When I was a child, I read a lot about the Holocaust; I wondered what it would have been like to live in a time and a place and watch your country slip away into something you didn't recognize as home. I couldn't imagine finding myself in a situation where suddenly neighbors have to choose between turning against each other or protecting each other. I wondered if I would have the courage to hide someone in my home because of their religion or race.
I am not saying that we are anywhere near that point now, but I was disturbed today to turn on the news to hear that police are gathering to talk about homegrown terrorism - to look for signs like protesting the government, participating in online discussions which protest the government, participating in activities which are viewed as strange or extreme to others. Coupled with the Re-authorization of the National Defense Authorization Act which now allows detention of Americans for suspected terrorist activity without cause or recourse to the presumption of innocence until proof is offered, I find this perturbing.
After all, I can point to a dozen people within yards of me as I sit here at my desk who think I am nuts for going home to a farm after teaching adolescents all day! What if someone decided that growing your own food, either animal or vegetable, was extreme or strange? What if someone decided that homesteading was a protest - an attempt to be more independent from an economic system which is showing cracks and destabilization?
50% of the American population are against whatever current government is in power - polls show us split down the middle on every issue. Could it be possible that, using these guidelines, whomever gets elected in 2012 will be able to point to a section of our own people and declare them subversive?
I like to presume positive intentions. I presume this is not the intention of these laws and discussions. I presume that lawmakers and public safety officials intend to save lives. As an English teacher, I also know that words and ideas have power, that words can be twisted and misused, and that ideas can be beautiful, but also dangerous. Efforts to protect need to be balanced with an awareness of civil liberty.
Although not labelled as terrorism, the news on raw milk sales, on litigation based on GMO genetics invading open pollinated food crops (and it isn't the farmers using open pollinated seed who are suing!) and other home produced food issues is a bit of the same battle - the battle between "safety" enforced by agencies who sometimes have little understanding of what they are enforcing and the civil liberties of the homesteaders and farmers and their individual customers.
No one has told me, "You can't eat that lamb/egg/cucumber you raised." However, given the current climate, I could see it happening. Not so much telling me I can't, but regulating how I feed or handle the food I produce - that would put a big crimp in the backyard homesteader's life! And it seems, based on my knowledge of history and literature and ideas to be entirely possible.