It did not begin in 2005, and it won't end this year either. For 55 years Americans have seen Presidents unconstitutionally start unprovoked wars against countries that posed no threat to us. The War on Drugs has been a War on the Bill of Rights for at least 25 years. Federal spying on innocent Americans has been made official by 2001's PATRIOT Act. Curtailing free speech through "campaign finance reform" is not a new phenomenon.
But 2005. Wow. What a year:
- The notion that there are any limits to the federal government's power, or any deference to individual freedom, were swept aside in Gonzales v. Raich, in which state laws allowing individuals to grow their own marijuana for personal medicinal use were swept aside.
- In Kelo v. New London, ordinary homeowners found out that the government can take their land to give to wealthy private developers.
- Neglecting common-sense solutions like beefed up border patrols, Congress addressed illegal immigration by imposing a National ID card, meaning American citizens will soon need permission just to move about in our own country.
- The Jose Padilla case affirmed that the President can lock up any American and throw away the key, without due process or a trial, with the War on Terrorism as an excuse - a war the government says will take decades.
- Congress defeats a bill that would have protected blogs and e-mail communication that criticize the government from regulation - further proof that we do not have freedom of the press in our country.
- Bush lobbies Congress to withdraw a ban on torture from its Defense appropriations bill.
- We found out that Bush used illegal chemical weapons in the assault on Fallujah in November of last year.
- The Katrina hurricane disaster saw the government actively obstruct private relief efforts, attempt to disarm and forcibly remove those who weathered the storm, and send survivors to virtual detainment camps.
This year, the veil has been lifted and the myth exposed. America is not the freest country in the world. Indeed, Americans no longer have any rights that the government is restrained by law, tradition, and culture to respect. Which is another way of saying that we have no rights at all.
Granted, much of this took a long time in developing. It isn't as if the Kelo family was the first to be victimized by eminent domain abuse. And not every assault on freedom and decency has gone smoothly: the order to disarm New Orleans was pretty much rescinded, and the President has to clarify that "we don't torture" even as he tries to remove language from a bill that would outlaw it. But the precedents have been set, and our leaders will try to get us accustomed to gun confiscations and "harsh methods" in interrogations as essential for our "safety."
The scariest part is, it all goes pretty much unnoticed. Aside from more intrusive security searches at airports and arenas, most people go on unaffected. And with good reason: what can we do?
And so, the NFL plays on fall Sundays, just as it did fifty years ago. Mariah Carey releases new videos, just as she did in the Clinton years. The Rolling Stones still play, and Hollywood continues to release movies. Cement still needs to be poured, software still gets upgraded, bills still have to be paid. Life in America goes on.
When Americans think about life under Communism, Fascism, or Nazism, we imagine that that "can't happen here." Because, you know, this is America. And there is some truth there: we are not Germans, so Nazism would look different here. Our history, culture, and institutions are not Italian. Or Spanish. Or Chilean. So what we recognize as fascism over there wouldn't quite look like it over here. The communist revolution came in the wake of a decrepit monarchy, so it can't be imposed here the same way.
But the abuse and terror of the Police State can happen here. No, our jobs, our entertainments, our "way of life," won't disappear overnight. There will still be some honest, good people in the armed forces and the police for a little while longer. Our elections will continue to look important and competitive. A lot of people will go on expressing their opinions without raising the State's eyebrows. There will be enough consumer choice to keep up the illusion that we are free.
But our government invades non-threatening countries, and then tortures and uses chemical weapons against their people. It spies on our Internet and banking activities. It imprisons us at the highest rate in the world. It steals land from the poor and lower middle class to give to the rich. It raids our homes for using drugs our own states said are legal. It's initiating a program to make us show a standardized ID card to go anywhere or do anything. It locks us up without cause. It investigates us for expressing our opinions.
What freedoms can we, as Americans, still take for granted? If not now, when should we say that the government has gone too far? What "line in the sand" must the government cross, that it hasn't already? And how will we know it when it the government does it?
The evidence is in, folks. We live in a police state. The longer we deny it, the worse it will become.