January 2, 2012
I was telling my friend Sarah how sick I’d been on New Years Eve—flu, 102-degree fever, nausea, etc.
“That’s terrible!” Sarah said, visibly upset. She’d just finished telling me about her fantastic Eve: a party with her boyfriend, deeply in love, a very special kiss at midnight.
She was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper at one of the universities where I was once an adjunct professor. She graduated, I quit because of slave wages, but we stayed in touch. She’s become a close friend.
“What bad luck,” she sighed, “getting sick on New Years Eve.” She frowned with her eyes. And so, in the interest of good conversation, I shifted to current events.
“Well, on the bright side,” Sarah leaned in, she likes bright sides, “on the bright side, in a way, I didn’t miss Obama signing the NDAA into law.”
That’s when Sarah turned green.
“Wait…” She put her hand up to stop me. “He signed it?! No!” I thought she was going to cry, but she started talking very fast instead, asking rapid fire questions—questions like “when did this happen?” and “how did I miss this?”
She already knew the answers and, as a journalist, knows the political drill intimately: sign an unpopular piece of legislation when no one is watching. But on New Years Eve?! She just hadn’t seen that coming, and in the shock of her realization, in that staggered moment, she looked to me for the one piece of information her intuition couldn’t muster. I gladly answered before she even posed the question.
“It was his last official act as President in 2011.” Sarah’s face dropped lower. “He signed it at the very end of the day, on New Year’s Eve, while everyone in America was getting ready for a party,” I said.
She was just shaking her head, and well, you just have to know Sarah. I knew she was poised to blame herself, to unfairly chastise herself for a night of fun, for being at a party, for being in love, for not being outraged, in real time, as this civil liberties catastrophe unfolded. She just kept shaking her head and repeating, “But I’ve been following this story like a hawk, for months…months…” I moved to reassure her.
“It was a shitty political tactic.” I let that hang in her mind for a moment before I added, “Obama is a typical politician.” Sarah shrugged and nodded. She seemed unsure, so I broadened my scope.
“Ok, think about it this way: sure, President Obama signed the NDAA, gave himself the power to indefinitely detain anyone on a whim, even though he promises, of course, that he’ll never take advantage of that power…”
“That’s bullshit!” Sarah interrupted. I agreed, and continued.
“…sure, but consider this: the other guy from the last election, Senator John McCain, he co-wrote the legislation. So, no matter the results of the 2008 election, the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial still becomes the law of our land.”
Sarah put her head down and rubbed her temple. She knew I was right. President McCain probably would’ve signed the NDAA with ceremony, and then told us all to shut the fuck up about it, or else.
“And what about Kerry, 2004?” I suddenly realized. “If President John Kerry was halfway through his second term on New Year’s Eve, 2011, would he have signed a bill like the NDAA into law?”
Sarah’s experience told her the answer, but I filled in the historical blank.
“Senator Kerry, how do you vote on the NDAA? Senator Kerry votes: yea.”
Sarah just stared at me.
“It seems to me,” I concluded, “that in the twelve years since the Bush d’etat of 2000, every serious candidate for the Presidency, based on their current involvement with the bill, would have signed the NDAA into law.”
Sarah just shook her head, deflated, while I sighed the only phrase a Clinton Era, Gen X kid can manage in these situations.
“Rock the Vote.”
Judge Napolitano’s show has since been canceled by FOX News.
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memoirs in fragments
by Charles Bivona
[It's my Leaves of Grass]
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