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What is happening to the America I Love?

The wisdom of past experience may be worth reflection
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<DIV align=left><FONT face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2><I><!-- #BeginEditable "Contact" -->Published on Sunday,
December 2, 2001 in the <A href=" http://www.boston.com/globe"
target=_new>Boston Globe</A><!-- #EndEditable -->
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<DIV align=left><FONT face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size=5><B><!-- #BeginEditable "Header" -->What is Happening to the
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<DIV align=left><FONT face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2><B><!-- #BeginEditable "author" -->by Rose Moss<!-- #EndEditable --></B></FONT></DIV></TD></TR>
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<TD><FONT face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2><!-- #BeginEditable "Body" -->A lifetime ago, I emigrated to
America, became a citizen and, like millions of others, wept and
cheered at our love and courage on Sept. 11. I have come to love the
Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the history of Americans who
have given their lives that government of the people, by the people
and for the people shall not perish from the earth. Throughout the
world, people know what America stands for, the principles that lie
at the heart of our democracy, prosperity, and allure.
<P>
<P>Heartsore and fearful, I am grieving for what has happened to
America. I came to this country shortly after the apartheid
government authorized the minister of justice or subordinates to
detain anyone suspected of guilt or innocent knowledge of something
implying someone else's guilt for crimes like terrorism. The
detained could be kept for 90 days, infinitely renewable this side
of eternity. The detained had no right to see a lawyer, doctor,
minister or family.</P>
<P>When this law passed, it seemed inevitable that prisoners in
secret detention would be tortured and killed. Sure enough,
prisoners started to fall from the 10th floor of the Johannesburg
police building. A prisoner slipped down a flight of stairs, which
explained the bruises on his corpse. Another slipped on a bar of
soap, which explained his cracked skull. A prisoner's poem confessed
that he had hanged himself on a bar of soap.</P>
<P>I knew. Others knew. An Austrian businessman in Cape Town told me
recently, ''We knew but we didn't want to know.'' While he built his
business and bought a home overlooking beaches and bays and flew to
Austria for skiing vacations, prisoners groaned and died, their
torturers protected by deliberate ignorance.</P>
<P>I did not know how to shut my eyes. When the 90-day law passed,
I'd been reading about how the Nazis rose to power by seizing
executive power. They subverted the Legislature and the judiciary. A
frightened population allowed the Nazi rise. Some supported it for a
promised triumph over poverty, humiliation, and communism. Few cared
to be bleeding hearts about the Jews - more aliens in the country
than real Germans anyhow - or communists or cranks protesting that
freedom depends on the rights of all.</P>
<P>It was lonely to hold my views. The people I worked with were
busy with their families, private lives, businesses and leisure in a
beautiful, sunny country. They did not have nightmares about a
tortured people, who, despairing of nonviolence, had started what
they called an armed struggle against apartheid. If anything, people
around me were pleased that leaders of the armed struggle had fled
into exile and that their political leader could be sent to prison
on Robben Island. Like the CIA, they knew Nelson Mandela was a
terrorist. Like people who painted slogans on walls or organized
political rallies.</P>
<P>Soon, more atrocities were necessary. More blindness. More
repression. We know what happened. South Africa's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission has drawn out enough evidence of
atrocities to convince even South Africans who preferred ignorance.
In the end, nothing was enough. I could not bear it and emigrated to
the United States in 1964.</P>
<P>Should I use the past tense? We were the world's last best hope.
But at a recent party I spoke with a woman who said Americans would
never stand for secret detentions. I told her about the 641
detained, one already dead, the numbers, names, and allegations
secret. It was news to her.</P>
<P>At Thanksgiving dinner, a lawyer argued that secret trials might
be necessary. Too bad about torture. Another asked what I would do
about people who refuse to talk - ''Get legal permission to wiretap.
Put microchips in their shoes. Watch them breathe with infrared
surveillance.''</P>
<P>Our sophisticated technology means we do not need executive end
runs around the judiciary and Congress. If torture and secret trials
worked, the Inquisition would still rule Europe; Hitler and Stalin
would still be heroes. I hope that we the people will not accept
blindness. I want to hear, ''You can't do that. This is
America.''</P>
<P>The Thanksgiving lawyer warned that next year I'll be in prison
for my views. He had already said, ''Scratch an Arab and you'll find
an anti-Semite.'' That is, a terrorist. Ouch! I was back in
apartheid South Africa, my heart cut by that scratch. I am
heartsore.</P>
<P><B><I>Rose Moss </I></B><I>teaches creative writing in the Nieman
Program at Harvard University. She is the author of ''The
Terrorist'' and ''Shouting at the Crocodile.''</I></P>
<P align=center> Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company</P>
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Bravo 04.Dec.2001 10:58

Kateshvara

Bravo for speaking up. It's lonely here in Portland too. But there are people who truly care, and will risk standing up for what they believe in.