Monday, October 31, 2011

Joe Bageant's(RIP) letter to John Ashcroft

"John, goddammit, we are going to have to thrash this thing out! Thanks to you, my librarian wife, who is pretty much the stereotypical, quiet, matronly archivist down in the basement of the local scriptorium, can be fined and sent to prison if she refuses to hand over library records and public internet logs to federal agents. In fact, under the USA Patriot Act, she can be prosecuted if she tells anyone at all, including coworkers and me, that the government came snooping around. And YOU, Mr. Ashcroft, made wisecracks about the National Library Association's objections to this spying on citizens, calling the librarians' concerns "baseless hysteria," and a "hissy fit over Tom Clancy novels."

And only last weekend I learned that the Department of Homeland Security has put restrictions on what genealogists can request. Genealogists for god's sake! For the record Mr. Ashcroft, I am being neither paranoid nor having a hissy fit. I am asking a simple question. And this time none of your arrogant, smart-assed replies. How does preventing some old blue-haired genealogist from looking at my aunt Gertrude's baptismal certificate prevent terrorists from blasting me and old Bingo out of this garden shed? And exactly how does surveillance of the reading habits of an aging redneck pud like me make this nation one bit safer?"

(signed) Ready to rumble,
Joe Bageant

I've not heard back from the attorney general, but it's only been a week. So during the wait, I've put aside for the moment this Mexican standoff between me and the attorney general in order to contemplate the larger picture. Maybe the problem is that I am not a "big picture guy." It could very well be that aunt Gertrude's baptismal certificate is somehow related to the war on terror and events in Baghdad, via a strange web of connections far too vast for me to comprehend. After all, I have seen stranger political events happen during my lifetime, things with mysterious connective tissues far beyond my humble grasp -- chief among them being an Alzheimer’s victim shaking his fist at the Berlin Wall and bringing down the entire Soviet Union. I still haven't figured out how Reagan did that, whether it was an optical illusion or just another example of chaos theory, wherein the butterfly flaps its wings causing a tornado in some other part of the world.

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