or get union guys to sign on when they're being targeted by the right and being mostly ignored by the folks they voted into office? Or get families to sign on when they're worried about whether they're going to able to keep paying their bills, sending their kids to schools, and pay for health care? (Obamacare doesn't make it free, after all.)
This is probably the worst possible time to have to deal with a right that feels utterly abstract to people who are dealing with a recession, a hostile political party, and general "goddamn it I'm tired." It's one more fucking thing to add to the plate, and the plate is full. I get that.
But this needs to be important. It needs to be important to the people who like and admire and support Obama, and it needs to be important to the people who dislike and feel betrayed by Obama. It needs to be important and it needs a coalition similar in size and frenzy that the coalition opposing SOPA and CISPA and all those internet regulation coalitions were.
But how? I don't know. I'd love to be able to suggest a blueprint to follow. I'm posting this because I hope someone else does. Do we have a plan? Can US Citizens come together to stop these policies? Is there the political will to get that done?
I'm asking. I don't know. I hope you do.