There’s something about this story that makes my skin crawl. That something has been bothering me for some time, but has become increasingly more bothersome with each passing day of occupation by the Ashcroft-Rove-Cheney-Bush coalition.
That something is that the day of a police state on American soil is fast approaching. I guess it’s just been too long — what a great thing this is to be able to say, but also profoundly dismaying that it has had this effect — since United States’ citizens have experienced significant problems with tyranny in our government. But because it has been so long, Americans have come to take freedom for granted. We fail to see that it is hard won and easily lost. (If only I could buy a copy of “The Siege” for every American — and get them to watch it.)
Today a government that many Americans still mistakenly see as benign rules. And it’s busy undermining the freedoms that have made our country strong for more than two-hundred years. Why? “To make us safe from terrorists.” Yet there comes a point where these attempts to make us safe from terrorists expose us to danger from tyrannizers.
Why do we allow this?
Americans simply cannot fathom the possibility of our government expressly turning on us. Too many people are of the opinion, “If you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t matter.” Yet the same mechanisms and procedures we’re allowing to be constructed now can also allow for much greater abuses. What about the possibility of random searches on our streets or randomly stopping citizens to ask for identification or their reason for being out after dark. After all, if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t matter. Why not allow the police, on some private tip or — heck, why not? — just a whim, to come into your home and search it for contraband, material the government deems obscene, terrorists or illegal aliens? I mean, if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t matter. Why not, instead of having everyone file income tax returns, just permit the government to peruse people’s bank accounts and audit their assets whenever they want? They could then assess taxes that they thought were right and just remove the money from one of your accounts — if they’re benevolent enough about it, they might even let you designate which account they’d normally tap. I mean, after all, if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t matter. It’s not like you don’t have to pay your taxes anyway!
Do you think that last example was “over-the-top”? (Perhaps you think they all were. If so, this just shows how little you’ve thought about it. Stuff like that has happened here before. It resulted in a little tiff with the ruling government in America that was called “The Revolutionary War.”) In fact, with information technology, there’s no realistic reason why the government couldn’t build a database to track all your assets, including bank accounts, real and even personal property. The technology already exists. It just hasn’t been deployed yet (so far as I know, at least) on a scale that would allow this level of tracking.
After all, private companies sometimes do it. The March print issue of CSO (“The Resource for Security Executives”) on page 12 even recommends that companies perform background checks, not just on new hires, but on existing employees. And they don’t just recommend this be done once, but that it be a recurring procedure. Julie Hanson, the author, notes that “having their lives investigated can be unsettling for loyal workers.” Why? If they don’t have anything to hide, it shouldn’t matter. At any rate, Ms. Hanson’s approach to dealing with this is that companies “develop a well-written plan about [their] background-check policy for current employees.” In other words, make sure to detail in the policy manual that they can submit to this, or go elsewhere.
Of course, if enough “elsewheres” begin doing this — or if we just remain complacent long enough so that our government can do this — a dossier will exist for everyone and there will be no “elsewhere” left to go. We’re well on the way when we begin fingerprinting every human stupid or desperate enough to fly, anyway.
But I digress.
Flying is something that is increasingly important for our highly mobile society. My wife recently suggested that I fly next week when I go visit her step-father in Las Vegas. But I’m not sure if I want to submit to potential anal probes coming and going to ensure that I’m only someone who objects to the loss of my freedoms and not something worse, like a terrorist.
Well, okay, only some people have to submit to the anal probes. And the likelihood is that we’ll move to electronic strip searches before body cavity searches become routine. After all, these are less time-consuming and stink up less fingers.
Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as having said,
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Today, Americans are more and more inclined to give up essential liberty to obtain the illusion of a little temporary safety. Or perhaps some are not under an illusion that they’re safe, but they just hope they will be.
At any rate, I’m hoping that the ACLU will prevail. The no-fly list mentioned in the story that inspired this blog entry seems to me to be either a deprivation of rights in violation of due process of law or of equal protection. Both of these Fourteenth Amendment rights are, for the time being, still in place — at least until Bush convenes another constitutional convention to officially rewrite the Constitution.
Currently, the Constitution restricts government. Bush, his handlers and his cronies have been hard at work transmogrifying our understanding of it into a document that restricts the citizenry, by getting people to believe they only have the rights expressly spelled out therein over two hundred years ago — before anal probes and American airlines. Since most Americans have never read the Constitution, this is relatively easy. But some of us still remember the Tenth Amendment.
And we’re in no hurry to fly into the arms of certain tyranny to avoid a potential terrorist.