“You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
So says Barack Obama, in defense of his administration’s policy of monitoring the phone records of private citizens, just because he can.
This is like saying: “You can only have so much liberty.” How is this any different from a dictatorship, in principle?
A dictator allows lots of “freedom.” Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany and other dictatorships throughout history allowed plenty of freedom—to those who supported the regime. Some of them even allow elections—so long as the outcome is not in question. Plenty of “rights” exist in dictatorships—to those who comply with the ruling authorities.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul, one of the few Americans who appears to be awake on this issue, puts it well. He’s stating what should be the obvious. Paul says the government should be using a specific warrant, not a general warrant, to get the data required to prevent terrorist attacks, arguing the Fourth Amendment prevents unreasonable search and seizure. “The Founding Fathers didn’t want that,” said Senator Paul. “I think the American people are with me.”
This last remains to be seen. The question is: How much are Americans willing to take before they rise up and say, “No more”?
In family therapy for alcoholics, we’re trained to confront people in denial about the alcohol or substance abuse taking place in their families. One of the things we say to clients is, “How long are you willing to take this? How long before you stop tolerating this? Do you think the problem will go away if you say (or think) nothing about it?”
The sickness in dysfunctional families—or societies—isn’t a failure to do the impossible. It’s a failure to call things what they are. It’s a refusal to name aloud what is plainly true…because of fear, and sometimes self-loathing.
It’s the same principle whether you’re talking about a wider social issue, or something right in your face at home. It’s very hard to get the attention of most people, unfortunately. It’s because they get used to the irrationality, the dysfunction or the abuse. Once the “new normal” sets in, it takes an awful lot of destruction to awaken them from their psychological slumber.
Fear is the greatest enemy in human nature. People become so afraid that they lose sight of what’s most important. For example, most people (rationally) dislike and fear terrorism. In their fear, they allow the government to do pretty much whatever it wants. Yet this raises the obvious question: Why should we fear terrorism in the first place? Because it can lead to loss of life and freedom. But if our own government begins to threaten our freedoms, then what’s the whole point of worrying about terrorism in the first place?
The incredible arrogance of the Obama administration is matched by the equally incredible naiveté of most of the American people. Most Americans simply assume that our own government cannot and will never hurt us. There’s no critical thinking, not so long as those checks or automatic deposits keep coming from the government, and so long as the government keeps the private economy rolling (which a majority of Americans mistakenly believe the government is capable of doing.)
The only way to overcome a disastrous family situation, such as having an alcoholic eat away at your happiness, is to develop a sense of principle. If this sense of principle could talk, it would say, “I do not have to live this way. I won’t live this way.”
Until or unless the victims of the abuser start to think and feel—and subsequently act on this feeling—there’s not going to be any stop to it.
Principle is exactly what most politicians decry. They call it “extremism” and irrational. Of course they would call it that. It’s a sense of conviction and competence that power hungry politicians fear the most. They lack conviction themselves, and they must discourage it in others in order to rule them.
Since 9/11, the exucse for government growth has been … 9/11. George W. Bush did it before Obama, and Obama roundly criticized Bush for it. Now Obama takes it to levels never dreamed of by Bush, and acts entitled to do so. 9/11 has given recent presidents free reign to do pretty much whatever they wish. They do so in the name of “protecting freedom,” but—as Senator Paul points out—it’s one of our most basic, cherished freedoms that they’re trampling on in order to allegedly protect freedom.
That’s what Obama is saying. You cannot be free 100 percent of the time. So when are those exceptions to freedom to take place, and on whose authority? His authority, obviously.
America was supposed to be a nation of objective laws, not a nation of power-wielding men (and women). We’re crossing over that line, more glaringly than ever before. If the American people continue to yawn, blank out or merely look the other way as these scandals mount, they’re basically telling their abusive and dysfunctional leaders: “We don’t care. Do what you want.”
Obama happily complies.
His only response to this scandal is to punish officials in the NSA who leaked this information. So far as I can tell, the only voice of principled opposition on this matter in Washington DC is Senator Paul. It’s so terribly sad, and so painful to watch.
Obama is not the brilliant magician many people think he is, but I will give him one thing: He’s very sophisticated, psychologically speaking. He understands how to exploit the weakest and worst in human nature. And he’s getting away with it, only because a compliant population lets him.