When the Patriot Act was written and enacted in 2001, the purported goal was to help make America safe from foreign terrorist groups operating within this nation to cause physical and financial harm to the United States. However, since its writing, it has been used primarily to increase government surveillance against U.S. citizens who have grievances against the United States. Thanks to the infinitely malleable definition of “terrorism,” the appearance and identity of the citizens being targeted by the Patriot Act has shifted depending on the politics of the people in office.
In 2005, the ACLU, that shining beacon of selective defense of left-leaning liberties, wrote a letter to Senator Feinstein detailing what they considered to be blatant abuses of the Patriot Act. They said, “In its three and one-half years, the government has abused and misused the Patriot Act repeatedly, without apology or regret, and while seeking significant expansions of powers granted under the Patriot Act.” The abuses they cited are paraphrased here:
- Secretly searching the home of a muslim attorney wrongly suspected of involvement with Madrid bombings.
- Serving extremely coercive National Security Letters on ISP providers to collect intelligence on (innocent) U.S. citizens.
- Gagging the ISP provider and the ACLU who represented that ISP provider from speaking about the requests.
- Using legal process to harass innocent American muslims for their political and religious beliefs.
- Investigating crimes that are not terrorism offenses.
The ACLU then goes on in the letter to give details about each of these abuses. They conclude by asking Senator Feinstein to “revisit” the entire Patriot Act, and not just the provisions that were “sunsetting.” Specifically, they mentioned section 802, “the provision defining ‘domestic terrorism’ so broadly that it would encompass acts of civil disobedience that cannot be considered ‘terrorism.’” The optimism involved with asking a U.S. senator to investigate the functioning of a tool that the U.S. government created to expand its surveillance powers—with the hope that she or any senator would do something to fix it—it’s almost sweet, isn’t it?
Senators, congresspeople, and presidents are not typically in the business of deconstructing tools that increase the power they can wield.
Instead, they are interested in making sure that they are in the driver’s seat. Even those few rare souls who do actually get into office with the honest intent to reduce government power over people—and they do exist!—those exceptions to the rule are pitted against the full obstructive power of bureaucratic turfism and the shrieking of a hundred thousand alphabet agency careerists grinding their axes on the stone of public policy. Oh, for the sweet, sweet naïveté that was once ours, before the bank bailouts of 2008, the betrayal of Ron Paul by his own party, and the more recent attempts at nationwide incarceration of all citizens on the basis of “science.” Can you remember a day when you trusted one of the major parties in government? Such sweet foolishness.
Unfortunately, government tools created by the government and for the government are there to be used by the government and for the government’s purposes, and the people who scheme and conspire to get themselves into the seat of government power are well aware of their purposes and their uses.
Fast forward to 2021: the Patriot Act is still on the books. If anything, it has only grown stronger from use. Now, however, it is FOX News, that shining beacon of selective defense of right-leaning liberties, who is reporting on the threat of abuse of this made-to-be-abused law. The National School Boards Association is feeling the heat from parents for enforcing unconscionable government edicts on innocent schoolchildren. In response, they call out the battle cry of tyranny-lovers everywhere: “There ought to be a law! There ought to be some way to protect We the Government against those pesky We the People who don’t like what we are doing to their children. But wait, there is a law! Those God-fearing, law-abiding, angry parents—err, we mean, those scary domestic terrorists better look out!”
Well, my fellow God-fearing, law-abiding, angry parents, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be afraid of the Patriot Act scam. With the FOX guarding the henhouse, we have nothing to fear from the National School Boards Association or the federal powers they call upon. Just Vote Republican and It Will All Go Away!
Oh, wait. Scratch that. We tried that already. No, what we need is less Patriot Act and more patriots acting in the USA.
What is patriotism?
Isn’t it almost comical how the name of government acts are almost exactly opposite of the intended effect of the law? I have to say, it would be a lot funnier if the government wasn’t the one claiming a monopoly on violence. Government doublespeak is far older than 1984, but few examples are as perfect as the Patriot Act. It almost begs the question: what is a patriot?
According to the common definition in use today, patriotism is “love of and devotion to one’s country.” The first known use of the word in this sense was in 1716. However, the root of the word is much, much older. “Patriota” is a late latin word meaning “fellow-countrymen,” but it comes originally from the Greek word “patrios” meaning “of one’s fathers.”
The shifting definition of patriotism to mean “love of country” rather than “love of fathers” is consistent with the rise of the modern concept of a nation-state, which supplanted the previous meaning of the word “nation” as a group of people sharing a common ancestry and language.
Some people may not like the implication that patriotism is a form of tribalism. However, this concern goes away with the understanding that we are all ultimately descended from a common ancestry—whether Adam and Eve or some secular evolutionary variation on the theme.
Remember, please remember, that true patriotism is love of your fellow man and woman, not just love of a single corporate body or subset of the whole.
A true patriot will love the U.S. government as long as the U.S. government is good for his or her fellow man and woman. Likewise, a true patriot will resist the U.S. government as soon as the U.S. government begins harming his or her fellow man or woman. We the People are the nation. Acting as a nation, we choose a government in order to serve a specific goals for the good of We the People. Generally, this requires that the servants in government leave We the People alone to rule ourselves. This arrangement is consistent with true patriotism. The Patriot Act is an unconstitutional, indefensible attempt to turn this relationship on its head by giving the servants in the house (government) power and authority to pry into every personal affair of the owners of the house (We the People).
We cannot be surprised when the tool of tyranny is used as intended by the people who designed it, but we can blame ourselves for allowing the people who devised it to remain in their comfortable positions of power.