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25 May 2005

An article in Monday's Christian Science Monitor says,

If you pull out a camera on a New Jersey train, you will have company - law enforcement company. If you size up a shot on the New York subway, you'll probably be questioned by security and told to keep the lens cap tightly on. Even if you plan to snap some innocuous bank building from a public sidewalk, you might find guards telling you it's not allowed.

Is a possible ban on the taking of photographs in public places going to join the host of other "freedoms" we have given up in our fear of terrorism?

In the weeks after 9/11 one of the most frightening things that I heard was a man-on-the-street interview with someone who said that of course we had to be willing to give up some freedoms in order to protect this country.

I hadn't yet read the Benjamin Franklin quote, but it was widely quoted as our freedoms began to erode, one by one:

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

The Patriot Act was passed before members of Congress even got a chance to read it.  There was no discussion.  It was pushed through so fast it would make your head spin.   It gave sweeping powers to state and federal law-enforcement officials to combat terrorism. The problem is that under these new powers every American citizen is a possible suspect of terrorism.

We have given up more of our privacy in the name of homeland security than ever before.  We allow our government to conduct its business in secret, with no need to explain anything to the people because they have convinced us that it is all done in the name of homeland security.

"Homeland security" has become the buzzword for anything anybody in a position of authority wants to do.  It's why it's such a nightmare to fly anywhere these days (I still want to know why you have to remove your shoes in the Sacramento airport, but not the Chicago airport!  Maybe that's changed by now, but the last time I went through O'Hare, nobody was required to remove shoes.)

Big Brother is watching all of us all the time and we are letting him get away with it because we are all terrified all the time.  We have not learned how to live with terrorism in this country, the way people do in the rest of the world. 

Terrorists don't need to commit another act of destruction on the level of the World Trade Center.  They have already reduced this country to a bunch of terrified citizens who are willing to give up all that has made this country "the land of the free" on the off chance that somebody might try something again.   Somewhere.

Once individual liberty and freedom are given up, it is extremely difficult to regain.  We call ourselves "the land of the free," but we no longer are.

We are wandering around the world trying to give foreign nations the freedom that we no longer have. 

We no longer trust our print media.  We no longer trust our officials.  We blindly follow along like sheep, shuffling forward in long lines through endless metal dectors, and pat-down searches and when we grumble, someone mutters "homeland security" and we know that if we complain, we'll get put on somebody's list somewhere--or hauled off to be searched and interrogated for hours by security personnel (as good friends of mine had happen to them recently).

We allow airport personnel to open and inspect our baggage, checking out our very personal items in case we are trying to hide something in our grannie panties.   We allow our credit records and library records to be accessed without a warrant.   We've allowed looser regulations on local authorities when it comes to spying on its citizens.

We have already given up freedom of religion, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, right to speedy and public trial (unless you're Michael Jackson, of course) and no cruel and unusual punishment, all in the name of Homeland Security.

Do we feel any safer?  The more freedom an individual gives up, the more insecure he becomes.  We've completely surrendered our safety to people who won't tell us what they're really doing, and we assume that they are taking care of us because they tell us that they are, as long as we do everything they tell us to do.

Now it appears that if I want to take a picture of the Golden Gate bridge, someone might come along and tell me to keep the lens cap on my camera in the interest of homeland security.

Where does it all end?

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While I still can....


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