Are you on the next detainee list?

May 29, 2008

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Nor am I prone to paranoia. But I also recognize that we rarely understand what’s happening around us.

Those caveats are an introduction to a story that should give everyone pause, no matter their politics. It’s received too little attention, perhaps because the idea seems so outlandish: the Bush administration has a plan for granting itself sweeping dictatorial powers in the event of a natural catastrophe or major terrorist attack. As part of the plan, a list of eight million people has been created, people who might be questioned by authorities or even rounded up and “detained.” (A once benign word, detained is now ominous and foreboding.)

It’s difficult to digest the story without thinking of the 110,000 Japanese-Americans — two-thirds of them U.S. citizens — who were “detained” during World War II, an indelible stain on our democracy decades later. Many were sent temporarily to a Portland assembly center on the Columbia River, only a few miles from my house, until transferred to inland internment camps.

By writing this post, am I risking addition to the list? Am I, law-abiding citizen but strident critic of the administration, already on the list?

I know they’re watching.