Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Frightened Nation Is A Dead One

Here are a couple things to think about (courtesy of George Washington at Naked Capitalism
“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”- Plato
“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”- U.S. President James Madison
“Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”                          - Hermann Goering, Nazi leader.
An easily frightened nation like ours will be impossible to keep free. It's almost as though the last administration used this quote from Goering as the basis of its terror policy. And the current administration seems loath to abandon the policy.

When did Americans stop caring about whether its government spied on it, or about basic constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights? When did the desire for false security become more important than liberty and justice?

Perhaps it has always been this way, and we've spent so much time talking about liberty and justice that we've never really stopped to think about whether we actually have it, or deserve it. America has a long and sordid history of abusing the rights of its own citizens after whipping them up into a froth of frenzied paranoia. The internment of over 120,000 American citizens during WWII, the blacklists and purges of the McCarthy era, Jim Crow, the War on Americans Who Use Drugs, racial profiling, and the current War on Islam are just some of the more recent examples.

So maybe asking "what happened to us?" is the wrong question. Maybe we should ask ourselves why we  ever thought we were any better than every other country on earth-that we were so courageous that we would not be bullied and terrorized by our own government into giving up the freedom and justice we supposedly value more than anything.

Because deep down, we really aren't any different from the people of Germany in the 1930's.

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