It is a sad fact that those who are potentially most liable to be affected by the rents and tears that are being inflicted upon the Constitution are those who understand what is at stake here least. This failure to comprehend is equal parts denial, racism and willful ignorance.
This excellent post on Firedoglake excerpts an equally incendiary commentary by Keith Olbermann on the subject of habeas corpus…
I have attempted to explain what’s at stake here to my more knuckle-dragging acquaintances. The responses I get are along these lines: “So?” “What – are ya some kinda commie al Quaeda lover?” “Hey, we’re at war here – we don’t have time for all that fancy stuff.”
I find that when I just get patient and explain it using a parable – for example, say that they’re having problems at their workplace. The boss has decided that half their jobs are going to get outsourced to a bunch of immigrants fresh off the boat from Bangalore. They decide that they’re pretty upset about this, and demonstrate. The body shop/rendering plant/woodlot owner goes to the local sheriff and tells the sheriff that he wants them shut up.
The sheriff says, “But they’re not doing anything.”
“I don’t care,” says their boss. “Just chuck ‘em in jail and we’ll figure something out until this thing blows over.”
Under the law of the United States from 1776 to now, the second you get in front of a judge, you can say “Hey – I committed no crime. You gotta spring me.” And the sheriff grumbles and you get to walk out of the courtroom a free man, with a few choice words on the way for your boss, the sheriff and anyone else within range.
These days – not so much.
No habeas corpus – and I usually translate the phrase thusly: “It means ‘You have a body?’ as in, ‘You say I killed Joe Blow – you got a corpse there to prove that he’s actually dead or what?’ “ – means that they don’t have to prove that you committed a crime to keep you in jail.
It’s enough for them to say that they think that you’ve done something – or are about to do something – for them to keep the jail door closed on you.
At this point, you’ll be tempted to make all kinds of comparisons to Nazis. Don’t. That meme has been overworked to the point where it no longer holds any kind of emotional impact. A more powerful way to prove your point is to bring up the spectre of Uncle Joe Stalin and the way he ran the gulags. If you’re comfortable with living in a country where the secret police can come in the night and lock you away wherever they choose, for as long as they choose, and not have to bother to answer to you, to your relatives, to the courts or to anyone really – then I think that maybe you’re kind of living in the wrong country. That’s how they do things in commie Russia. That’s not how we do things here.
At this point, there usually follows a whole bunch of noise – all kinds of denial about anyone over here ever acting like that, that the laws being suspended just applies to all them shifty brown people, who’ve got it coming anyway, blah blah blah. They don’t want to be proven wrong. They want to believe in a big daddy figure who takes care of them – and it takes a great deal for them to, in their heads, start to rebel against this figure.
Luckily, recent events have done a pretty good job of chipping away at the blind faith that has been bestowed on tough-talking right-wing gummint figures since 9/11.