I was reading a recent article in Time magazine about the uprising in Egypt when several sentences stopped me in my tracks.
Reporter Fareed Zakaria was explaining that Egyptian society had spawned a fair amount of political activism through the ages, but that had largely stopped over the past 50 years or so. How did that happen? The answer presented images that were uncomfortably familiar.
With citizens in Wisconsin already taking to the streets to protest Republican heavy-handedness, this question comes to mind: Could Main Street USA start looking more and more like downtown Cairo?
From Zakaria's article in Time:
Ever since the late 1950s, the Egyptian regime has cracked down on its civil society, shutting down political parties, closing newspapers, jailing politicians, bribing judges and silencing intellectuals. Over the past three decades Egypt became a place where few serious books were written, universities were monitored, newspapers carefully followed a bland party line and people watched what they said in public.
As I read that, I couldn't help but think, "Good God, that sounds like America since the Bush crowd took over. It sure as heck sounds like life in Karl Rove's Alabama."
Regular readers know that my wife and I have been on the front lines here in Birmingham during a wicked time in American history. Let's consider a few trends we have witnessed firsthand in Alabama:
* A corrupt judiciary at both the state and federal levels;
* Attacks on members of the Democratic Party, using the U.S. Department of Justice as a political tool;
* The unlawful imprisonment of politicians, including Don Siegelman, Sue Schmitz, Gary White, and more;
When I started this blog to write truthfully about these trends, what did Mrs. Schnauzer and I experience?
* I was fired from my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and tape-recorded evidence proves it was because of my reporting on the Siegelman case;
* Mrs. Schnauzer was fired from her job at a local insurance company, Infinity Property and Casualty;
* This all happened while the largest newspaper in our state, The Birmingham News, became little more than a house organ for the Alabama Republican Party.
* I received numerous supportive comments from anonymous readers who were afraid to give me their names out of fear that they, too, might experience repercussions in their professional lives.
Let's compare that to Zakaria's description of Egypt since the late 1950s: "universities were monitored" . . . "newspapers followed a bland party line" . . . "people watched what they said in public."
It all sounds familiar, doesn't it? Modern Egypt, Zakaria writes, has been marked by what might be called "disinformation campaigns." Does that happen in the United States? Yes, indeed, and I've seen it firsthand.
In my ongoing employment lawsuit against the University of Alabama, about a half dozen UAB officials filed affidavits--sworn under oath--stating that the exercise of my First Amendment rights on this blog had nothing to do with my termination. Compare that to the tape-recorded conversation I had with UAB human-resources rep Anita Bonasera, where she admits that I was targeted because of my blog--especially the content about the Siegelman case:
Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case
Lisa Huggins, UAB's in-house counsel, reviewed my termination letter and therefore was involved in the decision-making process. She has every reason to know these affidavits are false, and under the law, she and the affiants should be held in contempt of court. Has that happened? Nope. I've filed a motion seeking contempt charges, but U.S. Judge William M. Acker Jr., the 83-year-old Reagan appointee in charge of the case, has ignored it.
Not only do we have a corrupt judiciary, we have a legal community filled with lawyers who know they can file false documents, sworn under oath, and get away with it.
Many of us in the United States believe in "American exceptionalism," the idea that our country is different from all the rest--that the dysfunction that afflicts nations like Egypt cannot happen here.
Mrs. Schnauzer and I are two unemployed and victimized Alabamians who can say that Americans might want to think twice about that--before it's too late.