Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.
– Edward Snowden
Today’s post will focus on the political environment I’d like to see, not in my ideal fantasy world, but within the context of the system we have today.
As things stand, we’re being bombarded relentlessly about how divided we are as a people and how these divisions have become insurmountable. By constantly focusing on genuinely divisive social issues, the media creates a self-fulfilling prophesy, which merely serves to divide us further. Allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another redirects much of our political energy, and ensures we will never unite and face the real existential threats to the nation.
The truth of the matter is this. We as Americans have a legacy that consists of certain key principles enshrined in our Constitution. The most important of these are the first ten amendments to our founding document, known as the Bill of Rights. These simple yet timeless passages inform us we posses certain liberties that should never be infringed upon no matter what emotional state the public or politicians happen to be in at any given moment. They protect us not just from the government, but also from the periodic unrestrained, authoritarian passions of each other.
While the Bill of Rights represents a core set of principles the nation was founded upon, they are very much in jeopardy in practice. The 4th Amendment has more or less vanished into thin air as a result of the hysteria generated from two failed government crusades, the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror.” Both of these “wars” have served little purpose other than to manufacture enough fear so the general public accepts a creeping unconstitutional surveillance state. With the right to privacy sufficiently weakened, we now see certain factions going after the most important right of all, the right to free speech. If free speech ends up being lost, the American experiment will be over.
As such, the current state of affairs presents both an existential threat and a fascinating opportunity. Since the Bill of Rights itself is under attack by authoritarian factions on both the “right” and the “left,” we are gifted with a critical issue that can hopefully unite the majority of us. If we can’t agree that these core civil liberties represent a fundamental part of the American experiment, then America no longer exists. Indeed, the defining feature of a real patriot isn’t flag waving and cheerleading televised invasions, but a tireless commitment to the civil liberties expressed in our Constitution. There aren’t many things in life worth dying for, but that’s one of them.
A healthy political environment would consist of a vast majority of the U.S. population being vigorously protective of the Bill of Rights and the civil liberties enshrined in them. This would force politicians of all stripes to instinctively proclaim their undying allegiance to such ideals, thus making it unthinkable for any of them to pass laws or advocate for executive orders that infringe upon these rights. The present environment is pretty much the exact opposite. Large segments of the population have been so bombarded with endless fear-mongering they’ve been conditioned to beg politicians to do away with civil liberties in order to provide security. This is a rejection of our true heritage and is the most unpatriotic thing a U.S. citizen can do.
We currently reside in a country where the consensus position of most establishment politicians from both the Republican and Democratic cults is to push for a reduction of civil liberties in the name of safety. This has become particularly perverse following our nationwide mental breakdown during the post 9/11 period, and it continues to get worse and worse. It’s no coincidence that things have so fundamentally deteriorated in our society and economy since that gruesome attack. As a people, we turned our backs on our heritage and assumed the role of fearful subjects, as opposed to engaged, active citizens. Politicians have taken full advantage of our deranged submissiveness, and the results are all around us. We now live in a predatory, unaccountable oligarchy.
This isn’t to say issues beyond civil liberties are unimportant or should be discarded. What I’m saying is we need to take a step back as a people, assuming we still want to function as a nation, and look at our first principles. It’s imperative that we focus at least some energy on the really big picture items that should unite us all. We need to make civil liberties a suicidal line for any politician to cross, which would put them on notice that we will not be so easily manipulated. Once we’ve reaffirmed consensus on some core principles, all the other issues can and should be vigorously debated by various factions and political parties.
As things stand today, nothing seems to unite us, and mainstream politicians in both major parties tend to exhibit widespread authoritarian tendencies. We saw it with Bush, Obama and now Trump. The only way to break the cycle is for us to unite on certain core issues and say enough is enough.
Our post-9/11 cultural zeitgeist has been centered around a short-sighted willingness to give up civil liberties in return for assurances of safety. This is not how a free, honorable and dynamic people live. We need to completely turn this paradigm on its head, and we need to do it now. Any people who reject freedom to embrace a deranged and fearful worldview, will suffer the consequences of their actions in due course. You end up in much the same place we find ourselves today, with a dysfunctional and combative society where everyday life gets increasingly tedious and oppressive year after year.
Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party believe in civil liberties. Politicians from both sides continue to ceaselessly sell us on why we should willingly give up more and more of our basic rights. We’re being conditioned to accept this situation as a given, and simultaneously encouraged to bicker amongst ourselves about every other issue under the sun. Since a lot of the other stuff is genuinely divisive, we end up spending all our time arguing with one another, while civil liberties continue to be dismantled.
As such, it is my suggestion that we all take a step back and ask ourselves what it means to be an American. If the vast majority of us cannot agree that The Bill of Rights is fundamental to citizenship, then the country is already lost. If that’s the case, we need to accept there isn’t much that unites us anymore, thus the divisions will simply get worse and worse until one political gang takes total authoritarian control over Washington D.C., or we break off into separate political entities. Either one of those scenarios, or both, is the likely outcome should we not find a way to come together as a people around something as fundamentally important as constitutional civil liberties.
So that’s my rallying cry. These United States cannot stay together if we’re no longer united in our founding principles. If cohesiveness on such a core issue is no longer there, we’re nothing more than a giant blob of culturally disconnected subjects toiling within in an imperial oligarchy. I’d like to think we’re better than that.