The story of the film showing in Brooklyn is a tale in and of itself. In the planning for the event the NYC Department of Education (DOE) refused to issue a permit citing the "controversial" nature of the film. (One may well ask what is controversial about our Constitution and the protections it offers our citizens.) However, a request for help, made to the NYCLU's Legal Director, Arthur Eisenberg, resulted in a quick retreat by the DOE and the permit was issued.
The film showing was initiated by a new group that is establishing itself in the Flatbush neighborhoods surrounding Cortelyou Road and Coney Island Avenue: Flatbush For Peace. Co-sponsors included a representation of the diverse neighborhood: the Council Of People's Organizations (COPO), which serves the South Asian community and the Haitian Enlightenment Literacy Project (HELP) as well as Brooklyn's large and active peace organization, Brooklyn For Peace.
Sam Koprak, active in organizing Flatbush For Peace, introduced the film. The End Of America claims that under Bush our country was headed for dictatorship and draws strong parallels with Nazi Germany by documenting the ten steps that have been used by authoritarian regimes throughout history to erode and eventually destroy civil liberties.
In the film, Wolf examines each of these ten steps, One comes away with a realization that democracy and human rights are frail things indeed and when methodically abused can quickly disappear. This is particularly true when you have a citizenry that is purposely kept uninformed and uneducated (think Fox News, CNN, the networks, our schools, etc.) about the history, the significance and the life and death struggles that ensued to win independence from the British monarchy and that forged our constitution and its enshrining of human rights and liberties.
Sam Koprak, of the newly-formed Flatbush For Peace, convenes the meeting at PS 139.
The ten points, documented in the film, are --
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.Within each of these points, Wolf discusses the similarities between events that transpired in Nazi Germany and elsewhere with what Bush and Cheney were conniving at here. Thus is her book and the film an urgent wake-up call to those who cherish and would maintain our hard-fought civil liberties.
2. Create a prison system outside the rule of law.
3. Set up an internal surveillance system.
4. Develop a thug caste.
5. Harass citizens' groups.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
7. Target key individuals.
8. Control the press.
9. Equate dissent with treason.
10.Suspend the rule of law.
Naomi Wolf - ten easy steps to fascism.
Naomi Wolf taking questions after the film showing.
After the film, the author was joined by Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director of the NYCLU, (who, as I mentioned earlier was instrumental in persuading the DOE to issue its permit for use of the school), to field questions from the audience. Eisenberg gave an informative history of the use of repression in our country during the Civil War and Word War I and then discussed the case of Jose Padilla. Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was declared an enemy combatant by Bush who cited his powers as Commander In Chief. This was a drastic departure from an established American legal precedent called the Milligan decision which decreed civilian supremacy over military authority. By using the Commander In Chief title to justify his action stripping citizen Padilla of his constitutional rights, Eisenberg said, Bush was declaring that his military authority allowed him to be above the law, thus setting a very dangerous precedent.
Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director of the NYCLU, gave a chilling description of the government's abuse of U.S. citizen, José Padilla.
The meeting ended after 9:00 pm and we came away with a new appreciation of the dangers that had been brought to our country by eight long years of Bush's contempt for democracy and the rule of law. There was, I thought, a new determination to ensure that these actions be rolled back and a further awareness that unless those responsible for the heinous crimes committed, such as torture, kidnapping and wiretapping, be brought to justice. How else would we be able to prevent them from being enacted all over again in the future? Some in the present administration have asked us "not to look backward but to concentrate on the future." To which we must answer that we cannot go forward in peace and freedom without learning from and dealing with the past. After the Nazi crimes of the 30's and 40's, U.S. policy and indeed, all of human kind, decreed that those responsible for crimes against humanity must be brought to justice and punished. Why have we abandoned that outlook now?
Naomi Wolf's book is available for purchase here.
Naomi Wolf's website can be visted here.
And the film on DVD can be purchased here.
Naomi Wolf's book - The End Of America.
To see a SLIDE SHOW of all my photos from last night's event click here.
Or for a PHOTO GALLERY instead, click here.