by Rod D. Martin
April 29, 2013
These thoughts were originally part of a Facebook discussion, but they bear repeating here. Much verbiage is being expressed of late concerning the worry that we are becoming a police state. Indeed, leftist mouthpiece Bill Maher, clearly off-script, kicked off the latest with his statements about the Boston PD’s actions during the recent Tsarnaev manhunt.
In posting that, I was strongly questioned by a conservative poster who seemed to consider all recent government actions perfectly legitimate (a reasonable opinion, except that he gave the impression that he’d have felt the same way if the police had randomly waterboarded half of Boston), and accused me of being Tin Foil Hat Guy merely for bringing it up; to which I responded:
(1) It is a positive good that liberals are starting to see Barack Obama as untrustworthy.
(2) It is a positive good that liberals are starting to worry about civil liberties again, since heretofore they’ve taken the view that anything Obama did was A-OK (even if that meant swallowing their own feigned outrage at Guantanamo, water boarding, extraordinary rendition, the Patriot Act, and a host of other things they used to decry as Nazism when Bush was President).
(3) There were issues with each of those things — and with the explosion in video, audio, and especially electronic surveillance of American citizens, up to and including black boxes in cars and tracking of our whereabouts through toll passes — even under Bush, whom many of us trusted. Subjectively trusting someone is no substitute for the Bill of Rights, and while I’m not saying Bush abused his powers, I am saying that it was perfectly obvious then as now that those powers were abusable, and that the exponential increase in supporting technologies made it easier to abuse them than to avoid abuse.
(4) I do not trust Barack Obama at all. He is a socialist, and he has abused most of the powers he’s been given, deliberately and demonstrably already. But it doesn’t matter: any President — or his underlings — might abuse these powers, and might with far more malicious intent than Barack Obama could ever muster. We do not trust fallen men generally: this is why we believe in the Rule of Law rather than the Rule of Men. And in the words of the Founders, when all powers are accumulated unto Washington, it shall be as in Europe: there will be no freedom, only hammer and anvil.
(5) The fact that the Boston police ordered innocent residents out of their homes at gunpoint is at least as troubling as what was done to Elian Gonzalez and his family in the 1990s, but far less isolated. The fact that DHS has just purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition and 2,700 light armored vehicles is not easy to justify, and very easily raises eyebrows. Every day we hear some new government theory about how we do not have “a reasonable expectation of privacy” in something that we all expect to be private. And this being a free country, we as citizens have every right to question these acts and reverse them. We do not have to just sit back and “do what we’re told”.
There is always a careful balancing act between the correct amount of liberty and security; but liberty is a right “endowed by our Creator”, whereas security is a duty of government clearly and explicitly subject to that right. Of course we make exceptions in extremis. But we must always be mindful that eventually, exceptions become the rule. And that mindfulness always requires questioning.
My antagonist may not understand this, but the American people seem to: several recent polls find more Americans fearing their government than the terrorists. Again, in the words of Jefferson, “when government fears the people, that’s liberty; when the people fear the government, that’s tyranny.” And that tells us that, whether or not our government is malicious, it certainly needs a readjustment: it is ceasing to govern with the consent of the governed.