By Marc Estrin / The Rag Blog / February 15, 2011
Acronyms, I think, bring out the worst in people. For example, the USAPATRIOT act is not an act for American Patriots as it would appear, but rather the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act — Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorists Act.
Imagine the wordsmithing over that one. Imagine how many taxpayer dollars went into the choice of those acronymic wonders. And the marvellous mendacities therein — “uniting,” “strengthening,” “appropriate,” “required” — all hidden behind the mask. Truly a work of the devil. There are masks that hide, like that one, and masks that reveal. It’s important to distinguish them.
Acromegaly is a disease resulting from a pituitary tumor overproducing growth hormone. In children it produces giants, and in adults, overgrown jaws, thick skulls, and thick skin. You can see an acromegalic giant in action in Kurosawa’s great film, Yojimbo. He wields a mean sledge hammer against his enemies.
Big jaw, thick skull, thick skin. Could this syndrome describe the US approach to the world?
Our president is about to pull a Joshua (10:8-14), to try to stop the sun from setting. During one campaign in an early Operation Cast Lead, while the children of Israel were smiting the Amorites, man, woman, and child, Joshua, in a fit of chutzpah, bade the sun stand still so smiting time might be longer and smiting more complete.
the sun stood still,
and the moon stayed,
until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.
The sun stood still in the midst of heaven,
and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
And there was no day that like that before it or after it,
that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man:
for the LORD fought for Israel.
The 342-page USA PATRIOT ACT — clearly already prepared and lying in wait — was passed by Congress (357-66 in the House, and 98-1 in the Senate), and signed by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. Many legislators admitted to not having read it through before voting. Most of the bill’s provisions were due to sunset after December 31, 2005, four years after passage, and safely after the 2004 election. But by March 2006 Congress had voted to reauthorize the bill so as not to tie the president’s hands in his Global War on Terror.
Sunset now six years late.
Though having campaigned for greater oversight, the White House is now out-republicaning the Republicans by asking to further delay its sunset until December 2013, giving the new Republican majority, and perhaps a new Republican president plenty of time to authorize permanent status.
The Children of Israel no doubt approve.
And it’s not as if the abuses of the bill have disappeared as GWOT has aged and mellowed.
Rather, the jawbone and skin continue to thicken, and the skull grows ever more dense as we resist and punish those on the side of freedom.
[Marc Estrin is a writer, activist, and cellist, living in Burlington, Vermont. His novels, Insect Dreams, The Half Life of Gregor Samsa, The Education of Arnold Hitler, Golem Song, and The Lamentations of Julius Marantz have won critical acclaim. His memoir, Rehearsing With Gods: Photographs and Essays on the Bread & Puppet Theater (with Ron Simon, photographer) won a 2004 theater book of the year award. He is currently working on a novel about the dead Tchaikovsky.]