If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. (James Madison, in letter to Henry Lee June 25, 1824.)
Following 9/11, the Bush administration passed the Patriot Act. Or, as I call it, “The Federal Witch Hunt”. In order to remind you just how corny things were back then, the USA PATRIOT act is an acronym, “Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001″. How many of you knew that?
Besides having one of the stupidest names since Gerald Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” campaign, even in the days just following an attack on our soil in which nearly three thousand Americans died the act was recognized as oppressive. Well outside our concept of liberty, but just inside our desire for revenge, the act was designed to expire, but was approved again in 2006 with the same “sunset” provisions.
There are a few things that prevent George W. Bush from being a “Great” president, this is one of them. Two hundred and forty years previously, Benjamin Franklin had said “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”. When something like, oh, let’s say indefinite detention, is wrong, it remains wrong regardless of the circumstances. I am not a follower of Catholicism, but I was taken by Pope Paul VI’s comment on changing the churches view to “keep up with the times” when he said the laws of the church are eternal, they do not change with the styles of the day. Then he went ahead and let Catholics eat meat on Fridays, so what did he know?
President Obama was elected because a large number of people believed that he would reverse the oppression that they blamed on the Republican party. Such has not been the case. Not only did he fail to repeal the act, he extended three key provisions. I agree that “Roving wiretaps” are common sense. If you can tap my phone, it’s me, not my phone, that you’re after. The other two are a little more disturbing, as they are doorways to abuse. Expanded abilities to search business records, and the ability to conduct surveillance on individuals not tied to any terrorist activities is asking for trouble. The most recent “victim” of this “lone wolf” provision is Cameron D’Ambrosio, an eighteen year old high school student, who is being held for making terroristic threats. Various reports indicate that he is being held without bail, or with a one million dollar bond (pretty much the same thing), for publishing violent rap lyrics on Face Book.
A couple of other things have been in the news lately. The Internal Revenue Service, one of the more frightening branches of the government from the perspective of the average American, acknowledged that they had targeted certain groups based on their names. Those names were anything containing “Freedom”, “People’s”, or “Tea Party”. They may have been within their regulations, they’re not sure.
The handling of the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi has been criticized, more for the cover-up, changing stories and out right lies than the actual failure to rescue an embassy under attack. (Nixon’s impeachment was for the cover up, not the actual break-in at the Watergate)
The Attorney General’s comments on the legality of a drone strike, targeting an American Citizen on American soil, were just a little more chilling, following the execution of Americans overseas, one of whom was a sixteen year old (whose execution was justified because he “would have grown up to be a terrorist”).
Various government organizations, including the National Weather Service, purchased huge amounts of ammunition, and the Department of Homeland Security put out a bid for “Personal Defense Weapons” that mirror in description what they were trying to outlaw as “Assault Weapons”.
Add to all this reports that Obama is dismissing Senior Military Officers who will not fire on American citizens, and you might be a little cautious about criticizing the administration. That of course, is the point. Oppression doesn’t require violence, just the fear of violence. If you think that the reporter taking your story is being watched, you might choose not to talk. If you think that by just making an offhand remark you could end up in Guantanamo Bay, you might choose not to make that remark. If you think that publicly opposing the government could result in the deaths of you and your children while you sit at the dinner table, you might choose to keep your opinions to yourself. Suddenly, there is no opposition, everyone agrees. Big Brother is Good.