Monday, July 08, 2013

The anthem's question

Francis Scott Key, inspired by the defenders of Fort McHenry's efforts to stave off a British attack during the War of 1812, wrote what would become our National Anthem.  After describing the "rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air," he noted the sounds of battle showed the defenders were still at work.  With the dawning of a new day, however, a question is posed by the anthem:
"Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?"
Two centuries later that banner, even more star-spangled, does indeed still wave.  But whether this is still the land of the free (...or the home of the brave...) is very much an open question:

Elizabeth Daly went to jail over a case of bottled water. According to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, shortly after 10 p.m. April 11, the University of Virginia student bought ice cream, cookie dough and a carton of LaCroix sparkling water from the Harris Teeter grocery store at the popular Barracks Road Shopping Center. In the parking lot, a half-dozen men and a woman approached her car, flashing some kind of badges. One jumped on the hood. Another drew a gun. Others started trying to break the windows.
The people who had swarmed Daly’s vehicle were plainclothes agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The agents had thought the sparkling water was a 12-pack of beer. Did the ABC’s enforcers apologize? Not in the slightest. They charged Daly with three felonies: two for assaulting an officer (her vehicle had grazed two agents; neither was hurt) and one for eluding the police.
The agents’ excessive display of force is outrageously disproportionate to the offense they mistakenly thought they witnessed: an underage purchase of alcohol. But in a sense, Daly got off easy. A couple of weeks after her ordeal, a 61-year-old man in Tennessee was killed when the police executed a drug raid on the wrong house. A few weeks later, in another wrong-house raid, police officers killed a dog belonging to an Army veteran. These are not isolated incidents; for more information, visit the interactive map at

The editorial linked above goes on to describe an America swarming with militarized police of various flavors, enforcing laws against so many enumerated 'crimes' that the average American is thought to unknowingly commit up to three potential felonies a day
Thanks to a proliferating number of obscure offenses, Americans now resemble the condemned souls in Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” — spared from perdition only by the temporary forbearance of those who sit in judgment.

I agree with that last description.  It correlates very much to my thought that government has, in fact, become an alternative deity to worship--a false god with very real temporal powers.   'Agents' of this 'deity' can suddenly appear and demand your immediate compliance, at gunpoint.  If they've managed to bust into the wrong house, for some reason your inherent right to self-defense doesn't apply--you're expected to submit meekly, even if you aren't sure who just disturbed your domicile in the middle of the night.  They can also demand to use your home as a 'command post,' and arrest you if you choose not to grant access to what was once known as a man's castle. 

It's difficult to think of a single article of the Bill of Rights that I haven't seen documented violations of in just the past year or two.  Land of the free?  Not so much anymore.

...and that's largely because bravery seems at an ebb tide.  Where are the crowds of protestors?  Why is it hundreds can be riled up over corporate shenanigans (real or imagined), but there isn't a march on City Hall when no-knock raids result in the deaths of innocents?  We've granted tremendous leeway to the armies of law enforcement, without demanding commensurate accountability.  To be fair, at least that's consistent--remember, we re-elect 90-plus percent of Congress every election, despite continually telling pollsters their respectability rating is somewhere south of Bonnie and Clyde.  No protests, no inconveniences--not even an effort to vote officials out of office en masseHome of the brave?  You decide...

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