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July/August 2004 • Vol 4, No. 7 •

America: Independent?

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Once again, Americans will gather for parades, at parks, in bars and at homes, to celebrate the 4th of July holiday; a date marking American Independence.

Politicians will add heat to the summer air, with lofty, and lying oaths to “the People,” about freedom, liberty, and the American way. President George W. Bush (whom writer and critic Arundhati Roy deliciously calls “Bush the Lesser”) will doubtless give a variation of his thread-bare stump speech, about “freedom”; about “American values,” or some other kind of blather that some extremely well-paid aide has written for him to poorly deliver.

Americans, delirious in the “day of independence,” will exercise their freedom by getting drunk, and eating until they pass out from the carbo-protein load.

Several days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the long-awaited Hamdi v. Rumsfeld case and Rasul v. Bush, dealing with multi-national detainees held in the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval brig.

In Hamdi, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, wrote, for the court’s majority, “We have long made clear that a state of war is not a blank check when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.” The majority opinion added, “The threats to military operations posed by a basic system of independent review are not so weighty as to trump a citizen’s core rights to challenge meaningfully the government’s case and to be heard by an independent adjudicator.”

The Hamdi and Rasul opinions seems to open the courthouse door to hundreds of people accused of being so-called “enemy combatants” by the Bush Administration.

The rulings caused an explosion of praise from the media elites, and others like lawyers and law professors, who praised the Court as the greatest protectors of U.S. liberty against tyranny.

Lost in the applause, however, was a ruling endorsed by a majority (5 members) of the Court: The government can detain Americans—like Yasser Hamdi—who is, after all, an American citizen, because of the U.S. President’s declaration of “enemy combatant” status, and the congressional resolution supporting the President, made after September 11th.

Several days before Independence Day, the nation’s highest court ruled that Americans can be detained, without trial, and without charges, for an undetermined period of time, as long as habeas corpus writs were available.

I don’t know about you, but this is breath-taking.

Americans are about as “free” as the president allows them to be.

“Independence” in a nation where over two million people—men, women and children—are held in prisons! The most imprisoned people on earth!

Happy Independence Day! Where, for Black Americans, driving, jogging, walking, and standing still, on your own doorstep—while Black—is far too often, a capital crime!

Happy Independence Day! Where “independence” of the mind, by a true, liberating education, is virtually impossible, for millions of Black, Brown, and poor White kids—in the richest nation in the history of the world.

Happy Independence Day! When the Government, under the so-called “Patriot Act,” can rifle through the homes, files, and papers of people, at will!

Happy Independence Day—indeed!

Americans can celebrate “independence day.” but they can’t celebrate independence.

The government is increasingly intrusive, and growing more and more so, every single day.

We would do well to heed the wisdom of the great German writer, Johann von Goethe, who observed: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free”—Goethe: (1749-1832); author of Faust.

—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, July 1, 2004

Read Mr. Jamal’s latest work, We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party, from South End Press





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