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.
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 pretty 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 abused, 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.