Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sometimes, I'm frankly terrified

More and more lately, I'm afraid to read the news. Which means I'm afraid to go on Facebook, because all of my friends are always posting news stories and debating them. And, of course, my blog reader, which is full of stories that upset me.

Like what?

Well, like this. A child has cancer. The doctors tell them it's terminal. The parents want a second opinion, and they find an alternative doctor who has cured a few cases of the same kind of cancer. They decide that some chance is better than no chance, so they want to go to this doctor. But a social worker comes along and tells them they have no choice but to go with the conventional treatment, or their child will be taken away from them. They undergo the conventional treatment, which fails and also makes their son sick (as most cancer treatments do). They are finally allowed to seek alternative treatment, which seems to be going well, but their son is too weakened from the conventional treatment and dies. Now the family has lost a child, and to add insult to injury, their medical bills are so staggering that they are now bankrupt and living out of their car.

Or that front yard garden thing awhile back. Woman plants vegetable garden in front yard, which she doesn't believe is against the law. She is threatened with fines and imprisonment.

And anything about raw milk. People are raided without warning for producing milk and not pasteurizing it. The producers are upfront about what they make. The customers are aware that the milk is not pasteurized -- that is why they want it, because they believe raw milk is healthier. But the milk is confiscated or destroyed and the producers are fined or imprisoned. A Wisconsin judge ruled that we do not have the right to grow and eat our own food. I see that as a Linkpretty basic freedom, so yeah, I'm scared all right.

I also don't like reading about the TSA. I haven't flown since the naked scanners and pat-downs started, but one of these days I might have to. And I hate the thought of having to choose between subjecting my children to radiation that may or may not be harmful, or teaching them that it's okay to be groped by an adult so long as it's one in authority -- that their personal boundaries are something imaginary that can be violated in some circumstances.

Meanwhile, I hear they're setting up random roadblocks for ID checks on highways now, just to make sure we all are who we say we are. Ditto for bus stations. We no longer have the freedom to move about the country without identifying ourselves. Most of us have nothing to hide ... but that isn't the point. I should not have to prove who I am in order to travel.

I hear most of the Republican candidates favor a universal ID card that we would have to carry with us at all times and produce upon request. Again, I don't think I should have to prove who I am just to leave my house. The burden of proof should be on my government, to prove that they need this information and that I am a threat.

Because I might be considered a threat. Among the things that may cause you to be suspected of terrorism are owning a gun with ammunition (which is a Constitutional right, though I don't exercise it), missing fingers (oh, so my Grampy could have been a terrorist now), or ... get this ... owning more than a week's worth of food at a time. Being prepared for an emergency, or even being the tiniest bit self-sustaining, is a sign we are not completely reliant on our nation's fragile infrastructure, and we should be. Because otherwise we might be terrorists.

Meanwhile, it looks like they're going to pass that horrible bill after all -- the one that says that citizens can be arrested by the military and held indefinitely without trial, provided we are suspected of terrorism. But since there is no trial, those who arrest us will not be required to prove that their suspicion of terrorism is in any way credible.

All around me, I see the government trying to control me: what I eat, who I talk to, where I go, how much I choose to disclose. And it's almost always in the name of safety: safety from food-borne illness, from unhealthy choices, and most of all, from terrorism. I am assured that the enemy would come and kill me in my bed if the government didn't trample all over my freedoms in order to protect me.

That isn't what bothers me the most, though.

What bothers me the most is hearing people defend this downward slide. They don't see it as a downward slide at all. It's just an x-ray -- just a front-yard garden -- just some milk -- just some identification. After all, why would you have anything to hide? Okay then, you don't need privacy.

And then, when they are forced to admit that yes, it is a terrible hassle, and boy, wouldn't it be easier to be able to make more choices -- they echo the safety argument. Where would we be without the government to tell us what is safe to eat? What would happen to children if the government weren't there to make their parents make the right decisions for them? And a little pat-down is nothing if it protects us from the evil terrorists who want to Kill Us in Our Beds.

People believe, of course, that terrorists actually want us all dead. That is not the case. They want to terrorize us -- to make us terrified. And we are terrified. We are so terrified we are willing to give up all of our freedoms -- the freedoms that make America a great place to live -- in order to be safe, or even to have the illusion of safety.

And they believe that the government, being benevolent, would never use any of these new powers to harm us. Oh, no, they would only ever use them to protect us. And since we're good, upstanding citizens, nothing bad will ever happen to us -- until we get a phone call from the wiretapped phone of someone who's connected to a terrorist, or we are Middle Eastern and try to fly on 9/11, or we have too many cans of corned beef hash in our basement. The fact that is vividly clear to me, which seems to be missed by everyone, is that power handed over to the government is power that is gone. We will not get that back. Years down the road, it may be Linkabused, but by that point it won't matter because these powers are no longer up for debate.

I guess I'm just not so trusting. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I have no idea what the higher-ups in the government have in mind next. I don't even know if they know. But I do know that seeing so much power leaving my hands and entering theirs frightens me. I would like to know that, if I should happen to disagree with a doctor about my child's care, or seek to produce my own food, or decline a vaccine someone thinks should be mandatory, I won't be interfered with. And if I raise the ire of someone in authority, I want to know that I have the opportunity for redress. If I get into trouble and have to flee my hometown on a bus without my ID, I'd like to know I can do that. I like to have a backup plan that doesn't involve moving to Brazil.

