Friday, June 24, 2005

Land of Liberty?

As an expat, in your first few years it is easy to miss home, and you tend to go through periods of alternately loving and hating your new home. After a few years, though, the frequency and the extreme nature of these periods levels out, and you begin to be pretty realistic about your new home, seeing both good and bad, and generally accepting both, rather than railing against it has you tend to in the first period. The other things that happens is that you begin to view your own country from the outside, unfettered by the emotional attachment that you naturally have for the place where you were born.
I love America. There are so many things to like. But looking at the direction it has gone politically since September 11th, and really since Dubya took over, fills me with a dread. The latest outrage is a Supreme Court decision which allows municipalities to use the law of imminent domain to seize property not for the purpose of building a new school, a road, a sewer treatment plant, or other public works, but to sell to developers, who can then re-develop an area and profit from their work.
George Will, had a good opinion piece on this today, and I would mostly only add a question to his piece: Do the members of the court remember that little thing called the bill of rights? It specifically says that seizures must be for public use. Does building new condos constitute public use? Considering the state of the housing market in the U.S., it is a question whether anyone will even be living in them.
If you combine this with the Patriot Act, the government's (mis)interpretation of the Geneva conventions, it's flagrant disregard for global norms in too many areas to list, it is hard not wonder if America is not slipping, one step at a time, softly, softly, in to totalitarianism. One constitutional right at a time, the liberties that we claim to be fighting for in Afghanistan and Iraq are being taken from Americans. The big uproar about Amnesty International calling Guantanamo a 'gulag' misses the point: Just because today there are nowhere near the same number of prisoners at Guantanamo as were in the Soviet gulags, does not mean that if the legal ambiguities and abuses are not addressed that such will never be the case. So, too, just because the ruling was about one Conneticut town clearly doesn't mean the expansion of government's right to seize property arbitrarily has not been vastly expanded. One wonders where this long slippery slope is leading, and I fear that it is not to a nice place.


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