I was going to write on a more ethical/religious topic concerning law and freedom, but the recent controversies over the totalitarian turn of the US government under a so-called liberal prompt me to write something more political.
Edward Snowden deserves a medal for standing up for constitutional freedoms and the rule of laws as overseen by an independent judiciary. While the recent revelations of the extent of US government activities may appear “shocking,” they were wholly predictable upon the near-unanimous support given to the Patriot Act. Back when the Republicans (with the support of the Democrats!) used fear to remove important safe-guards of liberty, one was branded a radical and unrealistic to oppose the Patriot Act. Yet it is now painfully clear where that act of cowardice has brought us, and the civil libertarians look a little bit prophetic in hindsight.
I think, however, the general public lack of reaction against the use of drones for extra-judicial killings means we almost deserve the stripping of our own rights; if we cannot stand up for the rights of others and for our own principles when they do not directly affect us, then with what right can we complain when the same precedents are used at home? It highlights both our complacency over our freedoms and our hypocrisy in applying them. We’re willing to invade foreign countries and kill random individuals in the name of security–denying them theirs to protect our own.
I hope this scandal causes the public to realize what it is the original terrorists hated and have succeeded in stripping from us–and to reconfirm our collective commitment to:
–The Rule of Law, with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a jury, even if this means releasing some who might be guilty.
–The commitment to legal rather than martial means to apprehend suspects, even in other countries
–the commitment to treating all humans as equally valuable, even when not a citizen of one’s own “liberal” nation
–A commitment to the need for transparency in all forms of governance: including warrants and public trials
–A commitment to no use of torture or extra-judicial killing of any kind.
So much for “change” of an implied good kind. The current president is defending and continuing the terrible policies of his predecessor in all the things which really matter. I hope Mr. Snowden’s act of courage might wake up those who take our liberties for granted, and start noisily demanding we return to the principles which Bush and Obama have destroyed in the name of defending them.
If this is what happens to a “liberal” president, I hate to see what will happen under a security hawk. Even government-friendly Europe is alarmed…
Tillich made a depressing comment that liberalism was always doomed to fail, being fatally wounded by both its own apathy and by the false appeal of totalitarianism. We need to work to prove him wrong. Yay for the ACLU! A very small step can be taken here.