Pakistan, my brother and the long-awaited rise of the lawyers

David Busch and David Busch

When I was young I looked up to my older brother like he was Che Guevara. During high school, he went through an extreme communist age and rebelled against the American capitalist ideal, questioning everything our system offered. Being his younger brother, he passed down his passions and knowledge, whether on purpose or subliminally. In effect, I went through the same stages as him, just at a younger age. One of my fondest moments was in eighth grade when I wore a sickle and hammer communist shirt during a class picture in front of the Capitol building. I look back on it now and a smile comes to my face.

As my brother got older and graduated from high school, he found himself out in California trying to understand this American landscape. Upon returning, our relationship struggled for years. I don’t know what happened to him out in California. Sometimes he would tell me stories about selling communist papers on street corners in San Francisco or about his partying days, road tripping across the states like Jack Kerouac. He wouldn’t say much else, though.

After his travels, it took him some years to get back on his feet, finally finishing college this past spring and entering law school. I now can see that same twinkle of a revolutionary in his eye.

Over these past couple weeks I have been following Pervez Musharraf’s state of emergency in Pakistan. Musharraf and his military have suspended the constitution, melted the judicial system and arrested more than 2,000 civilians illegally. And this happened only two months before the scheduled elections. Ever since Musharraf’s military coup in 1999, Aitzaz Ahsan has led a pro-democracy lawyers’ movement. Then, when the state of emergency was enacted, the lawyers rose to empower the people and to protect the law. The movement of the lawyers, whether protesting the police or trying to protect the judicial system, has united the people in a battle for a true democracy in Pakistan. This situation is showing the power of lawyers and, in effect, they have become the modern day revolutionaries to protect the small civilian.

Perhaps it is not as dramatic here as it is in Pakistan, but since Sept. 11, our own constitution has also been suffering assaults. Our own freedoms and rights have been eroded with the passage of the Patriot Act, in the name of homeland security. I think about Alberto Gonzalez and his approval of secret wiretapping of American citizens and secret CIA planes to capture “terrorist” subjects to bring to Guantanamo. Many of them are innocent, waiting for years without charges, sometimes not even knowing what they are being held for.

This is possible because of the suspension of habeas corpus – an ancient law built into our constitution stating that a person cannot be incarcerated without charges. It is easy for us to numb ourselves with TV and so many material distractions thinking that the problem is somewhere off of American soil. It is a slippery slope though, from denying the right of habeas corpus to some foreigner that we don’t know, but who might be an “enemy of the state” to denying habeas corpus to American citizens who don’t agree with the policies of the government. They, too, can easily be labeled as an enemy of the state. No one is free when others are oppressed.

American television is full of commercials where lawyers are advertising big lawsuits against companies not for the protection of the people but for the amount of money that could be won. I remember years back when a big lawsuit was won against McDonald’s for their hot coffee. Is that protecting the law?

Luckily, there is a small, but growing cadre of lawyers in the United States that are protesting these subtle erosions of the freedoms Americans hold dear. However, these lawyers are few and are rarely heard about in mainstream media. I am waiting for the lawyers or, even better, the revolutionaries to stand up, as a whole, to protect the human rights our country was built upon.

When I went home this past weekend, I brought with me a picture from The New York Times. On the front page was a lawyer in Pakistan wearing a black suit throwing a tear gas shell back at the police. I brought this picture home for my brother and showed it to him. He grabbed it, stared in silence and gave it back to me. “That’s pretty cool, Dave,” he said.

Our eyes met and I think inside he thought to himself, “This is the beginning of the revolution.”

Suddenly, I didn’t see Che Guevara anymore. I saw Benjamin Busch, my brother, lawyer and revolutionary.