by The Other Katherine Harris
July 20, 2007
Since posting my first response to Shrub’s new outrage — his Fifth Amendment-busting order to seize the property of all in America who might somehow undermine his prescription for Iraq or discuss doing so or help the dispossessed survive — I’ve been haunted by this question: What does he expect these people to do?
What would you do, if your house or apartment and its contents were suddenly barred to you, your bank accounts and credit cards blocked, your car towed? Knowing the same fate would strike anyone who gave you assistance or seemed to be “conspiring” with you, you probably wouldn’t make calls. So you couldn’t tell your family and friends goodbye. Nor could you defend yourself against wrongful charges, because you haven’t been arrested. Presumably the government’s case wasn’t strong enough for that, but you’ve been left worse off than any prisoner. Convicted murderers and child molesters get food and shelter. You don’t. And you can neither work nor beg, since anyone who provides funds to you will also lose everything.
Picture yourself trying to get along with nothing but the clothes on your back and the cash in your wallet (assuming that Shrub’s Thugs didn’t mug you for the money, too). When you’re hungry, will Shrub let you buy a meal without punishing the server? Say you’ve got enough cash for a hotel room. Will you be permitted to check in? If you need a ride there, what happens? Will a cabbie be allowed to drive you? What about hitching? Is any vehicle you set your butt inside subject to The Big Grab? If by some fluke you happen to have your passport and enough cash to leave the country — unlikely, since you had no warning — will Shrub let you go?
None of this appears possible, since Shrub’s draconian edict says nobody can receive funds from you, either! Maybe you’ll get away with using vending machines, until the coins run out. Because you’re also banned from exchange of unpaid goods and services, you can’t even stay in a homeless shelter or receive medical care at a charity clinic. Unless you somehow cross the border or reach a foreign embassy with sympathy for your plight, eventually you’ll just starve, won’t you? Or you’ll die of untreated disease. Or perhaps you’ll freeze, come winter: a symmetrical end for those whose assets were frozen.
What a crafty end-run around habeas corpus. Perfect for troublesome citizens who aren’t actually dangerous. No legalities involved, beyond issuing a diktat. And the possibilities for reality TV are fantastic.
This scurry of thoughts and images occupies a mere second or two, unless committed to paper, so I’ve been through it loads of times. As the synapses fired, they sparked further visions, some from the Holocaust. The Jews, however, were spirited away, either to Nazi camps or hiding places supplied by helpers brave enough to risk their lives, so there’s no close parallel. We can’t possibly hide today — given the NSA’s power, only bin Laden can manage it — so there’ll be Suffering as Spectacle. Lynchings were one model for that, but those are over too quickly. Even Roman crucifixions took, at most, a few days. The greatest similarity I’ve hit on is with An Gorta Mor: The Great Hunger in Victorian Ireland (no more an actual “famine” than what Stalin stage-managed about 90 years later in the Ukraine). Masses of food and grain whisky continued to be exported, with the laissez-faire blessing of most in Westminster. Only the potatoes kept by sharecroppers to feed themselves suffered blight. Then many landowners took advantage of this calamity to clear entire estates for more lucrative ranching, smashing cottages and forcing their tenants onto the roads.
Observers such as Quakers, who came to bring aid, left us vignettes like these:
Poor people could be seen crawling along the ditches looking for herbs, and their mouths were green from the leaves they were eating.There is no nettle, or a bit of watercress to be found near Dungarvan, as the starving strangers consumed them all.
The poor people were found by the wayside, emaciated corpses, partly green from eating docks and nettles and partly blue from the cholera and dysentery.
And, in a class of its own, there’s this: Six men, beside Mr. Griffith, crossed with me in an open boat, and we landed, not buoyantly, upon a once pretty island. The first that called my attention was the death-like stillness — nothing of life was seen or heard, except occasionally a dog. These looked so unlike all others I had seen among the poor — I unwittingly said, “How can the dogs look so fat and shining here, where there is no food for the people?” The pilot turned to Mr. Griffith, not supposing that I heard him, and said, “Shall I tell her?”When that scene plays through my mind, as it has very often since yesterday, I catch the lead dog smirking.
Message to the Congress of the US Regarding International Emergency Economic Powers Act + Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq by George Bush