Two stories are swirling in me this week, one hits close to my North Carolina home, and another comes out of Washington, DC. I find each of them disturbing in their own right and I’m sensing in them a nasty thread I’d like very much to unravel. These are not garments any of us could, as my Irish grandmother used to say, “wear in good health.”
In late January 2012, the Charlotte City Council approved ordinances giving police more power to stop and search, and to arrest citizens living or sleeping on public property. Specifically, the ordinances prohibit having on your person padlocks, chains, helmets, noxious substances and body armor, as well as the carrying of backpacks, satchels or coolers (1).
I’m wondering how this might affect the sixteen and under crowd who are required to wear bike helmets by the City of Charlotte. Or the too-much-perfume old ladies, or the NASCAR faithful carrying in coolers to the next race. Or, more seriously, what the import will be for the nomads and homeless among us who actually live out of a backpack.
The Council justified their vote as a public safety move, designed to make sure people and property in Charlotte, NC are safe during the upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC). I guess the Charlotte City Council doesn’t procrastinate. The DNC is set for early September 2012, but the ordinance is going into effect now and, worse, it doesn’t look to be a temporary measure.
Couple this with the power granted to the police to selectively enforce the above prohibitions if they perceive a threat; and the power granted to the City of Charlotte to enact these extra police powers only when they decide there is an extraordinary event, and I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. That’s a whole lot of subjective wiggle room.
Let’s get this down clear and straight: the convention of a major political party in the upcoming presidential election in a democratic nation is coming to town and it is thought prudent by the local authorities to protect the convention attendees and the good citizens of that town by curtailing free speech and civil liberties.
Fascinating. I sense Orwell stirring in his grave. But wait, it gets better. Let’s see what’s playing on the national stage.
For over a year now, my husband and I have been talking about what theatrics we think we’ll see pulled in the run-up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election. And by theatrics, I don’t mean a nice play where no one gets hurt, but I do definitely mean you’re going to need to suspend disbelief. Remember that last hit that opened in March 2003 in which Colin Powell had a leading role? Nice settings I thought, grand – the United Nations chamber room and then all of Iraq. And what a set take down after the extended run . . . we’ve still got a crew mopping up, right?
Yesterday the Washington Post, among others, reported on the opening exposition in what critics are hailing as a mind-blowing, if so-last-Tuesday, production. James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of National Intelligence, warned Congress in oral and written testimony that since thwarting a plot to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi envoy to Washington and a key adviser to King Abdullah (2), U.S. intelligence officials have concerns that “some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime” (3).
So it begins.
The article also clearly states that: “U.S. officials said they have seen no intelligence to indicate that Iran is actively plotting attacks on U.S. soil.” But this part doesn’t seem to have made it into President Obama’s briefings. Maybe it was a timing problem, but I’m guessing he knew what was in Lt. Gen. Clapper’s report when he gave his State of the Union address last week.
Here’s what the Washington Post highlighted from that speech: “President Obama raised the threat of military intervention to halt Iran’s alleged pursuit of an atomic bomb, saying he would ‘take no options off the table to achieve that goal.’”
Oh, our brave and valiant protector! There is perhaps a job on the Charlotte City Council for him should this election not pan out.
Today we are at war with Iraq. Tomorrow we are at war with Iran. I truly hope that my husband and I aren’t right. I hope Orwell isn’t right. They aren’t even bothering to change out all the letters these days.
(1) Information compiled via Nation & World | Police move against some Occupy camps; arrests in N.C. | Seattle Times Newspaper and via Occupy Charlotte blasts city’s crowd control plan; vote comes tonight – Charlotte Episcopal | Examiner.com.