Saturday, March 01, 2008

white people like npr

Tonight I heard an interview with Naomi Wolf on her book End of America. It's not online yet, but I found this earlier interview here which includes a rebuttal. Listen.

To sum up, Naomi Wolf has noticed connections between our government and the end of democracy in several states around the world in the twentieth century. She distinguished ten steps that these governments had taken in becoming fascist and argues that we have taken two: loss of privacy and torture., I don't feel like putting words in her mouth, so just listen to the interview.
There was more detail in tonight's interview; look back for it.

So, I realize this is quite an extreme statement. And I'm not about to jump off a cliff over it. But it got my mind spinning on a lot of issues. I realized two things fundamental to my thinking that I ought to challenge:
  1. the idea that the government is trustworthy. I guess I've always had the view that I could trust the people in leadership and that they were there to protect me. I'm not really sure how I could learn and teach about all the governments that do terrible things and not get the idea that government is capable of terrible things. Now, I do think we have a good constitution, and I know we have good checks and balances. But I think my assumption that our government is trustworthy is where, I think now, I am fundamentally off: my government is populated by humans.
  2. that I don't care that much about the Patriot Act because I'm not worried about the government reading or paying attention to anything I say or write. With assumption 1, I was convinced that the government would suspend my rights in order to protect me, and I felt OK with it. But Wolf's connection between loss of rights and privacy to a totalitarian state suddenly made me realize how much I wanted to protect my rights. And with loss of assumption 1, I feel this more strongly.

After the interview with Naomi Wolf, a man is interviewed who refutes her position. So listen to that too. Near the end of the rebuttal, the interviewee made this point: he said Wolf was defeating her own argument by being so extremest; that while her concerns with the Patriot Act and Guantanamo are valid and important, she is discrediting herself by likening our government to the Nazis.

but, for me, seeing the historical connection -not that I am necessarily fearing a fascist future for America- but that realizing the connection between loss of privacy and torture to fascism sure made me think again about my previously ambivalent opinion of the Patriot Act. And strengthened my conviction against torture.

open to discussion.

[ps: there is an excellent Op-Ed on the blog linked in this post's title: White Like Us]

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