Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Confessions of an Independent Turned Libertarian

How many people reading this truly remember September 11, 2001?  Do you remember exactly how you felt, or has the passage of time muted those feelings?

My daughter said this past year, on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, that really, her class was the last one that truly remembers anything about that day.  She may be right, but even then, I think most of us have forgotten so much.  Especially those of us who weren't in New York City, Shanksville, or Washington D.C.  

We were scared, in a way I don't think the American public has been scared since Pearl Harbor or the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Pearl Harbor was our entry to World War II.  The Cuban Missile Crisis gave stronger legs to the Cold War and also to our involvement in Vietnam.  9/11 gave us the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act.  

If you look at the numbers, at the time, for the approval of the Patriot Act, they were high.  People wanted to be safe.  While there were lone detractors, most Americans were willing to sacrifice a little in the name of safety.  Of course, in all honesty, the Patriot Act, as it exists now, is far worse than it was in the first days of its passage, but that's the way government works.  We were scared, and we consented to a reduction in freedom for safety.

Today, we are bowing under the burden of multiple government scandals, the biggest one being the revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA), is monitoring the phone records of Verizon customers, and monitoring the internet actions of members of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and even Facebook.  It seems the places we spend the most time, the government has decided concerns of our National Security.  Who we talk to, when we talk to them, where we are calling them from, how long we talk to them, what we share on facebook, what we search for on the internet via search engines.  It's crazy, right?  

There were voices crying in the wilderness that this would happen, way back when the Patriot Act was first passed, but most people brushed those voices aside.

I was one of those people who brushed aside the warnings, and I'm here to confess.  I was wrong.  Whether or not the this monstrous intrusiveness was initiated under the Bush Administration or the Obama Administration, I was wrong.  Even if the original intent of the Patriot Act was only to track the activities of those suspected of terrorism, I was wrong.  With the exponential growth of the Government, year after year, Administration after Administration, it was foolish for anyone to believe that we wouldn't eventually come to this point.  Power corrupts, you know.  I was scared, and I wasn't thinking long term or down the road.  I was thinking only that my world had changed dramatically, in just a few hours, and my children would be forced to grow up in this new world, which was far more frightening than the old world.  I was wrong.

What puzzles me, is that the voices that were so clear, those voices in the wilderness back in the aftermath of 9/11, many of those voices are notoriously silent.  Some are even defending this policy, now, when under a different President, they were screaming bloody murder.  I've started to think many of those voices were simply partisan voices, trying to undermine one administration.   Especially those voices going on during the election of 2004. Where are they now? 

I was wrong.  The overreaching power grab by the Bush Administration, backed by a bipartisan majority of the Congress and Senate was wrong.  And if it was so wrong back then, it's even more wrong today.  Anyone who decried that action nine years ago, but is silent today, is the worst kind of hypocrite.  The actions didn't get better, they got worse, as is almost always the case when the government seizes control of something new.  If it was bad then, if it was a civil liberties violation then, it is even more so now.  

I realized a few months ago, that I never quite understood Patrick Henry's speech on the floor of Congress.  I never quite understood what he meant.  If I had, I would have been less supportive of the Patriot Act, and more supportive of the voices in the wilderness, now gone silent.  "Give me liberty or give me death."

I'd rather face the barrel of a gun, than face the erosion of my freedom.  That's what Mr. Henry meant, and that's what, in our fear, in our life altering moment, that's what we forgot.

Do you remember how you felt on September 11?  I do, and it doesn't change that I was wrong.