Better late than never: Just read an Oct. 4, 2006, Chicago Tribune op-ed by “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor that is among the best I’ve seen this year. In the piece, Keillor mourns the death of true American values as made manifest on Capitol Hill last month (or for that matter, adds one cynic considerably less well-off and insulated than Mr. Keillor, as is readily visible any day of the week):
I would not send my college kid off for a semester abroad if I were you. Last week, we suspended human rights in America, and what goes around comes around. Ixnay habeas corpus.
The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, decided that an “enemy combatant” is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter. If your college kid were to be arrested in Bangkok or Cairo, suspected of “crimes against the state” and held in prison, you’d assume that an American foreign service officer would be able to speak to your kid and arrange for a lawyer, but this may not be true anymore. Be forewarned.
The Senate also decided it’s up to the president to decide whether it’s OK to make these enemies stand naked in cold rooms for a couple of days in blinding light and be beaten by interrogators. This is now purely a bureaucratic matter: The plenipotentiary stamps the file “enemy combatants” and throws the poor schnooks into prison and at his leisure he tries them by any sort of kangaroo court he wishes to assemble and they have no right to see the evidence against them, and there is no appeal. This was passed by 65 senators and will now be signed by President Bush, put into effect, and in due course be thrown out by the courts. …
None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Ideal. Mark their names. Any institution of higher learning that grants honorary degrees to these people forfeits its honor. Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Carper, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Johnson, Kyl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Lott, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Menendez, Murkowski, Nelson of
Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar,
Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner.
To paraphrase Sir Walter Scott: Mark their names and mark them well. For them, no minstrel raptures swell. High though their titles, proud their name, boundless their wealth as wish can claim, these wretched figures shall go down to the vile dust from whence they sprung, unwept, unhonored and unsung.
Time will tell…
Do read the rest of the op-ed. Keillor’s warm prose — even angry, he still manages to strum heartstrings — offers a little comfort from the heartland. We’ll take it with gratitude.
A tip o’ the baseball cap to TB from the Armchair Activist list for the pointer.