Write me a writ, cry me a river

by Ogi Overman

Do you ever feel like you’re living in a world alone? When you pick up the paper or turn on the evening news, do you ever wonder if anybody reads anymore or watches anything besides “Survivor” or “Dancing with the Stars”? Does it bother you that you’re caught up in a whirl of events over which you have no control?

In those dark, desperate moments do you fear that the pre-apocalyptic wheels are already set in motion, that it’s already too late to save the world as we’ve known it? Do you look around at both the elected and the electorate and realize that nothing short of a radical social upheaval will change things substantially for the better.

I used to hit the ground running, ready to take on whatever challenges the new day might bring. Through God’s grace I am by nature a happy person, blessed with a well-developed sense of humor and a system of ethics with which I am quite comfortable and able to defend. So why is it that by the time I’ve digested the morning paper and flipped through the cable news channels, there is a knot in my stomach and I’m muttering to myself that life sucks and then you die? Where did my attitude of gratitude go, and why am I letting life get the better of me?

Of course I know the answer. I didn’t used to be like this because the world didn’t used to be like this. I can pinpoint the sources of my angst and anger and they are numerous, ubiquitous even.

It’s Bush and Cheney and Rummy and Condy and Frist and Macaca and Bohner and Mellman and O’Reilly and Coultergeist and Hannity and OxyContin Boy and Savage. Sure, it’s easy to justify my contempt for those mouth-breathers, but it’s a bit tougher to justify my scorn for all the lemmings who buy into their jingoistic, xenophobic garbage. You know them; they’re the folks who sit around and let the politicos and the talking heads get away with it. They’re the people who tune it out, who don’t take the time and effort to understand the world around them and the people who control it. They’re both the folks who are convinced that God is on their side and the ones convinced there is no God so to hell with it.

How many times do we have to repeat the Benjamin Franklin quote before it sinks in?

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Does any of that ring a bell, people?

Now, I can almost forgive folks for having a hard time understanding what a writ of habeas corpus means. Briefly, it is the basic individual right against arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. It guarantees the right to face one’s accuser and to view the evidence against one. It mandates that the state produce evidence against a detainee in order to justify his incarceration. It is what we call due process and is considered the most fundamental of American rights and freedoms, guaranteed in the US Constitution.

And, oh yes, as of Oct. 17, when Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, it does not exist. Gone. Not suspended but abolished. Kaputski.

Oh, if you were keeping up at all you probably thought it applied only to “enemy combatants.” Sorry, Charlie. It applies to you and me and anyone else Bush decides is an enemy. It allows the government to detain someone forever without bringing charges. It gives the president virtually unlimited power to decide what is cruel and unusual punishment. Rather than the rule of law we now have the rule of Bush.

Sure, it’s unequivocally unconstitutional, you say, and will no doubt be challenged and struck down by the Supreme Court. But what if one more justice dies or resigns while Bush is still in power, giving the right-wing zealots a clear majority?

Lest one forget, the Congress could have stopped this madness but instead acquiesced, passing the House 253-168 and the Senate 65-34. Each and every one of the yea votes deserves to be turned out of office, including and especially the two compliant Democrats from North Carolina, Bob Etheridge and Mike McIntyre. You would expect it from Republicans, but our Yellow Dog standards should be higher.

And that finally brings us back to, well’… us. What were we doing while our most precious Constitutional right was struck down? Where was the outcry when we took a giant step toward becoming a totalitarian state? Who wrote their congressman or wrote a letter to the editor or bothered to look up the meaning of habeas corpus?

Now I remember why I have this knot in the pit of my stomach.

Ogi may be reached at, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 am on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 am on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 pm on WMYV 48.