The Disease of Suspicion
How did I go to bed in the United States in the year 2002 and wake up in East Germany circa 1962? First, the United States Supreme Court handed George W. Bush the American presidency. Second, the Senate approved Bush's choice for Attorney General, John Ashcroft.
Call me paranoid, but I feel I am being watched. I know that I have not crossed over to the Twilight Zone, an H.G. Wells novel, or George Orwell's 1984, but I still have a creepy feeling. It's the same feeling I had back in fourth grade at St. Bernard's School, only worse. Back then, the boys were herded to the "boys room" in the basement to do our "business". One wall was lined with urinals and the opposite wall was lined with toilets. The toilets were separated with modesty panels but the door to each stall was removed. Sister Arthur Marie would stand between the urinals and toilets, admonishing us to hurry nature. Most St. Bernard's boys learned to hold any activity that required use of the toilets. It wasn't just that Sister was watching us; we had to watch her watch us. How do you "do your business" making eye contact with a nun? Those of us who used the urinals made sure we looked straight ahead. We didn't want Sister catching us looking at our own private parts.
The new Justice Department initiative, Operation TIPS—Terrorist Information and Prevention System—makes Sister Arthur Marie's monitoring look benign. Men who call themselves conservative plan to enlist citizen informants to spy on their friends, neighbors, and co-workers and report "suspicious activity." The information will be filed in databases that will be made available to federal, state, and local agencies. Under Bush and Ashcroft, Americans will live under a virtual strip-search and constant surveillance. Whatever happened to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I have always appreciated people on the cultural and political fringe. It makes it easier for the rest of us to deviate just a little bit more from the mainstream. Freedom is not just an abstract term; it is essential to individual growth and development. Freedom also ensures that a culture will not become stagnant. In nature, adaptations of living organisms are the products of natural selection. Genetic variations—such as size, shape, and coloration—that give individuals the best chance to survive and reproduce are passed on to subsequent generations. The United States flourishes because our liberty and freedom have also encouraged incredible personal, cultural, and economic diversity that we pass on not through our genes but though our interactions. Bush and Ashcroft would now infect those interactions with the disease of suspicion.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can not be protected by more security. They can only be protected by more freedom.
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