When Should Citizens Fear Their Government?

I recently bought a bumper sticker, “I love my country, but fear my government”. With shocking reality I realized I have more in common with the granola-eating, hemp-wearing, Volvo-driving hippies of the 1960’s counterculture than I do with the citizen conformists I thought I was like. The First Amendment guarantees our right to associate and assemble freely. However, I believe our government is now taking steps to significantly erode this freedom, among other civil liberties, at all levels, federal, state, and local.

Naomi Wolfe, author of “The End of America,” makes a compelling case for fascist America as she compares the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror” actions and passing of various legislative pieces to the dictatorships in 1930’s Europe. Personally, I have always been bothered by “The Department of Homeland Security”, domestic wiretapping and surveillance laws, and the overreaching methods of TSA at airports. I had a letter published in another newspaper about the “SS” like methods in use following 9/11 and thereafter found myself on TSA’s watch list. This seemed like more than a coincidence to me. Vigilance is important, but giving up liberties for the perception of safety is the biggest mistake anyone society can make.

In October 2008, for the first time ever, the United States Army stationed troops domestically. The guise of this deployment is to provide a federal response to assist with disasters, terrorism, and crowd control. During Katrina, the private security force “Blackwater” was enlisted to police and enforce martial law. Blackwater has forces stationed at the headwaters to the Great Lakes and on the California border. Each state allows the Governor to call on the National Guard to assist with disasters, or more importantly enforce martial law. In all of these instances our citizenry is allowing civil rights to erode in the name of perceived safety. Do you trust Blackwater?

When the G20 met in Pittsburgh my concern was raised again. Local police in battle regalia carried military assault weapons to use against American citizens. Of more concern Pittsburgh police used an audio cannon manufactured by American Technology Corporation, a San Diego-based company, to disperse protesters outside the G-20 Summit , the first time its LRAD series device has been used on civilians in the U.S. This weapon is funded to local police departments nationwide by grants from the Department of Homeland Security; thus there is no record of which police departments are in possession of this weapon, what training they have undergone, or ability to monitor their plans to deploy these weapons.

With the H1N1 virus creating an atmosphere of unknown possible outbreaks states have seized the opportunity to modify legislation to create quarantines, martial law, take property, and criminalize failure to follow department of health orders; Massachusetts’ Senate approved bill S.2028 (Pandemic Response Bill) is the most appalling example. Nationally, police and military have trained for roadside checkpoints, and the city of Boston has tested an RDIF tracking system for vaccinations. In October police chiefs endorsed spying on neighbors and the Department of Homeland Security and FBI issued circulars to business owners alerting them to watch for possible purchases of certain chemicals and report these purchases as possible terrorism.

Regardless of political view, the erosion of our civil liberties from both sides of the aisle and all levels of government is obvious. Slowly, we are becoming like the countries of Eastern Europe. Am I the only one that sees this resemblance? Sadly, we appear to be willingly giving up our civil liberties in the name of safety.