I thought in a free nation, that would never be in question. But lately, it is.


Maggie said...

I totally know what you mean! I'm literally shaking my head while reading this post. Our freedoms are being threatened. On a slightly less serious, but still ridiculous, level: my dad stacked wood for our fire in neat piles along our driveway. The neighbor called the cops, and my dad was threatened with a fine unless he re-stacked the wood BEHIND the house. Unbelievable.

The Sojourner said...

More than a WEEK'S worth of food? I'm a poor newlywed, and I'd be a terrorist suspect every Saturday afternoon. Is it like a normal thing to go shopping twice a week and not keep any staples on hand? (Shoot, I probably have a week's worth of food in my kitchen right now, and I haven't been shopping in 5 days.)

Sheila said...

I know -- I usually go every two weeks, so yeah, I have more than a week's worth! Of course the government doesn't know that about me yet ... but I'm sure they'll figure that out quick enough if they have anything else they don't like about me.

CatholicMommy said...

Yes, it is a frightening time to be an American citizen. I can only imagine what it must be like for those here on visas or even illegal immigrants. My husband and I have talked for the past couple years about moving to Canada (which for us would only be 100 miles or so), but so far have decided it's better to be close to our families. I don't know, though. The more of these absurd laws go through, the more tempting it is to leave.

Jeanmarie said...

I'm concerned about all the same things. I post about stuff like this on Facebook and Twitter all the time, which probably puts me on some terrorist watch list, and it seems like so many people just don't want to go there, just don't want to believe these things could be happening, and yet they are. Germany didn't go National Socialist (Nazi) overnight, but they went a little further one day, a little further the next, and few people objected, and the whole world then went through a lot of pain, suffering, and war before getting to a better place. I hope we wake up sooner.

Sheila said...

I have thought about fleeing the country, too, sometimes. But I don't think Canada would be that much better. We stay because we can't afford to go anywhere else, and because we've finally achieved some stability where we are. But if things got bad enough, we'd have to revisit the idea. They're scary enough now!

It's like boiling the frog. If you turn up the heat bit by bit, no one seems to notice! Luckily I'm seeing a lot of people becoming more aware, but even so -- will it be enough to change the direction of this country? The upcoming election will decide a lot, and I'm losing sleep over it already.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila, you know from my Igor blog that I've felt stuck living in the Philippines for the past few years. And although I've had enough philosophical wisdom (!) to know that moving isn't a magical answer to everyone's problems, I still cling a bit to the fantasy that the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence . . . or the ocean. =P

I have no idea how scary it is to be living in the US right now, but if you are thinking about moving (even in the most imaginative, rhetorical sense), then it must be serious. So I don't mean to belittle yours or any other American's concerns when I say that one thing I've learned is that no place is ideal and that we are where we are because God knows we can bloom there.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I spent a weekend on Corregidor island--one of the most embattled sites of the War in the Pacific and one of my favourite places in the universe. I thought about all the soldiers and nurses who had suffered and died there, so many of them younger than we are and just wanting to go home, and what a joke they might have thought it if I were to repeat the sentiments of my last paragraph to them. Yet it was in Corregidor that those thoughts came to me.

I imagine there was a point at which some of these soldiers and nurses realized they might never see home--or even peace time--again, and that their only source of peace would be knowing they had done their best. I'm not saying that you and other Americans are at this point; for your sake, I hope there is still time to fight for your liberties without being hauled away by a too-powerful government. Besides, watching an inexorable cultural down slide is depressing even for "disinterested" witnesses. I really hope that this gets turned around, but in the event it doesn't, there is the hard lesson of Corregidor.

(I'm such a bundle of joy these days, aye? And on Christmas Day, too! =P)

Sheila said...

Merry Christmas, Enbrethiliel! (Though I guess it isn't Christmas for you anymore? It's the morning of Boxing Day for my family. Makes it hard to make a Christmas phone call! I had to do it first thing in the morning to get them before they went to bed.)

I do not think we're at the point of fleeing the country yet. And if a few good political decisions get made in the next year or two (I hope to write about these soon), things may yet get better. I sure hope they do. What we've got now is completely unacceptable to me, but since here is where I live, I have to accept it or try to change it. So I plan to try to change it.

It's true, nowhere is perfect. And I don't have anywhere in mind where the grass is greener. When I think about leaving, I look around at other developed nations and see that they're just as bad. The undeveloped nations are tempting, given my love for agrarianism and other romances, but I do like having access to good medical care and cell coverage. Kind of spoiled that way. So I don't have a real "exit plan." I think it would have to get a lot worse before we considered that option.

For now, our attempt to bloom where we are planted means doing our best against all these dang weeds that keep springing up in the supposed land of the free. We've got a lot going for us, like an excellent Constitution (if only someone would ever read it!) and a concerned populace. So I don't think it is time to give up hope yet.

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