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The Roadblock

They had stationed themselves just before the on-ramp, and they were seriously impeding the forward progress of about a dozen already harried commuters who were desperately trying to escape the sleepy, cow-town of Lakeland, Florida.
They had stationed themselves just before the on-ramp, and they were seriously impeding the forward progress of about a dozen already harried commuters who were desperately trying to escape the sleepy, cow-town of Lakeland, Florida.

Don't get me wrong - Lakeland looks like almost every other mid-sized American city, from its gated communities to its garish strip malls. But it is not so long ago that Lakeland was nothing more than a pasture, and the heart of the city still beats to the lethargic and sultry pace of rural Florida. Even on a good day, driving through Lakeland is an exercise in teeth-gritting self control. Today was not a good day, and the appearance of flashing lights and orange cones poised at the very mouth of the interstate - so close you could see that swift-moving river of 70 m.p.h. traffic - did not make it any better. Although I was east-bound, and the roadblock was only stopping west-bound traffic, I winced in sympathy as car after car was pulled over, and I empathized with the those who were already five minutes late, and ten miles from their destination, as their fragile hopes of being on time were dashed by the sudden appearance of an army of orange vests.

What were they up to? Had there been a crime? The young men in the orange vests did not look anxious and did not appear to be armed, but they were surrounded by squad cars. Surely they must be looking for something or someone, yet I had listened to the local news radio station all the way to Lakeland and had heard nothing about escaped convicts or west-bound terrorists. Were there more roadblocks to be encountered, or was that the only one?

My thoughts wandered to the First Amendment business cards in my purse, and to the spiral-bound, eight- pocket, two hundred sheet notebook, (with a durable long-life cover!), that lay on the car seat next to me. Idly I wondered if they could arrest me for writing, "George Bush is a fascist, usurping, dangerously inbred, small-eyed, smirking son of a bitch," as that is the central theme of most of my political commentary.

As it turned out, the roadblock, while decidedly Orwellian, was not erected for the purpose of detaining rogue dissenters - not this time, anyway. It was, as I later discovered, just some off-duty highway patrolmen helping the Department of Transportation do a survey on the proposed high-speed transit system, which is on the ballot for this year's November election. They claim this stuff goes on all the time, all over the country. Really routine, if you get right down to it - or so they say.

Given the fact that this was a week which culminated in the Sydney Morning Herald headline, "Foundations are in place for Martial Law in the U.S.," a little paranoia did not seem out of line. In fact, given the rest of the week's headlines, my tinfoil hat is starting to look downright stylish. Let's review:

The terminally creepy Attorney General, John Ashcroft, took a break from monitoring pedophiles, (a subject in which we believe he has more than a passing interest), in order to unveil the TIPS program. Congress attempts to block it, but the A.G., who last time I looked was not only not elected by anyone, but who lost a popularity contest to a dead guy, decided that once we all understood the value of providing a substantial portion of the population with an outlet for unrestrained voyeurism, we would be behind him one hundred percent. After all, we have already seen how well this policy has worked for detaining rampaging paraplegics and large-breasted women in airports.
George Bush continues to lay plans for invading Iraq in what appears to be the largest military action ever undertaken against the leader of a foreign power because "he said mean things about my Daddy."
Alabama mobilizes a unit of tanks for no apparent reason, and the military simultaneously announces plans to engage in a gargantuan "experiment in simulated response to the events involving weapons of mass destruction, urban warfare, the United Nations, and humanitarian relief." (Regarding the latter, we can only assume that this means "blocking humanitarian relief," and one wonders why they feel they need more practice after the war in Afghanistan.)
Time Magazine breaks the story that the Pentagon wonks are putting the finishing touches on a whole arsenal of high tech toys designed to nauseate, panic, stupefy, confuse, mangle, and entangle, while avoiding the messy political scandal that always ensues when unarmed civilians bleed all over their white picket fences on Elm Street. (For those of you who voted for the current administration solely because of its stance on gun control, it should now be apparent that the reason that they are allowing you to keep "Old Bessie" is because they know that if push comes to shove, they will not be engaging you in "The Gunfight at the OK Corral." They will be assaulting you with date rape drugs, directed energy beams, hallucinogens, and sonic screeches, and if you somehow manage to get off a round or two, even with all six of your senses scrambled, you stand a better chance of hitting the backyard barbeque grill than an oncoming squadron of peacekeepers.)
Dick Cheney changes Judicial Watch's motto, "Because no one is above the law," to "Because no one is above the law except Dick Cheney who does not have to answer any questions about anything, ever, and he particularly does not have to answer those ugly questions about Halliburton." So much for checks and balances.

