Friday, July 22, 2005

I was thinking...

This morning, while in the shower, I was thinking. The ever trustworthy and agenda-free (do you recognize sarcasm when you see it? For your sake, I hope so…) media passes along the current administration’s message that we are now in a “war on terror” because of the 9/11/01 attacks. Because of those attacks, we went into Afghanistan and we are now “at war” in Iraq. I get that. I’m a pretty bright girl. (Bright enough to notice all the places we're not fighting terrorism....but anyway...)

I also understand how we were attacked because the terrorists (terrorists = most overused word in the American lexicon) do not agree with (I daresay even hate) our way of life. They hate our freedoms…our brazen women who dare to leave the house with their heads in plain view of God and everybody (let alone the mortal sins of driving, voting and attending sporting events)…our public media….our free market economy and our super sized lifestyle. Clearly these things are evil and so, for our own good, we should die. I get that too. (Editor's note: this is not a balnket condemnation of Islam...just of people who kill other people.)

The 9/11 attacks were a rude awakening for us comfy Americans. We took our comfort for granted, forgetting how comfortable and vulnerable we were (and always will be). The recent attacks in London have served as a reminder to many Americans that you just never know when or how something like this will happen…we must always be on the lookout. I get that too.

But here’s what I don’t get…last night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to renew a new version of the Patriot Act that eliminates all but two of the previous sunset provisions (and if you don’t know what that means,
Google it). The Patriot Act places severe restrictions on the civil rights we, as Americans, hold so dear; the same rights that we are now at war to give other people. Its allowances echo those employed by the secret police who acted as the foot soldiers of communism, under which countless people simply disappeared and were never heard from again. The Patriot Act allows the government to access our library records, monitor our internet access, tap our phones and search our homes without ever having these actions approved by a judge to determine that the suspicions are, in fact, reasonable.

Now I remember how, right after 9/11, when people were afraid to fly, everybody said, “you have to fly anyway; you can’t live your life in fear…if you do that, the terrorists have won. (Sidebar: please don’t tell all the dead people or their friends and loved ones that that didn’t lose anything in those attacks.) The idea behind the whole “the terrorists will win” thing was that, if we allowed fear to control our actions, we would live in mass hysteria, the economy would collapse and their attack would have succeeded in causing massive damage to the American psyche, economy and the people themselves.

So this is my question: by renewing the Patriot Act and revalidating the limitations it places on our civil rights, aren’t we submitting to the aforementioned fear that means the terrorists have won? Have we just handed them victory on a silver platter?

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