Two Headlines from the Land That Has Lost the Sense of the Common Good

Democrats Love Gov’t Surveillance — As Long As It’s Obama, Not Bush…
Boehner: NSA Leaker a ‘Traitor’…

Both are from Drudge, who is dutifully attempting to use the NSA scandal as a way to attack Dems for Team Righty, while trying to ignore the fact that Team Righty wants the leaker dead since they are as supportive of the Obama Spy State as Obama is.

The purpose of the State is *supposed* to be the defense of the common good.  The reality is that American state, at any rate is devolving into a vast apparatus of surveillance and oppression of its citizens in the name of Safety.  Between the two of them, Bush and Obama (and their parties) have created all the infrastructure any tyrant will ever need to turn the US into an Orwellian police state:

What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants — to use power oppressively and unjustly — to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could’ve scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we’re counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after. Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant’s checklist that they’ve provided their successors:

  • A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review
  • The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial
  • Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027
  • Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan’s blessing
  • Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret — and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations
  • The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven’t been convicted of anything
  • A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order
Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?
I am not saying no one would resist a tyrant. Perhaps Congress would assert itself. Perhaps the people would rise up. Then again, perhaps it would be too late by the time the abuses were evident. (America has had horrific abuses of power in the past under weaker executives who were less empowered by technology; and numerous other countries haven’t recognized tyrants until it was too late.) Part of the problem is how much the Bush-Obama paradigm permits the executive to do in secret. Take that paradigm, add another successful 9/11-style attack, even after many years of very little terrorism, and who knows what would happen?
Part of the way We the People can make ourselves smart about this stuff is to stop buying into the dumb game of imagining that That Tribe Over There are the Bad Guys and our Tribal Elders care about us and oppose this stuff.
No.  It’s not Left vs. Right on this.  It’s Our Ruling Class vs. the rest of us.
Obama *and* Bush created this surveilance state.
Feinstein *and* Boehner want Snowden hunted down and executed for treason.
MSNBC *and* FOX side with the surveillance state against Greenwald and Snowden.
When FOX furrows its brow and pretends to fret about Obama spying on you while enthusiastically nodding as Ralph Peters calls for the death of the guy who told you about this; when MSNBC puts the coda on a Greenwald interview with the magisterial remark that “This is not wrong.  This is US policy”; when the NY Times softens its scolding of Obama while hiding its contempt for Greenwald as a traitorous blasphemer of the God King, what ties all this stuff together is really pretty simple: given a choice between being on the side of money, power, invitations to White House dinners and so forth, and being on the side of those who will bear the brunt of IRS audits, indefinite detainments and summary executions once fallen man really starts playing with these shiny new toys, the media opt for money, power and perks.  So they fake dudgeon for a while and divert you and me in to the normal fruitless arguments about left vs. right rather than really confront the fact that it is our Ruling Class vs. the rest of us.  Because  they cling in vanity to the memory of having once been watchdogs, but in concern for the preservation of their own skins they hope to be faithful lapdogs of the Ruling Class.
Chesterton remarked:
If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.
I can find no more succinct account of why the American people have tolerated the erection of the Bush/Obama Surveillance State.  We want to be kept safe from the consequences of our own sins and from responsibility while we pursue our pleasures.  So we’ve asked Caesar to take over yet another task typically handled by God: seeing all that we do, hearing all that we say, and judging it.  In payment, Caesar customarily demands that we begin addressing him as “Divine Caesar”.  The first Christians declined, and kicked off a revolution that, with time, put Caesar in his place and brought the liberty of Christ to the world.  We still have that option.  But we have to face the possibility that, as with them, it may cost us our lives.
We begin that revolution, of course, in the heart and mind by listening to St Paul:
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
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