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The Insidious American Police State

But our leaders mean well.

by Barnabas
September 17, 2003

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The Insidious American Police State_Barnabas-But our leaders mean well.
In a three-point presidential plan that critics are already dubbing Patriot Act II, Mr. Bush is seeking broad new authority to allow federal agents without the approval of a judge or even a federal prosecutor to demand private records and compel testimony.
— New York Times, September 14, 2003
Several years ago a quotable lady, who happens to be our oldest daughter, said with an edge on her voice, “I’m getting sick and tired of people who mean well.”

Until this week, it never occurred to me to apply the term “police state” to my own country. It popped into my head unbidden on Sunday, as I was reading the New York Times report quoted in the epigraph. Then I discovered, in a hasty search, hundreds of websites with the words “police state” in their title, most of them expressing outrage at the road taken by the national government since September, 2001. I was late catching on.

Coincidentally, on the same day the Times ran a column by Thomas Friedman on the “unintended consequences” that have grown out of the Israeli-Arab conflict. That phrase has almost universal application when things go wrong. Unintended evil consequences are not evil in origin, but they’re just as evil as intended ones to those on the receiving end.

Last week, with Friedman, I was sick and tired of the unintended consequences that the Israelis and Palestinians are inflicting on themselves and their world. This week, I am sick and tired of the unintended consequences inflicted on America by an insidious progress toward a full-blown police state. I really don’t care how well-meaning the President is in this case. Unintended evil consequences are just as evil as intended ones.

If you think I am guilty of overspeak, what else but *police state* does justice to the proposed “broad new authority” given the police to raid our homes and examine our records on the basis of no authority higher than their own? That is what a police state is and does. It prostitutes the noble profession of the police and disgraces their name.

Noble? Yes. I was teaching religious education to young teen-agers, and as an exercise I asked them to tell me who it is that God resembles. One of the girls said, “God is like a policeman.”

“How is God like a policeman?” I asked.

“A policeman will die for you,” she answered.

But in a police state, the policeman doesn’t die for you. You are more likely to die for him.

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Sal Rosken from New York writes:
September 17, 2003
Barnabas most certainly was never actually in a terrorist attack. Being in one does change one's perspective.

In 1993, sitting on the 26th Floor of the World Trade Center, I had my view of the world changed when a bomb destroyed my place of business and disrupted my life for almost a full year. As a result of Sept. 11, 2001 I attended the funerals of many former business associates and colleagues who were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. At some of these funerals there were only personal mementoes of the deceased, their bodies were never recovered.

Many of the complaints that Barnabas raises, while legitimate concerns, were the same complaints raised when the government sought to increase it's powers to rid the country of the corrupting influence of organized crime. At one point you could not put up a building in New York without dealing with some very shady characters with bent noses and funny nicknames. The increased government powers passed to provide law enforcement with greater surveillance capabilities and the RICO act have done away with most of that corruption. In spite of the ACLU's very strong objections then, today most reasonable people applaud the steps taken to rid the Mafia from it's position of strength.

There can and certainly will be abuses of these increased powers, but as long as government officials are elected and have term limits, the likelihood of the sort of abuses that would certify, in Barnabas' words, the US as a police state, remains remote.

Whenever one hears the type of rhetoric espoused by Barnabas in his most recent column, one need only play a tape of the two World Trade Center Towers collapsing, followed by several of the tapes issued by our friends Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri to realize, the government needs more, not fewer, tools to combat this threat.

When George W. Bush announces that he is going to cancel the 2004 elections and declare himself President for Life then I will agree with Barnabas that the US has reached a police state. Until then, I'm playing my video tapes and am going to do everything I can to get the bastards who did it and want to do more. Period.

Jonathan Wilson from Chicago writes:
September 18, 2003
Barnabas has nailed it on the head. In the outrage after Pearl Harbor, Japanese expatriates lawfully living in the United States, including American citizens, were herded into concentration camps. We are now embarrassed by that blot on our history. Broad new police powers that directly contravene the Constitution of the United States will, at best, become a new embarrassment. At the worst, people thirty years from now won't know enough to be embarrassed, or even have the right. Sal Rosken needs to read Barnabas's article in the light of what America must continue to be, or the terrorists will have won, and the memorials to September 11 will become tributes to the last citizens in America who died free.

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