HONOLULU, March 8, 2013 – Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster drama over domestic use of drones may have drawn the scorn of his colleagues for rocking the collective ship of state, but the ongoing escalation of the Global War On Terror has stripped so many of America’s civil protections that it is questionable whether we still live in a free society. America’s founders created the Senate to be a deliberative chamber for legislation, not an echo chamber for the policy whims of the President. If anything, Paul should be an example for Democrats and Republicans to follow.
Traditionally, the difference between the United States and her enemies abroad has always been the fact that America is a civilizing, moral force. The tip of America’s military spear has always pointed out toward external aggressors, never in towards Americans. There are special benefits and legal protections that come with being an American citizen. America does not shake down, rough up, indefinitely detain without trial or “disappear” her own citizens – those are things that typify the kind of oppressive world system we resisted during the Cold War.
The idea of Americans losing their constitutional protections and right to due process simply because they are accused of a crime or suspected of terrorist involvement is repulsive to the long held traditions of our republic. America’s founders were well aware that in the oppressive regimes they fled from in Europe, everyone who unconditionally agreed with the ruling establishment’s policy was considered a “patriot” and everyone who dissented was blacklisted as a radical extremist or terrorist.
In times of peace and times of war, tyrants the world over always use the threat of banditry or foreign intrigue as a pretext to squash political dissidents and to intimidate populations into submission. During the constitutional convention of 1787, James Madison warned “The means of defense against foreign danger have always been the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
The post-9/11 policy paradigm has subjected the United States to a perpetual state of emergency, not only in matters of national security but in all issues, domestic and foreign alike. Everything is a crisis these days requiring unconditional agreement and no debate in Congress, everything is disaster waiting to happen if Americans do not submit to it, every Sunday morning interview of D.C. politicians is always a revelation of a new emergency that requires more government power and less private freedom.
Senator Rand Paul, like his father and former Congressman Ron Paul is quickly becoming a voice of irritation to Beltway media and têtes politiques alike because America has lost its revolutionary ideals of freedom. It’s considered “statesmanly” and “good leadership” to allow the hungry beast of government to approach near-Roman Empire like levels of statism with more power and more dispensation to do whatever it wants to the American citizen who can barely pay his rent and just wants to be left alone in peace.
Ironically, even at the height of the Roman Empire’s power citizens were afforded more due process than what Americans face today. In the Bible’s historical record of Acts 16:16-40, the apostles Paul and Silas were imprisoned and severely beaten in the colony of Philippi for preaching the Gospel message. When Paul made known to the city officials that he was a Roman citizen and was not afforded due process, the historical Scripture records the magistrates were alarmed and gushed to appease Paul and Silas after releasing them from prison.
Mistreating a Roman citizen without due process carried such severe penalties and psychological terror that even the corrupt Philippi officials sought to curry favor with Paul and Silas. Today, American citizens are killed abroad by drones and are harassed at home and our elected officials are nowhere near repentant or afraid of the implications of mistreating our own people. In this regard, the United States has effectively become a government more absurd and more tyrannical than Ancient Rome.
This is not a partisan issue. Americans should be very concerned about the entrenching belief that government should have the power to kill, abuse or detain anyone – citizen or foreigner alike – without due process or possibility of appeal. As Edward R. Murrow famously said during the age of McCarthyism, “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law … We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”
Democrats and Republicans need to stop thinking so “establishment” and consider that one day the tools of the government they deem to be so helpful may one day be used by a tyrannical president against them both. We need less apparatchik minded senators like John McCain and more activist senators like Rand Paul in both parties of Congress.
If Democrats are truly the party of social justice, they must return to the values of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and uphold the rights of the people against a power hungry and misguided bureaucracy. If Republicans are truly the party of national security, they ought to earnestly seek to make our nation secure against the dangers of transforming the kind of oppressive regime we fought so hard in the Cold War to defeat.
The Iron Curtain was destroyed in 1990. Let’s not rebuild it in the United States in 2013.
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