Race, religion, national origin. Justice for all.
Not quite. I hate to be a downer on the day the nation gives thanks. But let’s not fall for the myth that all is swell. Since The Reckoning of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been losing hard-fought, long-established rights in the name of protecting the nation against terrorism. We were supposed to have become closer since the attacks, but, in fact, we have become more divided and suspicious of one another.
Civil liberties have become the casualty in this war. The Constitution’s guarantees of justice and protection from government intrusion are now considered dispensable commodities to be traded for a false sense of security.
Checks and balances no longer exist. Requiring law enforcement to seek permission from a judge for searches and seizures of suspected terrorists no longer applies. Having U.S. citizens face the government’s charges and have a lawyer is a moot issue — all the president has to do is call those suspects “enemy combatants,” stick them in a military prison and the government doesn’t have to file official charges.
The government even has eased restrictions to allow the FBI to infiltrate houses of worship. You know the agents won’t be going after Christians who espouse anti-government rhetoric. Remember Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing?
No, the new loose rules are focused on Muslim-Americans at mosques. Officials can sugarcoat the legal language any way they please, but we all know that innocent Arab-Americans are being harassed. And that harassment spills over to other groups, too, such as Hispanics who may look Middle Eastern.
We’re supposed to put our trust in the judgment of Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose tactics, including his call for government to train 1 million “volunteers” to snitch on others in the name of defending America from terrorism, give us little comfort. After The Reckoning, what good citizen wouldn’t report a suspicious activity?
The Terrorism Information and Prevention System, known as TIPS, smacked of the type of government-blessed spying that totalitarian regimes use to remain in power and quash dissent.
The Patriot Act already has assaulted our constitutional guarantees of privacy. Now the creation of the new, mammoth Department of Homeland Security promises to keep secret information that the public should have to ensure that we are indeed safe.
What happens if a nuclear power plant or a private chemical plant keeps having accidents, spills that could be dangerous to the people who live around those facilities? What happens if a worker at such a plant wants to report wrongdoing by superiors?
The public wouldn’t be able to scrutinize what happened or why it continues to happen. People wouldn’t be able to know if the government had indeed ensured that the problems were fixed. Safety plans would be privileged information for the government’s eyes only.
To insult us even more, the homeland-security legislation also turned into a corporate protection act for GOP-friendly pharmaceutical companies, such as Eli Lilly, for ingredients it included in vaccines that might be harmful to children. It would shield the company from lawsuits. What type of quality control can we expect now?
Sixty-two percent recently told the Gallup Poll that violating basic civil liberties is unacceptable in this domestic “war” against terrorism. We can be thankful that people are waking up to the un-American assaults on our civil liberties that began after 9-11. Our rights must never be negotiable — not if the American spirit is to win this war against injustice.