What Makes Us American Anymore?

“America, Land of the Free.”
Whoever told you that is your enemy!

Rage Against The Machine

I grew up at the end of the Cold War. One thing you could always count on was a summer full of movies, some memorable like Red Dawn or Top Gun and some less so, that drove home the superiority of the American Idea. We were better than the Soviets, Chinese, or Libyans because we respected the individual rights of Americans. We would never ask our people to “show their papers” or spy on our citizens. We can, of course, know that at least today, that is complete and utter bullshit.

These high ideas of ours were dropped in the waste basket at the first sign of trouble. With little outcry Americans allowed for the passage of the Patriot Act, a law that even without its terrifying provisions has a chilling effect just by its name. A law that despite opportunities the Democrats enjoyed during the President’s first two years remains on the books. We spy on peaceful protesters supposedly in the name of security, though whose, or maybe more accurately what’s, security remains in question.

You know, maybe we do need all these extra precautions. I am not inclined to believe so, but lets say, leaving aside the spying on people who are doing no one any harm, we have to give up some of our civil liberties to protect ourselves from terrorists. If you really believe that, then please stop wrapping yourself in the Constitution when in pubic debate, because you have already shown a willingness to ignore it when it is convenient for you.

I suppose this is nothing new. As Zach De La Rocha, whom I quote above, would point out, America has been considerably less free for some groups throughout its existence. Spying on our citizenry goes back at least to the Civil War, with some of the grossest displays occurring during the peace and civil rights movements of the middle of the last century. Then, as now, those not in the cross hairs of our government sat idly by, secure in their belief that their leaders would not turn this power on them.

Only they can and will do this. Give them an inch and they will take a light year until nothing remains of those high ideas that we have claimed make us Americans. When that happens, what will you be then?


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