Could It Happen Here? Is It Happeneing Here?
Former President Jimmy Carter has called the current Administration to task over human rights abuses abroad, including the assassination of suspected terrorists, some of whom are American citizens. His comments come amidst a sea of stories about domestic predator drones, civil strife in Anaheim, and the Department of Homeland Security preparing for civil unrest, among other items of relevance. Add to these the continued push for legislation regulating the free flow of information over the internet or allowing for domestic spying, and one must ask, ‘Is it happening here?’
Frontal assaults on personal freedom are usually repelled with east. However, movement on all fronts to regulate, track, profile and control American citizens leaves few, if any, opportunities for those alarmed by any or all of these developments to effective oppose them. Whether intentionally coordinated or not, the trend, post-9/11, is toward the sacrifice of liberty for security. However, Ben Franklin warned, giving up essential liberty for security is an act that won’t provide the latter while showing that those who do so do not deserve the former.
While some of the stories above are not, by themselves, unusual, their confluence points to a trend. Yes, civil unrest often follows controversial police shootings; counter-terrorist operations have proceeded for decades; and Americans have a decidedly mixed track record abroad (as it does at home) in the field of civil liberties. (Police shootings may trigger civil unrest, for example; does the response today involve the use of more force, sooner, and with less regard for the harm to be inflicted thereby than was the case a generation ago?) The question we must ask is whether the above are merely isolated incidents or are they part of a broader pattern of systemic disregard of human rights, domestically as well as overseas?
As citizens, we are morally responsible for the individuals we elect to govern us. If we see stories like these and do not fact-check them to know the truth of the matter, and if we find that systematic abuse of power is happening, then we either must replace those who have failed us, or by an inaction that equals acceptance, partake in their crimes. For so long as we have reasonable free elections and choices among both major- and minor-party (or independent) candidates, we continue to bear this responsibility. This should be on the minds of every voter as the fall elections approach, because, like all people in all times and in all places, over the long run, we get the government that we deserve.