George Bush decides that Posse Comitatus is an inconvenient impediment to his plans for global domination and announces that he will "review" the act with an eye toward giving himself some relief from its restrictions. For those who have missed the latest installment of "Global Hegemony: the Mini-series," Posse Comitatus is a law which prevents the military from storming your house, confiscating everything you own, (in simplest terms, you can kiss your riding lawn mower good-bye if someone in the government decides you were planning to drive it into a national landmark), absconding with your wife, and throwing you in a bad place with barbed wire and no Starbucks. And even though top military brass have publicly stated that they really don't want that kind of power, thank you very much anyway, George is proceeding with the review as if no one of any importance had voiced opposition.

A bill is introduced in Congress which contains a rider making an "attempted" federal crime the equivalent of one that has been committed. The bill was introduced despite stiff opposition from the good folks who would actually be responsible for enforcing it - namely federal defense attorneys and law enforcement officials, including the 30,000 member Fraternal Order of Police. "What's the next step? Mind reading probes?" asks Marcia Shein, a federal criminal defense lawyer. "They're appeasing the public with hysterical reactions." "I don't think this country wants us to move closer to a police state," says Mississippi sheriff Malcolm McMillan, "We need to work harder enforcing the laws we have."

And finally, George W. Bush announces his next "vacation." For those of us who are industriously working on our "Fun with Fascism Dot-to-Dot Activity Book," this just about completes the last arm of the Swastika.

Now if you are one of those unfortunate souls who are still getting the majority of your news from a Clear Channel radio station, let me clarify:

The federal government is out of control. It is careening madly, like Buzz Lightyear gone bad, to Infinite Tyranny and beyond. If you think you still have rights, it is probably because you have not tried to exercise them recently. You have not yet uttered heresies like, "Hey, wouldn't it be swell if Congress actually declared war on Iraq before we invaded it?" or "Hang on just one second there Mister Ashcroft. I live in a sovereign state, remember?" or "Say, shouldn't Dick Cheney be accountable for his actions?"

George Bush now exercises absolute control over every man, woman, and child in this country. Right now; not at some unspecified time in the future when "this thing" happens or "that thing" happens. We hit that point flying when the PATRIOT Act passed.

If you are reading this, it is because you are connected to the internet, one of the last bastions of free speech in this bogus war. But the Iron Fist of repression is about to come down on the 'net as well, and it is not hard to envision the day when the only thing available on any broadcast media is the latest Austin Powers flick. (Why? Because it amuses little Georgie, and nothing is too good for Poppy's little demon seed.)

But not everyone is hard-wired to a Google search engine. Maybe it is time you talked to your neighbors - the guy on the corner guzzling beer and washing his car, the ladies at the laundromat, the kid who delivers your pizza. Maybe it's time to tack copies of the Bill of Rights on every telephone pole in your neighborhood. And if you've been flying that flag from the antenna of your late-model sedan, for God's sake, turn the blasted thing upside down, because if there was ever a time to display a distress signal, the time is now. And maybe - just maybe - it is time to march on your city hall, your governor's mansion, and the offices of your Senators and Representatives, (Lord knows, they aren't getting their mail), and hand-deliver the message that Americans are not willing to sacrifice their freedom on the altar of Homeland Security, and that, despite the Pentagon's best efforts at mind-numbing propaganda, we are not afraid of a cave-dwelling Muslim extremist who implausibly threatens the entire free world even though he must drag his dialysis machine from jihad to jihad.

Maybe it's time, because once the war on Iraq has started, once the Posse Comitatus Act has been lifted, once one out of every four of your neighbors is picking through your trash and scrutinizing your Home Depot receipts, it will be way, way too late.

The roadblock on I-4 in Florida this past week was innocent and manned by polite young men in orange vests who were only asking you for your opinion. The next roadblock you see may be manned by someone else entirely.


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SOS 29.Jul.2002 16:10

citizen in distress

maybe we should have a minicampaign of wheatpasting the bill of rights and requests that people fly their flags in distress mode.

and more guerilla theatre like this roadblock in FL.