Monday, January 23, 2006


We are walking a dangerous path. We may just show the world how to walk from liberty to anarchy in a few easy paces. Our freedoms, our civil liberties, are being nibbled away, a little bit at a time, like a mouse attacks a freshly-baked cake sitting on a kitchen counter, taking a little bite here and a little bite there, until the cake crumbles and resembles anything but what it was supposed to be.

The trouble is, all of these nibbles are supposed to be for a good reason. How do we know? The president says so! He has permitted wiretapping without a warrant because he has to fight the War against Terror with ease and alacricy. We have to syncronize our Driver's Licenses to a federal standard to help identify those who want to harm us. And now, they need access to all of Google's records to help chase down those predators that prey on children!

How can anyone speak out against these things? We all recognize a danger from terrorism. Didn't we watch those buildings crumble in a mighty blast of dirt and smoke and debris? We recognize the fact that it could happen again, so we all have to be extra-vigilant.

And who in their right mind would deny authorities the right to pursue child molesters? Each day we read in the papers of some little child being mishandled, or an account of an adult traumatized by such an experience. And some of these predators kill their victims, leaving death and havoc in their wake. It is a parent's nightmare, just the thought of one of these animals getting near a child.

But what is freedom worth, really? None of us have complete freedom. We have to license our dogs and our cars, we have to pay our taxes and mortgage leins, we have to live within the laws of our area, or pay the consequences.

Sometimes we read of a person who has gotten so sick of this restriction that he has decided to chuck it all and move to a desert island or a shack in the mountains and live by his own rules. Gaughin was one of them, fleeing to Tahini, spending his existence painting flower-decked native girls.

Most of us cannot do that. We can only live in our own limited existences, obeying the laws, the ordinances, the customs....and clinging to the freedoms that are allowed us. This is the "life of quiet desperation" we have read about.

But, wait a minute. Things aren't that mundane! We have created a large country without restrictions between the states. You need a passport to get from Paris to Berlin, but you can travel in the United States from California to Maine or hop on a plane for Hawaii, without a passport. This in itself is an accomplishment.

What's more, we have created a country that, up until now at least, formed an umbrella over all religions. Whatever you believe, whichever church you attend, whether you bow down before God or deny his existence, you are welcome here. And, as an American, you are duty bound to respect your neighbor's faith, his race, his color, his sexual orientation.

Now comes the Bush Administration, with its base of Christian Right Republicans. Everything held dear in America, its blessed civil liberties, its equal existence for all, rich or poor, gay or straight, its insistence upon wiping out poverty, its Separation of Church and State....all has been attacked and nibbled away. As faith-based charities attempt to feed the multitude of poor, and well known charities like the Salvation Army suffer financial hardship, the ranks of America's poor are growing in number. And many Republicans glue themselves to the radio broadcasts of a multi-divorced, drug-addicted pundit with a continual diatribe of hatred.

Not only are the poor growing in number, but they are forced to listen to a rose-colored report on how wonderful things are in the Land of the Free. While families suffer job losses, high health costs, and penury, they are told that the stock market is booming and the Growth rate is marvelous! Well and good, but who is looking after the working family....especially the one with no work, or the one losing a pension, or the one losing its health insurance?

Now we discover that American citizens are having their phones tapped, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Of course, the president has told us that only "certain" citizens have been tapped, and only calls to or from overseas. But, who is to ascertain that this willy-nilly phone tapping isn't abused, that it will not be used for political purposes, or to listen in to reporters, or to harass ordinary citizens?

And since the War on Terror will not end this year, or next year, or ever...does this mean that Americans will continually live with the knowledge that their phones can be tapped? Remember, tapping not only takes in the people making the call, but those receiving the call. Wrong numbers, party invitations, casual gossping calls.....anything and everything.

It couldn't happen, you say! Many times before now clandestine operations have threatened the freedom of Americans. Richard Nixon and his "Enemy's List" is a case in point. And, before anyone accuses us of partisanship, let's remember that the CIA embarked upon the goal of assassinating Fidel during the Kennedy years. With or without permission, I do not know. Then, too, there was J. Edgar Hoover, with his "gossip files". Imperialist behavior by authorities is not new, but it should not be approved.

Freedom is a fragile thing. Hitler could enjoy enormous popularity among the German public for reasons the populace thought were benign. Remember, Germany had financial woes. Inflation was eating up their money. Times were bad. So, Hitler was looked upon as a godsend, and if he hated the money-making Jewish segment of the population, folks didn't care. They just wanted someone to bring their lives back to normal, to have a little money in their pockets.

When it turned into a quagmire of hatred, aggression and War, the Germans were stunned. "We didn't know!", they said of the Holocaust, even those who watched the cattle cars stuffed with human families rolling by.

Fear of terrorism may be a good thing, to a point. But remember, chances are you will not die in a terrorist attack. Chances are that no one you know or love will be killed in a terrorist attack. Statistics show that most of us die of diseases, heart trouble and cancer leading the pack. And thousands of us die in automobile accidents. Add this to the other calamities and your chances of dying because of terror are mighty, mighty slim.

You can't ignore the possibility, and we all must be alert, but there is no sense in letting the fear of terror give permission for the nibbling of our civil rights, our freedoms.

So, GOOGLE, that phenonemally successful company is taking on the U.S. Government by refusing to hand over the private information on U.S. citizens. I don't blame them. The fact that a person visits a certain website, by design or just out of curiosity, does not create a sexual pervert. If the government wants to battle sexual perversion, let them do it with past behavior of individuals, rap sheets, public information. But exploring the computer habits of all Americans, exposing their privacy to Heaven knows what agencies, and possibly using information gathered for political or other reasons is not the way to go. And using the excuse of furthering law enforcement goals by invading the privacy of all individuals is not American.

So, today, I salute Google! Kudoes! Break out the champagne and set out the canapes! Let's nibble on olives or a chunk of cheese, but allow no further nibbling on Freedom!