Back in 1919, a German gentleman named Anton Drexler and five associates founded the German Worker’s Party, hoping to represent the downtrodden workers of Germany: the poor, the unrepresented, the working classes sick of a government ignoring their needs and complaints. Fairly early on, it was infiltrated by a member of the German army sent to spy on the group and subvert it, largely to keep it harmless and stupid. Drexler and his associates swiftly found their party, which was intended to benefit all Germans by empowering and fortifying its lower classes, turned into the nightmarish Nazi Party, one of the very few groups in all of history who qualifies for the descriptor ‘evil’.
Ninety years later and five thousand miles away, another group of citizens was becoming displeased with what they saw as a government that had ceased to represent their interests. Protests were popping up all over the country, with a core message of holding the American government accountable for what the protesters saw as blatant disregard for the needs and concerns of the working classes. Over time, the Tea Party drew more and more supporters – many of which didn’t seem to fit in, like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers, hardly working-class material. Accusations of their true motives have been bandied about ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=1 ), but as yet no real resistance has been put forth to keep outside interests from steering the Tea Party movement from its stated course.
I do not at all intend to compare Tea Party members with Nazis – I simply draw the parallel because both started as populist, working-class social and political movements, and both were or are being subverted to other ends. One ended up causing World War Two and being responsible for the deaths of millions. What will the other accomplish when it becomes a perverted version of itself?
Back in Germany after the end of the First World War, many were placing the military defeats and national weaknesses largely at the feet of social groups considered ‘Un-German’: Jews, Socialists, and people not showing sufficient amounts of patriotism. Pluralism – or the idea of cultural or ethnic groups inside a host country keeping their cultural or ethnic identity – was coming under fire as an example of insufficient national pride. After all, shouldn’t they be Germans first, and Jews or Russians or whatever second?
You don’t have to swap too many nouns around in that previous paragraph to strike a chilling resemblance to the rising movement of ‘America for Americans’. Again, I cannot stress strongly enough that I am not comparing the rank-and-file Tea Party members, or any man or woman acting on their conscience and protesting what they see as mistreatment by their government to Nazis. I draw these parallels to show how easily the movement was subverted from a populist movement demanding the return of government to its roots of representative democracy to a plutocratic (in the case of the Tea Party) or fascist (in the case of National Socialism) coup.
A recurring theme in my writing, and much of my philosophy, is that one should do one’s own thinking, and never ever allow someone else to do their thinking for them. My problem with the Tea Party has nothing to do with its actual members, and everything to do with how it is being exploited by corporate and other interests to enact policy change designed to benefit not the working class, but the upper class. Tax cuts for the rich benefit only the rich, after all.
Now, we have the Department of Defense spending untold amounts of money to purchase an entire print run of an Army Reservist’s memoir, only to destroy it – claiming that the information contained therein was a threat to national security. ( http://us.cnn.com/2010/US/09/25/books.destroyed/index.html ) This is despite the fact that the author and publisher were exceedingly careful to make sure the book had no classified or sensitive information in it, even going so far as to submit a copy to the author’s military chain of command for review, and proceeded with printing only when the Army Reserve Command gave its blessing.
A second printing is on the way ( http://us.macmillan.com/book.aspx?isbn=9780312603694 ), rife with DoD-requested changes and line after line of blacked-out redactions. Free-journalism superheroes Wikileaks claim to have an unedited copy, and I hope for America’s sake they do.
Also, in submitting a request for dismissal of a federal suit ( http://static1.firedoglake.com/28/files/2010/09/100925-Al-Aulaqi-USG-PI-Opp-MTD-Brief-FILED.pdf ) demanding that the US not assassinate a US citizen without due process, the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and the President himself state in so many words that "not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality." (Glenn Greenwald, salon.com, link http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/09/25/secrecy ) One of the arguments in the request for dismissal I found interesting was that the case should be dismissed because it wasn’t brought to the court by the assassination target himself – after all, it would only make sense for the target of an assassination plot to walk into the den of their would-be murderers and ask them nicely not to hurt him.
We have a government banning books and attempting to murder its own citizens under the aegis of national security, and refusing to explain any further, as if the words are a magic spell that ends any line of questioning. President Obama was elected largely on a platform of change in government, an end to the opaque decisionmaking and stone walls preventing American citizens from being allowed to see the inner workings of American government. Although only a fool believes all of a politician’s campaign promises, I had hoped that this one at least would bear more fruit than it did.
A functioning military demands a certain amount of secrecy, this much is obvious. You can’t exactly attack an enemy by surprise if they know where you are and what precisely you’re going to throw at them, after all. But bypassing due process for American citizens – a right insisted upon in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution – is something that demands further explanation than a weak ‘national security’ handwave. Mr. President, if you or those you choose to lead other departments are intending to murder one of your citizens without granting him the fair trial guaranteed by the document you swore to uphold, then you have some explaining to do.
It is worth noting that Anwar Awlaki, the alleged assassination target, is a dual US – Yemeni citizen, and allegedly a key decision-maker in Al-Qaeda. It is also worth noting that there has not yet been any concrete evidence shown to prove Awlaki’s involvement in Al-Qaeda. No matter how terrible the man’s crimes may be, he – like any other American citizen – has the right to due process. The fact that the man stands accused of treason does not remove his right to due process – in fact, the Constitution specifically demands due process in cases of alleged treason, in Article III, section 3.
Article I, section 9 of the Constitution also forbids the use of writs of attainder – in a nutshell, an act of a governmental body declaring someone guilty and demanding a punishment without benefit of trial. There are multiple reasons why Awlaki’s assassination without trial cannot be allowed to happen while we as a nation claim to uphold our Constitution. Regardless of whether or not the man is guilty of working with Al-Qaeda, the very founding documents we claim to hold sacred demand we grant him the rights he has as an American citizen. As he has not yet forfeited his American citizenship, nor has he satisfied the conditions for having his citizenship revoked ( http://travel.state.gov/law/citizenship/citizenship_778.html ), we as a nation are forced with a choice: Grant him the rights he deserves, or turn our backs on our nation’s most sacred beliefs.
Are we allowing fear and hate to infiltrate our national conscience and subvert it, as the German Worker’s Party turned into the Nazi Party and the Tea Party is slowly but surely changing into an astroturf movement for corporate interests? Are we going to wake up one day to find that our nation no longer resembles what we thought it was? Or, even more horrifying to consider, has that day already come?