Note: Usually this blog post features a companion article to our weekly Occupy Radio interview. This week, however, Radley Balko, senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, hit upon a concept so powerful that, with all due respect, I had to detour from discussing his bestselling book about the militarization of our police state, The Rise of the Warrior Cop. In preparation for the radio interview, I read some of the ninety-three, five-star reviews of Radley’s book on Amazon.com. The readers crossed the political spectrum, which led me to ask Radley if opposition to the rising police state was a bipartisan American issue. He confirmed this notion, but clarified: it is a common issue for ordinary citizens, but not for political leaders. The Democrats and Republicans only object to excessive police power when they are not in control of it. Citizens, however, feel the chilling effects, regardless. When Radley explained that the rise of the police state occurs through the erosion of civil liberties, a powerful notion swept through me. What if Americans aren’t as divided as they seem? What if the Bill of Rights was the rallying point for us all?
United we stand, divided we fall. The old adage appears to be the maxim of the elite: keep the populace divided and they will do the dirty work of subduing themselves. Keep the people fragmented and they will never be able to overthrow the elite. Keep the masses fighting over crumbs tossed from ivory towers and they will never seize the treasure troves that the wealthy horde.
Throughout all of history, this is how the masses are controlled by the few.
United we stand, divided we fall. Political leaders haul the old phrase out of storage to rally us to their causes, support their wars, and frighten us into obedience. They quickly stuff it out of sight, however, when people start to organize together. For beneath its common understanding as a warning, it also contains the formula for revolution.
United we stand . . . many of us find it laughable to contemplate unity among the seemingly deeply polarized American people. Every conceivable bone of contention is tossed at us by the media. We are told that even the smallest political issue leads to shouting matches. Families don’t dare discuss politics at the dinner table. The pundits tell us that Americans could never come together . . . liberals and conservatives are oil and water. They don’t mix.
And so, divided we fall, exactly as the powerful intended. As their abuses grow more blatant, they beat the old pony of division, pull out the fanfare of distraction, and force our eyes away as they intrude on sacred territory. They are desperate to keep us from noticing their desecration of the one thing Americans agree on . . .
The Bill of Rights.
This is our common ground. The Bill of Rights is the place where conservatives, liberals, radicals, and revolutionaries meet. We may disagree on every subject under the sun – economics, military, taxes, social programs, religious rights, science, public education – but over and over again, we agree on one thing: we have the right to disagree.
We may be shortsighted on the equal application of our rights, but most Americans believe that at least they, themselves, should enjoy the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, a free press, and free assembly; the right to keep and bear arms; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, security in personal effects, and freedom from warrants issued without probable cause; indictment by a grand jury for any capital or “infamous crime”; guarantee of a speedy, public trial with an impartial jury; and prohibition of double jeopardy. The Bill of Rights protects the rights of citizens from the tyranny of the empowered. Through the hard-waged struggles in the course of our history, we have expanded those protections from the narrow category of white, propertied males to include all men and women of every race. Over the years, the scope of the Bill of Rights has continuously widened . . . until now.
Today, the U.S. Congress is controlled by powerful, multi-national corporate interests that profit from a destructive, industrial growth society that is becoming increasingly unstable as global economies collapse, and climate change demands the massive overhaul of our fossil fuel dependent civilizations.
The last thing the corporate elite need right now is a popular uprising.
So, they pull out the old tricks: divide and conquer . . . and, while they’re at it, they may as well erode the Bill of Rights. In New York City, assemblies of more than twenty individuals must be permitted. In Boston, the manhunt for the Boston Bomber inspired citizens to willing give up their Fourth Amendment rights and allow police to search their homes without warrant. Private Manning – and countless other lesser-known citizens – waited years to see the fulfillment of the right to a “fair and speedy trial”. Any citizen suspected of association with terrorists, including investigative journalists, can be detained without warrant or access to lawyers under the National Defense Authorization Act. Police, violating our rights to speech, assembly, and petition, routinely repress demonstrations and protests. The list of grievances is too long to be fully examined here.
The erosion of the Bill of Rights by our political leaders is not an accident. Democracy is not their aim. Power in the hands of the populace is utterly at odds with their desire to maintain political-economic control.
Unfortunately for them, their desire for profit is also at odds with the continued survival of our species.
The timeline for overcoming tyranny is shortened by the impending ecological crisis. People are rapidly radicalizing as we confront blatant corruption and sociopathic greed. Many of us perceive that as the members of the wealthy elite become transnational citizens, the bulk of the American populace is being recolonized into a poor, oppressed underclass. Nearly fifty percent of the US population currently lives at or below international standards of poverty. The corporate-political model is not concerned with the health and well being of the American people. Congress’ approval ratings have reached record lows and politicians are scrambling to consolidate power into the hands of wealthy, corporate elite.
Civil liberties are under attack as the nation’s elite shore up their positions. They are not fools. They understand that the rights outlined in the Constitution are inimical to their continued domination. The Freedoms of Speech and Assembly foster dissension and ultimately lead to radical policy changes and shifts in power. Protection from unwarranted search and seizure reins in the powers of the rising police state. Justice, in any form, is an obstacle for authoritarian, tyrannical control. The civil liberties of the American people, as outlined in the Bill of Rights, represent a tremendous hurdle to the transnational corporate interests. They cannot destroy them without rousing opposition, but they also cannot ensure absolute domination with the Bill of Rights in place. So, they are cunningly and slowly eroding our rights, hoping we will not notice or object, or rise up in defense of democracy.
United we stand, divided we fall. Fortunately for the people, the Bill of Rights provides a rallying point for the diverse factions of our country.
The politicians have done their best to conceal this meeting place of all Americans. They use the media apparatus to keep us locked in the illusion of our divisions. The elite fear the collective strength of citizens empowered through our constitutionally granted rights . . . and rightly so.
If the people waged nonviolent struggle in defense of civil liberties, popular support would be massive. The added assistance of social institutions would be unstoppable. The judicial branch, which has slowly yielded to the corruption of the legislative and executive branches, would be forced to reconsider its stance. A nonviolent struggle by citizens waged in defense of our Constitution would split the loyalties of the military and the police down the middle. It would redefine American politics and, if strategized correctly, could break the corrupt two-party system, remove corporate personhood, and shift political power firmly into the hands of the people.
Common ground is powerful. United we stand, divided we fall.
Conservatives, liberals, radicals, and revolutionaries . . . meet me at the Bill of Rights. Defending civil liberties is not just the great unraveling of corporate tyranny: it is the resurrection of our democracy.
Tune in to Occupy Radio on Wed, Nov 20th, 7pm PST to listen to Radly Balko, senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, dissect the rise of the American police state. (This radio show will be available after Nov 23rd as a podcast at OccupytheMedia.podomatic.com.)
Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength.