Thursday, March 02, 2006

Welcome to the Waxworks 
When my youngest child was still in utero (he's now in his early twenties) and the other two kids were under 10, we took our first family trip to Walt Disney World. As part of that trip, we visited the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL. The impression I was left with as we departed the Space Center was one of loss - the message that NASA seemed to want us to take away from the old Apollo launch site was "Look at all this great stuff we USED to be able to do."

When I think about the US Constitution today, even considering its trouble-laden, divisive history, I feel the same sadness I felt in 1983 at Launch Complex 39B, and for the same reasons - I can see the great things we USED to be capable of. But the stakes for relegating the Constitution to the realm of Madame Tussaud's are so much higher:
Laura Berg, a nurse at the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., got into hot water for writing a letter critical of the government that pays her salary. Like many, she fired off a missive disparaging the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Among other things, she wrote: “Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence. ... We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times.”

Published in the Sept. 15-21 edition of the local weekly, “The Alibi,” it quickly led to the seizure of her computer at the VA. Officials alleged she had used that computer to write it and accused her of sedition.

Responding to her inquiry, human resources chief Mel Hooker acknowledged that Berg’s “… personal computer files did not contain the editorial letter written to the editor of the weekly Alibi.” But he didn’t apologize: “The Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition,” he wrote. “In your letter ... you declared yourself ‘as a VA nurse’ and publicly declared the Government which employs you to have ‘tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence’ and advocated, ‘act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.’”

from the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times via The Huffington Post
In case you've forgotten, Wikipedia defines sedition thus:

Sedition is a deprecated term of law to refer to non-overt conduct such as speech and organization that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often included subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

Wikipedia also notes how sedition is currently used:


We have been down this road before - at the birth of the Republic, with the Sedition Act of 1798, described at Wikipedia: "The Sedition Act made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or its officials," and again with the Sedition Act of 1918:
the Sedition Act, was used to persecute individuals or groups who disagreed with presidential or congressional policy. Historically, these types of acts have been suggested and/or passed when a presidential administration or congressional majority has lost general public support and additional, judicial tools are necessary to minimize public dissent. The Sedition Act was the most recent attempt by the United States government to limit “freedom of speech,” in-so-much-as that “freedom of speech” related to the criticism of the government, or, more applicably, the political policies of the presidential administration or congressional majority.
Yes, we've been this way before, and maybe the Constitution can make another recovery, just as NASA reconstitued itself after the Shuttle program got going in earnest. On the other hand, NASA never regained its 1960's glory, and an air of dashed hopes and disappointment hangs over the place today. Is that the best we can hope for? To be left with regrets, disappointments, and dreams of former glory? Or just a paraffin replica of a piece of parchment, stuck there in the wax museum right next to John Glenn, Elvis, Marilyn, and Jack the Ripper?

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