I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren't realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn't about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It's about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:
1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.
Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you're now considered a dangerous person. With this tech in place, the government doesn't have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you're reporting on them to protect your dad.
2) Let's say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They're shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won't be responsible for anyone dying. That's going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they're next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.
3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you've never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can't say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn't feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it's infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.
You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren't home. You can't reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven't been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn't there.
4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It's like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him "fuck you dude what are you laughing at can't you see I've got a fucking wound on my leg?" "Sorry," he says. "I just didn't know anyone read the news anymore." There haven't been any real journalists for months. They're all in jail.
Everyone walking around is scared. They can't talk to anyone else because they don't know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they're sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It's always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.
You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you're basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can't use a phone or email. You can't get a job. You can't even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don't want to lose their jobs. They don't want to be labeled as traitors.
This all happened in the country where I live. You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.
Maybe Obama won't do it. Maybe the next guy won't, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn't about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it's about your daughter or your son. We just don't know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?
You know for me, the reason I'm upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant "liberty and justice for all." You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That's what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren't standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?
Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?
I didn't make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn't happen in America. But guess what? It's starting to happen. I actually get really upset when people say "I don't have anything to hide. Let them read everything." People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.
In an extraordinarily unexpected twist, I’m going to Minneapolis tomorrow as an extra tag-along driver to help facilitate someone else’s trip. I was only asked about it today. We leave in under four hours. I think I’m packed, but I’m not entirely sure. I was at a house party earlier that had a livingroom DJ who wore a pillow on his head. I was there until three in the morning. It kind of tired me out.
I had to look it up to make sure, but Inktea Cole is there, as is David S, and after some restless facebook posting, I now have a place to stay, a borrow bike, and Stranger-Here Karen is going to drive up from Madison to meet me. I can’t even remotely pretend this is a responsible financial decision, but Chris A. decided on a whim to help fund my trip, “shine on your crazy diamond”, enough that I’ll be able to eat along the way if I’m careful, so in spite of my unemployment, in spite of my complete and total lack of any kind of income or next month’s rent, I’m going.
I’ve been coming back to life. Embracing the weird is just part of that equation.
Oh, also.. I sort of accidently dyed my hair green today. By sort of, I mean completely, so much so that I look like a dryad. Um, whoops?
“This week the Georgia State Legislature debated a bill in the House, that would make it necessary for some women to carry stillborn or dying fetuses until they ‘naturally’ go into labor. In arguing for this bill Representative Terry England described his empathy for pregnant cows and pigs in the same situation.”
The rest of the civilized world thinks this country has lost its mind. It’s no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny:
1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. […]
2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women’s lives. […]
3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning and charging women who miscarry with murder, […]
4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration (otherwise called rape) with a condom-covered, six- to eight-inch ultrasound probe. […]
5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by either withholding medical treatment or forcing women to undergo involuntary medical procedures. […]
6. Giving zygotes “personhood” rights while systematically stripping women of their fundamental rights. […]
7. Inhibiting, humiliating and punishing women for their choices to have an abortion for any reason by levying taxes specifically on abortion, including abortions sought by rape victims to end their involuntary insemination, […]
8. Allowing employers to delve into women’s private lives and only pay for insurance when they agree, for religious reasons, with how she choses to use birth control. […]
9. Sacrificing women’s overall health and the well-being of their families in order to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right to control their own bodies and reproduction. […]
10. Depriving women of their ability to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Bills, like this one in Arizona, allow employers to fire women for using contraception. Women like these are being fired for not.
You presume to consign my daughters and yours to function as reproductive animals.
This is about sex and property, not life and morality. Sex because when women have sex and want to control their reproduction that threatens powerful social structures that rely on patriarchal access to and control over women as reproductive engines. Which brings us to property: control of reproduction was vital when the agricultural revolution took place and we, as a species, stopped meandering around plains in search of food. Reproduction and control of it ensured that a man could possess and consolidate wealth-building and food-producing land and then make sure it wasn’t disaggregated by passing it on to one son he knew was his — largely by claiming a woman and her gestation capability as property, too.
The biggest news of the day: South Dakota has passed a law that outlaws abortion in almost all cases and does not protect a woman in cases of rape or incest or even when her health is in danger. Doctors who violate the ban could face up to five years in prison.
Frankly, I was appalled when the bill was signed on Monday by the Governor and now that the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear Gonzales v. Carhart, I’m slightly ill. Challenging the federal abortion ban that has been struck down previously by every court that has examined it because, among other things, the ban does not protect women’s health, is not something that should happen.
“The supporters of the South Dakota law say they want to trigger a battle over the 1973 Roe-versus-Wade ruling, in which the US Supreme Court established that governments lacked the power to prohibit abortions.”
Part of why this is scary is how the American legislation is set up. The Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, (currently six out of the nine are heavily right-wing), and because what they deal with is built on precedence, case by case, any other state that decides to challenge Wade VS Roe has just had their way made easier. Anti-choice lawmakers all through the South are waiting with baited breath to shove their own versions through as soon as a decision is made.
This isn’t a one-time thing, this is a nation-wide attack on the basic rights of half the American population by the pro-life community. “The national group said 10 states are considering similar bills.” Religion once again leading the nose of those in power and stomping all over the poor fools who voted them in. Keep in mind that those same pro-lifers are the people who fight so vehemently against any kind of social support system and make horrible remarks about welfare mothers. They’re the same people who preach abstinence-only sex-ed and don’t want to teach people how to use condoms. Nor do they tell the mothers that their child is a sweet and important gift, instead they tell them that they are filthy for even having sex in the first place, as if it was something perverse.
“According to Governor Rounds, who was just in Washington, DC for a national governors’ meeting, he is getting support from his peers: “A lot of governors [are] expressing support and wishing us good luck and saying they may have similar proposals that may be favorably looked upon across the United States.” [Keloland TV, 2/26/06]”
If you can spare a dime, there has never been a better time to support Planned Parenthood.
Here in Canada, the worst we girls might encounter is the rare idiot doctor who illegally brings their politics into the office or some loudly under-educated fundies with shameful signs outside a clinic. People who don’t seem to understand that if these girls thought they had the right space for a child, they’d keep it. Here, the idea is that if you’re going to have children, you should be able to raise them and raise them well. If you can’t, if it’s going to be a problem, then we’ll do our best to ease the pain, not vehemently attack you for being less of a person that some fine young christian bride.
I know that when it was my turn, my friends were supportive, the doctor was kind, my partner helped me with the pills. I was that .o1% that keeps birth control from being 100% effective. When my friends had their surprises, (and really, it’s been almost all of us), because of interfering medications, because of broken condoms, whatever, the ones who decided to terminate, I helped bring them to the hospital or the clinic and I brought them flowers. I let them cry. We didn’t try to hide that what we had destroyed had the potential to be a beautiful creature, but nor did we allow that potential life destroy the factual one in front of us. I agree with Burrow, let’s send these people coat hangers, as many of them as we can. Let’s remind them what they’re planning for their daughters.
edit: Rowan brought up a good point – that I haven’t mentioned the intelligent, well-educated people who are pro-life. I know these people exist and am glad for them. In this case, I mentioned the under-educated because that’s all that I, personally, have met in front of clinics.