Watching the events in Egypt over the past few weeks affirms my hopes that the spirit of revolution and disobedience still burn within the hearts of some people, but more importantly if illustrates just how apathetic, lazy, and sanctimonious, people in this country are. The Egyptian people say they have reached critical mass in tiring of living under a state of emergency for some 30 years, when in reality the American people have been living under various states of emergency since the Civil War. The Civil War resulted in a form of military occupation or martial law under the Lieber Code. More recent and perpetual proclamations by presidents, giving rise to an ongoing state of emergency, are explained below, courtesy of WikiPedia.
Further information: Insurrection Act and National Emergencies Act
In the United States, there are several methods for government response to emergency situations. A state governor or local mayor may declare a state of emergency within his or her jurisdiction. This is common at the state level in response to natural disasters.
The president of the United States, as head of the executive branch, has the authority to declare a federal state of emergency. The only emergency provisions in the U.S. Constitution are: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” and an exemption from the privilege of a grand jury hearing for cases arising in the military when in service in a time of “public danger”.
Habeas corpus was suspended on April 27, 1861 during the American Civil War by Abraham Lincoln in parts of Maryland and some midwestern states, including southern Indiana. He did so in response to demands by generals to set up military courts to rein in “copperheads”, those in the Union who supported the Confederate cause. Lambdin P. Milligan and four others were accused of planning to steal Union weapons and invade Union prisoner-of-war camps, and were sentenced to hang by a military court in 1864. However, their execution was not set until May 1865, so they were able to argue the case after the Civil War. It was decided in the Supreme Court case Ex Parte Milligan 71 US 2 1866 that the suspension was unconstitutional because civilian courts were still operating, and the Constitution only provided for suspension of habeas corpus if these courts are actually forced closed.
On December 16, 1950, during the Korean War, President Truman issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2914, declaring a state of national emergency. The Supreme Court ruling in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer established, in 1952, that presidents may not act contrary to Acts of Congress during an emergency.
During the Watergate scandal which erupted in the 1970s after President Richard Nixon authorized a variety of illegal acts, Congress investigated the extent of the President’s powers and belatedly realized that the U.S. had been in a continuous state of emergency since 1950. As a result, in 1976 the National Emergencies Act set a limit of two years on emergency declarations unless the president explicitly extends them, and requiring the president to specify in advance which legal provisions will be invoked. The Act terminated the emergency of 1950 on September 14, 1978; however, even in the 21st century, the federal courts have upheld harsh penalties (including deportation) for crimes that occurred during the state of national emergency from 1950 to 1978, where the penalties were escalated because of the existence of that emergency.
The 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act allows freezing of assets, limiting of trade, and confiscation of property during a declared emergency.
A federal emergency declaration allows the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to exercise its power to deal with emergency situations; federal assistance also becomes available to areas that are declared to be in a state of emergency. For FEMA, emergency declarations are different from the more common disaster declarations done for hurricanes and floods. Typically, a state of emergency empowers the executive to name coordinating officials to deal with the emergency and to override normal administrative processes regarding the passage of administrative rules.
The United States is formally in an ongoing limited state of emergency declared by several Presidents for several reasons. A state of emergency began on January 24, 1995 with the signing of Executive Order 12947 by President Bill Clinton. In accordance with the National Emergencies Act, the executive order’s actual effect was not a declaration of a general emergency, but a limited embargo on trade with “Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process”. This “national emergency” was expanded in 1998 to include additional targets such as Osama bin Laden, and has been continued to at least 2008 by order of President George W. Bush. There are a number of other ongoing national emergencies of this type, regarding for instance diamond trade with Sierra Leone. Especially noteworthy are the ongoing states of emergency declared on November 14, 1979 regarding the Iran Hostage Crisis, that declared on March 15, 1995 with respect to Iran, and that declared on September 14, 2001 through Bush’s Proclamation 7463, regarding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
President Barack Obama extended George Bush’s Declaration of Emergency regarding terrorism on September 10, 2009 and again on September 10, 2010.
Of course, the US Government is somewhat discreet when exercising power under this auspicious and nefarious provision, but evidence abounds where people are assailed with little or no due process or Constitutional protection. The difference in the United States is, the people have become so infatuated and dazzled with material trappings and illusory wealth that they care little about the actual operation of government upon their liberty. They would just as soon violate every provision of due process to keep undesirables out of their neighborhood to save their inflated property values as they would step in line to procure licenses and permits for every private action commandeered by government. The US Government is no more legitimate than it is representative.
Look at how the Egyptian people stood their ground in the face of military commands to desist. Look then at how American protesters are corralled into chain-link “free speech zones” like cattle, far away from the eyes and ears of their rulers. Look at how people in America are assailed by local police when they dare assert their rights. They are either shot, Tasered, or beaten for their audacity. Where are the cameras and platitudes citing a right to rebel when the flunky cops do the bidding of the government. It does not take a tank to kill a man. It takes a violent, irrational, and obedient despot with a badge and “authority” to subdue us one-by-one. The Egyptian people exhibit much more temerity and resolve than Americans could ever hope to muster, and this country is supposedly the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”. What a joke.
Fortunately, there are many in America who are waking up and forming their own ideas about how government has failed. As more become comfortable with this new-found knowledge and spread the word, they will begin to coalesce into a force that will not be met with the feigned open arms the politicians in this country extend to the Egyptian people. I believe politicians in this country are paying quivering lip service to the revolt in Egypt, fearing the spread of that spirit over our borders. Problem is, ideas are borderless.
How would such a scenario play out in America? Violently, I’m sorry to say. When the game is over, it is over. Those who are really in power have no qualms about pulling out all the stops in teaching belligerents who is boss. Bankers, war mongers, politicians, corporations.. have no problem scuttling the ship before it sinks, even if it means locking the crew below deck while they grab the lifeboats for themselves. Compound that with the violent nature of Americans. Our culture is base, crass, greedy and guttural. Politicians will expend few resources quelling the rabble because they will largely annihilate each other in a mad grab for the booty. The fat and rich will sit by and watch their crops compost before their eyes.
The best to hope for is for a revolution of mind before a revolution in-fact. A way of thinking must first be nurtured; a way which recognizes individual liberty as tantamount and superior to any government. Equally important is the operation of any ensuing government upon those who find no need or value in that government. Again, the crux is consent. There are those of us who have realized that putting men in control of other men is not the answer to the troubles of the world. We will have to wait and see how the Egyptian people seize the opportunity to craft a truly limited and responsive government, if that is in-fact what they need. I think the evolutionary process is to move towards the abolishment of all borders as cultures assimilate; something I fear will not be realized in my lifetime. However, I consider myself fortunate enough to have experienced the personal liberty I have discovered and the abandonment of government in my life; as well as my commitment to peace and humanity.