Friday, February 15, 2019

Massacres and Martial Law

Spurred by the thought of the "St Valentine's Day Massacre" in 1929, when seven Chicago gang members were shot - when such events are from a different time or place, we don't call them "mass shootings", we call them "massacres". Opponents of stricter gun safety laws are saying that it's either pointless or undesirable to use gun safety legislation to prevent massacres.
In other countries, when executives in power get so frustrated with the civilian legislation process that they order military funding and personnel to be used for domestic law and order enforcements, we don't call it "using emergency powers", we call it "declaring martial law". That's how we would describe President Trump's actions today if he were the president of another country, unless it was at war or in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.
If your quick reaction to that description is "Calling this martial law is ridiculous, you're blowing this out of proportion!", please ask yourself where that reaction is coming from. If we really believed that immigration at the US / Mexican border is an emergency threat to basic law and order, a threat to our immediate safety, we would sadly acknowledge that declaring martial law is a necessary evil. Nobody seems to actually believe this - certainly, nobody has said "The situation is so urgent, President Trump is right to declare martial law". In other words, using "martial law" is out of proportion - but it's not the name, it's the decision itself.
I suspect a lot of people's discomfort with the term martial law is because, while it's easy to feel that the President is wrong, it's very hard for many Americans to feel that Democrats might be right. That's a nasty emotional dissonance, and it makes us want to ignore what's being done on our behalf. That's one of the ways that democratic rights are lost.
If you have Republican representatives with any influence here, please tell them that you think the military should not be used to circumvent the civilian legislative process for raising government revenue in this way. Such a belief, after all, is what the American Revolution was based upon. And please ask your friends and family to consider these issues.