America's Cold War With Itself


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A brief history of and cultural commentary on the way America has dealt with the threat of plague and epidemic.

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America's Cold War With Itself

  1. 1. America’s Cold War with Itself c. 2009, Judith Acosta Recently, the Massachusetts legislature passed Bill 2028 that will give the governor and the health commissioner the absolute authority to put a range of emergency measures into action in the event of a health “crisis” or “emergency.” According to the video report which can be seen on ( ), this will include enforced vaccinations, quarantines, and fines of up to $1,000 per day. The bill was passed rapidly, according to the reporter, because of what was happening in Mexico. First, a question, please: Has anything changed in Mexico? Because the last I saw a report on the situation there, it was more hysteria than disease. And the same could be said about anyplace else on the globe. People die every year of acute disease. So far, over the last year, fewer have succumbed to complications from the flu than in years prior. Why the hysteria? If nothing has changed in Mexico, then something has changed in Massachusetts. Hysterical History Hysteria is not new to the American political scene. This is not the first time we have been faced with proposed or real internments because of a perceived threat. Nor, should this republic continue, will it be the last that Forces frenzied and frightened threaten to corral and silence those who disagree or disobey. First it was the Germans, then it was the Japanese, then it was the Russians and communists, then the hippies, after that terrorists. What is different this time and what is so surreal to me as I watch the news developing, is that now the enemy is us. Or rather, it’s germs that may be IN us. It is the first time America has turned the gun around and locked in on itself. For no reason other than the possibility that some of us may get sick, we have put the entire American public in the crosshairs. The question in this article is not whether the vaccine is effective or not or even whether it’s necessary or not. (For more information on this topic, please go to The question is who gets to say whether we get vaccinated. And at this point, it looks like the frenzied and the frightened have the bulk. Like myself, many of you who are reading this are surely not old enough to remember the internment of Japanese Americans. But the data and the painful personal documentation of the seizure are all readily available. According to the census of 1940 (, 127,000 persons of Japanese ancestry lived in the U.S. with approximately one-third born in Japan. Even prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were not allowed to own land, be naturalized, or vote in some states. But after the bombing, the rumors of Japanese-American saboteurs pressured the Roosevelt
  2. 2. administration to sign Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which forced all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. No comparable order applied to German-Americans or Italian-Americans, with whose homelands we were also at war. Ten internment camps were established throughout the west and southwest, where approximately 120,000 people were held after being forced to sell off or lose any property they had. Naturally, with shackles on their wrists and bayonets at the door, they were not in a position to sell any of it for very much. Oddly, the Supreme Court didn’t overturn the order. The vast relocation was upheld in Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States. The camps continued until 1946 and it wasn’t until 1948 that any compensation was made for the property loss sustained by the interned. In 1988, survivors were paid another $20,000. The 1950’s saw a similar, but less obvious assault on civil liberties in the person of Joe McCarthy, who collaborated with big business to essentially keep anyone suspecting of seditious politics from working, an elaborate “starvation” policy to put pressure on writers, actors, politicians, and academics to conform and give up their colleagues, their convictions, and their constitutional rights in exchange for a good meal. Some did. Some didn’t. It was a harsh time and I can’t honestly imagine what I would do if my family had no means of support and I had the choice to provide them with food or continue writing what I believed to be true. Do you starve or speak up? I do not judge anyone. But the time is coming again when we may be forced to choose. The Executive Order Highway It started, oddly enough under John F. Kennedy, on February 2, 1962. That day marked the beginning of a series of FEMA Executive Orders that would give the government absolute sovereignty in the event, once again, of any emergency. Who would determine whether there was such an emergency? The same people writing the executive orders. Who could be surprised by that? Here but a few of those orders: E.O. 10990, which allows the government the right to take over all public transportation, including rail, seaports, trains, and airports. E.O. 10995, which permits the government to seize all the media and control the information available on any channel, radio, television or cable. E.O. 10997, which states the government may control all utilities—electric, gas, communication lines.
  3. 3. E.O. 10998, which gives the powers that be the ability to seize any and all means of personal transportation—your car, bicycle, motorbike, or plane. Finally, E.O. 10999, which takes your farm, your food, and your future. These orders supersede any local or state regulations. Meaning, regardless what you, your senators, or governors have to say about it, they’re coming in. ( These standing Executive Orders, which have stood on the books for more than forty years, now, are coming to a bizarre, and fundamentally horrifying fruition under another, more modern version called REX 84, standing for readiness exercise number 84. According to Diana Reynolds, REX 84 is also known as a continuity of government plan. I guess in an emergency of global proportions (this plan was designed and enacted in cooperation with NATO), the principle purpose of government is to keep itself—and not its citizenry—alive. It reminds me of what they say on the airlines: “Please put your mask on you first and then attend to your child.” It should make sense. So, why does everything in me find it frightening? There is more: It seems that there are already a large number of detention camps fully operational and ready to receive evacuees—or detainees, as you see fit to call those who wind up there. Under this program, certain military bases are closed down and turned into “housing” centers, although some pundits and scholars question whether that’s a fair word when those living there will not be able to leave of their own accord. Where the Highway Leads—H1N1 and Viral Fear. This is not a matter of politics—neither left nor right. I have scanned the blogs, the fanatics, the more centrist news media, and the archives and, although the left is accusing the right and the right is accusing the left of being at fault for the sorry state of our liberties, they are both as aghast as they are against it. Neither side stands to win anything by losing the Bill of Rights. It is truly only the wildly uneducated, the fringe paranoids, and the secret fascisti who think any of this makes any sense. Over the years, starting with the Act of August 29, 1916, continuing with the National Security Act of 1947 and the 1950 Defense Production Act, the grasp of the government has extended steadily ending (but not stopping) with the most recent security measures enacted under the Bush/Cheney administration Despite the seeming solidity of our system of government, despite the written guarantees of our constitution our bill of rights and our declaration of independence, we have had to fight for the simple right for free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of political
  4. 4. point of view and freedom (above all) to dissent over and over again. The rights may be free, but they don’t come cheap. Choice is both the glory and the bane of the American system. Because in order to continue speaking freely, in order to continue choosing our own candidates, in order to decide whether or not we will take a medicine or a submit to a vaccination or not, we have to choose. Constantly. It is not one choice and the matter is solved. Like breathing, it is something we must do every day. We are always being offered a barter for freedom: If you were guaranteed security, a good job with a 6-figure salary, an insured retirement plan, and a house stocked with cheap, but filling food, would you take it if all you were being asked to do was take a little pill? Would you even momentarily consider the trade off? I think most people would. Most, unfortunately, do all the time. We are being told: “Yield up your principles and you will be safe.” This is not at all different than the deal McCarthy offered the blacklisted in the 1950’s: “Give up your friends, your ideals, your beliefs and your conscience and you will be rich again.” The American conscience and our freedom of choice can sadly be bought with a coupon or a good ad. We will sacrifice our ability to communicate without surveillance for empty sacks they assure us will make us feel safe forever. Sadly, very few are willing to test either their own characters or the snake-oil salesmen to see if anything they are saying is true. As it turns out, if you give people enough comfort or the illusion of security, the purveyors of false promises don’t have to take our freedom away. We give it to them.