Fourth of July thoughts
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005, 07:38 AM
Fourth of July!
I consider myself a patriot. I think of myself as the kind of person who, if the situation required it, would answer my country’s call to arms in order to defend its self. I watch movies like “National Treasure,” and feel something stir inside me when I see a document like the Declaration of Independence return to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I whole heartedly support our armed forces, and pray for their quick return home. And I voice my opinion about my government when I think that it is doing things that are wrong.
This July Fourth has been a bit of downer for me. It could just be that I’m in a difficult place in my life right now, and that the circumstances of my life are affecting my outlook on national holidays. That aside, I really am not happy with my country at the moment. For the first time in my life I feel embarrasses, and almost ashamed, of my country and the things we are doing in the world. While I am no Michael More, and do not think that there is a government conspiracy around every turn, these last few weeks we have witnessed a number of blows to the rights and privileges that we as Americans have had protected for the longest time. From the halls of Congress, to the Office of the President, and even the Supreme Court, we have seen individual and states rights thrown to the wind in favor of more power to the federal government and to the executive branch.
Thomas Jefferson one said, “We have only to endure this tyranny for a short time…and then the nation will right her self once more.” He said this in an address to his fellow members of the Wig party, during a time when a post war torn nation underwent many changes that he saw as contradictory to the very constitution he had signed only years before. But he believed that America would come to her senses, and return to the straight and narrow path.
I see today that America is engaged in a war that no one really understands, not even the members of Congress who have created committees to find a way to end it. I see a President who not only has put our armed forces at risk in a world policing action that has no justification for its taking place (where are the weapons of mass destruction), but who refuses to accept the resignation of his Secretary of state (twice) in spite of the fact the congress has emphatically stated that he should step down due to pour decisions regarding the “war on terror.” And since when has it been acceptable for a sovereign nation to invade another (Afghanistan), in the name of going to war with an abstract idea like terrorism. The war on terror is becoming very much like the war on drugs, a political point to rally behind that has no way of ever being one because ideas do not die out when you bomb and destroy buildings; in fact they only propagate and spread as you try to stamp them out with harsh methods.
I see a supreme court that has chosen to deny states the rights to decide whether or not people suffering from debilitating and terminal conditions that put them in pain can have access to state controlled and medically monitored marijuana. Instead the divided court has a majority ruling to let Federal jurisdiction take precedence, telling states that they have no right to control the comers or medical treatments that these their citizens see fit to allow. I thought one of the reasons the US is such an amazing place is that if you want to live in a state where you smoke in restaurants you can, and if you choose not to then there are states that you can also live in and still enjoy your rights as an American. The supreme court also ruled that if a privately owed developing company can show that their proposal is to the “greater good of the community,” then the local municipality has the authority, under the emanate domain laws, to force people out of their homes so that this privately owned business can tare down that section of homes to build a new development. I guess that the individual property owners have no rights to keep the land that they have paid taxes on, and must find another place to live anytime an entrepreneur can prove that their land can be better used if the local, state, or federal government can be convinced of how they can improve it to the betterment of the community.
Congress is has before it a number of elements from the Patriot Act that are up for renewal, and many are considering actually renewing these pieces of legislation. Some of these clauses include allowing the FBI to walk into libraries and gather information about what individuals have been checking out and reading, without the need for a subpoena. There are also clauses that allow the FBI to issue phone taps, obtain personal records, and hold people on “suspicion of terrorist activities,” with out a court order or warrant. And one of the biggest parts of the Patriot Act up for grabs is the ability for the CIA or FBI to hold a person, indefinitely, without trial, on suspicion of being a terrorist, even if that person is an American Citizen. This is in clear violation of Habeas Corpus laws that have been in effect since the time of the Civil war, and were enacted under President Lincoln
Unlike some of my peers in high school, I paid attention in my government class. When I look at my country today, I cringe and feel my stomach churn when I see what we are doing to the next generation of Americans. I hear my generation complain about the mess that we have to clean up after the Regan years, but my generation will not be in places of power or influence to deal with those issues. The plight of my generation will be to deal with the extreme activism, and the international reputation we have been left, that are a result of pour decisions of the current white house, the current Supreme Court, and the current Congress.
I have said this to my friends for a while, and I might as well put it out there on the web. The sixties saw a time of public outrage and demonstration against the way the government was handling many things during its time. By in large, the hippy movement was a peaceful one because the Hippies still believed that their government was able to change if the people just spoke their mind. However, with civil liberties being restricted, with states rights being restricted, and with a government in place that has showed no remorse for removing these freedoms, I wonder if the up and coming generation will feel that same sentiment. It is my feeling that they will feel much more angry, and much more helpless to change anything, then the generation of the sixties hippy and anti war movements. America needs to look to other countries where the people do not feel empowered to enact change, and learn a thing or two. Our own Declaration of Independence states that when a people see that their government is no longer acting in their best interests, it is their obligation, not their right, to stand up and do what they can to change things. We are headed for dark times in America, and I hope that we wake up to it before it is too late.
But, then again, perhaps this too will pass. I am hoping that Jefferson was right, and that we only need to endure this ternary for a little while longer.