“Hey, Mark!” taunted my right-wing brother-in-law. “Who ya gonna vote for in the election?”
Dolton was seated opposite me at my parents’ golden wedding anniversary celebration. Why, oh why, hadn’t they gotten divorced at some point?
Teeth gritted, I plunged. “What makes you think there’ll be one?”
“Told ya!” he cackled to my sister Apolitica as he jabbed her, hard, in the ribs. As much as I loved her, she’d forfeited all potential sympathy years back with two words: “I do.”
Her beloved was just warming up.
“I suppose now, Mark, you’re gonna lecture us about rigged voting. Hey, little Dolt,” he snorted to my unfortunate ten-year-old nephew sitting beside him, “seen yer uncle’s tinfoil hat lyin’ around anywhere?”
“Though America’s fixed elections are certainly a worthy topic,” I replied evenly, “I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to all the executive orders and legislation your heroes in the White House have put in place that make it a cinch, if they so choose, to declare martial law, lock up dissenters and thus dispense with even faux balloting.”
He looked puzzled. “Who’d wanna vote for their enemies?”
“‘Foe balloting.’ That makes no sense.”
He had me there. I flashed my sister a quick look but she was already slinking away, dragging a bewildered Dolton, Jr., behind her while I calculated the odds of successfully performing hari-kari with a cocktail weenie pick.
“Besides just being plain crazy,” Dolt pressed, “there’s an obvious problem with your hallucination: There’s nowhere to house thousands of traitors. Oh, excuse me: ‘dissenters,’” he snickered.
“Try again,” I replied. “In January 2006, Halliburton’s then-subsidiary KBR was handed a $385 million government contract to, per a crowing press release, build ‘temporary detention and processing’ facilities… ‘in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.’”
“Good!” he exclaimed. “That’ll make those terrorists think twice about rushing the border.”
“You mean the hordes of Canadians breathlessly poised to overrun America with their deadly hockey sticks?”
“Hockey sticks??” he gasped, horrified. “They really will stop at nothing!”
Or, perhaps I could choke myself with a dinner roll.
“Look, Dolt, don’t you get it?” I asked pointlessly. “Forget the ‘emergency influx of immigrants’ ruse. What’s this ‘rapid development of new programs’? The swift incarceration of thousands of Americans protesting the imposition of martial law, perhaps?”
“Man!” he guffawed. “You’re even more paranoid than I thought.”
“I wish I were imagining things. Unfortunately, horrors like domestic detention facilities are but one verifiable piece of an all-encompassing, all-intrusive system Bushco has methodically installed to take unchallenged control of America instantly.”
“OK. You like your co-worker Ahmed, right?”
“He’s not bad, I guess — you know, for an Iraqi. I even loaned him five bucks the other day,” Dolt beamed, proud of his hefty contribution toward cultural tolerance.
“Then you’d better hope his views of what the Bushies are doing to his country are in line with theirs. Otherwise, under Dubya’s executive order of July 17, 2007, your and Apolitica’s property is ripe for confiscating if those five dollars are construed in any way as ‘financial… support for’… ‘an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq, or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.’”
“Damn,” he mumbled. “I knew he looked shifty.”
“That’s your concern? Ahmed’s suddenly suspect appearance, rather than an insanely vague executive order?”
Dolt glared. “Your anti-Americanism, Mark, blinds you to seeing that anyone could be a terrorist. You just never know and, unfortunately, there’s no machine that can look into people’s hearts.”
“How ’bout under their clothes?”
“In June, the Transportation Security Administration installed body scanner devices in ten major U.S. airports that produce, essentially, naked photographs of travelers.”
He brightened. “Maybe I should call and apply as a scanner operator, heh-heh.”
“Knock yourself out. Just pray TSA hasn’t out-sourced its call center to, say, India, because under the new FISA bill, any message you send to, or receive from, overseas is fair game for the government, warrant or probable cause be damned. I’ll bet Apolitica would love to hear that tape played in court.”
He looked around quickly. “Well, um, they, uh — so what?” he stammered. “No one can be arrested for what they’re thinking.”
“If the pending Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act becomes law, banish that thought from your mind, as well as many others.” I refrained from noting he had a clear leg up on the process. “This bill is thought-crime codified, establishing a national commission to provide ‘legislative recommendations’ for stopping those peskily ubiquitous homegrown terrorists from, among other things, ‘developing and spreading within the United States’… ‘the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.’”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Not much, I guess, other than it’s so broadly and absurdly written that anyone at a demonstration, for example, could be deemed a terrorist.”
“You mean,” he said, smiling slowly, “like all those ones you’ve attended? I think I’ll call my senator tomorrow to push that bill. Unlike certain America haters I know, I believe in doing everything possible to defeat evildoers.”
“Why wait? Why not instead ask your boss if he’s one of the 23,000 FBI-deputized private industry members of ‘InfraGard’ who, according to Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive, preferentially ‘receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does…’ If so, then maybe you, too, could attend InfraGard meetings like that at which one participant reported he and others were told by Homeland Security and the FBI that ‘when — not if — martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted.’ Does that not get your attention?”
“Absolutely! It sounds like an even better gig than eyeballing nudie shots of airline passengers, uh, I mean, performing confidential inspections in the name of national security. OK, you two, let’s go!” he said to my sister and nephew returning to the table.
“You’re leaving?” Apparently, there was a God.
“Sorry to ruin your day, but I gotta help my boss install a new grill over at The Sloppy Burger.”
Hmm. “Hey, Dolt, do you think after you two hook that thing up, you’ll eventually end up cooking burgers on it?”
“Boy, you are nutty,” he smirked. “Of course! Why would anyone go to all the trouble to put something in place and then not use it?”