Listening to the news this MLK weekend, it was hard not to wonder if you were in another time, another country.
There was the sentencing of Spc. Charles Graner Jr., convicted of assault, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts and dereliction of duty at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. It wasn’t until after he was convicted that Graner was given the chance to say he was following orders.
There was the confirmation hearing for President Bush’s choice for attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez. When he was White House counsel, Gonzalez used back channels to request a legal opinion that concluded President Bush could get around U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions against torture in the name of national security.
There was the revelation about conservative columnist and TV commentator Armstrong Williams, who received $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind policy. Williams says he has “no doubt” there are other commentators being paid to pass along administration propaganda, and “this happens all the time.”
And there was The New York Times’ scoop Sunday about employees of the Social Security Administration questioning use of the agency’s trust fund to promote Bush’s plan to privatize part of the program. They say the administration’s dire predictions about its future are exaggerated.
Torture approved at the top. Journalists passing surreptitious government propaganda. Bureaucrats forced to support statements they know aren’t true. Where are we again?
It’s lucky the King holiday comes so close to President Bush’s second inauguration. It’s a time to be reminded that, in other times and other places, we’ve faced evils before and defeated them. I started the weekend at a documentary and panel discussion on the Greensboro sit-ins of 1960. It began with four college students who decided they’d had enough and set off a chain of protests none of them could have imagined. I ended the weekend listening to Angela Davis tell us we are pursuing war and imperialism abroad in the name of freedom and democracy, and that they’re inextricably linked to injustice and racism at home. But, she said, there is no time or place where resistance isn’t possible.
I heard another newscast over the weekend about senior citizens in St. Petersburg protesting cuts in health care. I was heartened–until I realized they were in Russia, not Florida. So, as we ready for four more years of a Bush presidency, let’s follow the lead of Davis, Dr. King, the Greensboro protesters and those old folks in Russia. It is incumbent on all of us to take whatever actions we can to feel at home once again in the United States of America.