About 10 days ago, some obscure British diplomat opined that America was becoming a police state. This utterance brought on the usual expressions of outrage from Americans who have grown somewhat weary of the anti-American sentiments of foreign leftists.
Now that the rhetoric has died down a bit, can we take a second look at what this anti-American firebrand had to say? While it's almost certainly true that this British politician's statement had malicious, rather than benevolent, overtones, perhaps we should consider whether there might be some truth in his words. Let's take that "police state" charge and run with it for a few hundred words.
First, a definition: The Internet's dictionary.com website defines "police state" as: "A state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force."
Simple enough! All we have to do now is discern whether or not our beloved country exercises what might be called "rigid and oppressive controls" over our "social, economic and political life." I'm certainly not here to argue that America has become a police state in the image of any number of communist, fascist or theocratic regimes you could name. Let's just say that we need to look at this picture a bit more closely.
First, our social life: We begin early here, with zero-tolerance rules in our schools. Would you say that kicking a young girl out of school because her Tweetie Bird key chain is a weapon is just a bit rigid? How about expelling an Eagle Scout who inadvertently came to school with his Boy Scout ax in the trunk of his car after a Scout meeting the previous night?
As we move into adulthood, we face Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's expressed belief that the nuances of our sex lives ought to be subject to government regulation based on majority rule! In Santorum's America, you would presumably have to get your government's blessing before you became too adventurous with your mate in the privacy of your home. In some states – Alabama, for instance – the "improper" use of a battery-operated device could land you in the pokey!
And what of the sanctity of your home? In Covington, Ga., you are required by law to submit to government inspections of your home. They even measure the temperature inside your refrigerator! If you resist the inspection, you will be arrested and jailed while the government inspectors prowl through your stuff.
In government colleges and universities across the nation, students are subject to disciplinary action if they utter an "offensive" or "insensitive" thought.
We're running out of space ... so let's move on to our economic lives.
The level of taxation burdening the average American family in 2003 is higher than that imposed by the British Crown in pre-revolutionary war America. Many Americans work into the month of June without earning one single penny for themselves. We are forced to "contribute" almost 15 percent of our earnings into a bankrupt income redistribution /vote-buying scheme that is sold to us as a retirement and insurance plan. Our government goes to extreme measures to make it as difficult as possible for us to provide for the health-care needs of our families, preferring instead to build dependence on employers and government.
Our government can pry into your bank accounts without your knowledge or permission, and just recently tried to enact a program that would require your bank or credit union to notify the government in the event you engage in any economic activity that doesn't track with your past behavior.
Remember, also, the forfeiture regulations. We actually had a U.S. senator introduce legislation that, if it had become law, would have permitted any local or federal law enforcement officer to seize your cash if he happened to find you carrying more than 10 grand in an airport, bus station, interstate highway or most other public places. No arrest, no questions, no charges ... just take the money. The legislation failed, but police agencies seize cash from hapless citizens just the same.
We find evidence of government rigidity and oppression in our political lives too. Just try to get a third party on a ballot in almost any state. It's difficult to impossible. Gerrymandering voters into congressional districts shaped like drunken tapeworms denies many voters an effective voice in Congress. And let's not forget the Democrats' efforts in 2000 to wipe out the votes of Americans serving abroad in the uniform of our armed forces.
Finally, what about the definition's reference to "secret police?" Consider the IRS, the DEA and the ATF. The IRS, for instance, pays your neighbor or co-worker to spy on your economic and social behavior.
Space runs short, the examples do not. For further reading, I refer you to the Bush administration's Patriot Acts I and II.
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