A woman sits in jail, accused of no crime. She does not have an attorney or a trial date. She is not allowed visitors, except for the soulless guards who watch her and the nameless interrogators who taunt her.
This woman is not unique or alone. There are hundreds, possibly thousands more women and men just like her (the exact number is classified.) For the good of the country, we are told – for our welfare.
Not that any of us listen or care anymore. We had our chances years ago and said nothing. Many of our leaders knew the dangers and did nothing. And now it is routine, as much a part of our lives as the on-demand entertainment that keeps us mollified.
We could have spoken out when we learned about the secret government wiretapping of personal phone calls in late 2005 and early 2006. But instead we swept it aside, figuring that it was worth giving up a few civil liberties to catch some terrorists. We downloaded “I Love Lucy” to our iPods and laughed at the “guests” on the O’Reilly Factor.
We could have said something in 2007 when Google lost its court battle and became the final search company to make its records available to the government. But we shrugged our shoulders and moved on, assuming that if we weren’t searching for anything wrong we had nothing to worry about. We bought hi-def DVDs and gossiped about Britney’s new baby.
And we might have stopped the whole thing in 2009, after the war began and Iranian-Americans and religious Muslims were interned, their homes ransacked and their extended families harassed. We could have rejected our national ID cards, stood up for our privacy and the rights we deserved. But we turned away, read our e-newspaper screens and watched American Idol 8.
The great American science fiction author Ray Bradbury once wrote about a government that burned books. Instead of reading, people watched government-approved programs on large, flat-screen televisions. There were computers but no newspapers. There were millions of people with access to instant and endless information, but no individuals.
One man finally stood up. One man rejected the government’s policy and did something about it. One man decided he was different, he was an individual, and no one had the right to strip him of the very things that made him human.
When you have a moment, put down your iPod, turn off your television, shut down your computer, and ask yourself: Is that me?