Freedoms lessen as watch list grows

by Jim Longworth

We’ve endured a lot under George Bush. First it was the stolen election of 2000. Then came the illegal invasion of Iraq. Next was denial of global warming and obstructing development of alternate sources of energy.

That was followed by leaving thousands of poor people stranded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the outing of a CIA operative. Those of us who recognize George Bush as the worst president in history could only hope that his final year in office would be less destructive. But this year may be the worst of W’s term, and that’s saying a lot. That’s because 2008 has seen our nation reach a number of dubious milestones: The death toll for US soldiers in Iraq reached 3,000. Gasoline prices reached $4 per gallon. The number of homes worth less than their mortgage balance reached 10 million, suggesting that we might not be far from a depression. And, as if all this isn’t bad enough, following a Senate vote to authorize wiretaps without warrants, the ACLU announced last week that the government watch list for terrorists had reached 1 million names. One of those names belonged to Drew Griffin, a correspondent for CNN. On May 19, Griffin did a series of reports that were critical of the Transportation Safety Administration. Since then he has been detained by airport officials 11 times because TSA had mysteriously and coincidentally tagged Griffin as a threat to security. Attorney James Robinson has experienced similar problems. A Democrat who served presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Robinson was told by authorities that he has the exact same name as someone who is suspected of terrorist leanings. Robinson filled out all of the required paperwork to have his name removed from the terrorist watch List, but so far, no response. That was three years ago. And then there’s the brother of my good friend who told me that he was being hassled by the Feds, who questioned his patriotism. What precipitated this? The man had collected enough names on petitions to run for office as a Libertarian. This is not the first time that our government has tagged innocent people as dangers to homeland security. Sen. Joe McCarthy blacklisted people as communists just because they refused to cooperate with his witch hunts. And Richard Nixon had his famous “enemies list,” although that was more about paranoia than actually violating the rights of citizens. But Bush’s growing terrorist watch list, and the government’s newfound power to wiretap without a warrant, are the icing on a poisonous cake that has been baking for seven years. We as Americans can withstand a lot of adversity, but we should never stand for our fundamental rights to be violated. What we have tolerated from the Bush clan is unparalleled in the history of free nations. The French stormed the Bastille for less, and our forefathers broke from England for less. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way we became a nation of sheep. We would never think of impeaching Bush, much less overthrowing the government. We just sit back and recite the brainless, far-right mantra: “If it means protecting our freedom, it’s worth giving up a few rights.” These are frightening times in which we live, but the threats to our freedom aren’t coming from foreign terrorists. Instead, they are coming from the White House and Congress. It was 232 years ago that we broke with one government to form a new one simply because we had no control over how our taxes were levied or spent. Thomas Jefferson suggested that such a break would be needed from time to time in order to preserve our freedoms. He even thought that the spilling of blood would be necessary. So I wonder what Jefferson would say about a nation in which its elected officials receive free health care, but it’s citizens don’t, in which the federal government enables large corporations to profit off the backs of the less fortunate, in which thousands of soldiers are sent to foreign lands to die to ensure those profits, in which any citizen can be detained, his home invaded and his reputation ruined without recourse. Hell, taxation without representation is the least of our worries these days. Some pundits refer to presidential elections as bloodless revolutions, because they can result in the peaceful, legal overthrow of one administration for another. The problem is that neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama offer any hope of substantive change from our current corrupted political system. That’s why the closest we may come to spilling blood is electing a radical thinker like Ralph Nader. Short of that, we’re in for four more years of abuses from our federal government. In the meantime, we must purge the terrorist watch list of everyone who isn’t a terrorist. But what are the odds of that happening? Probably about a million to one.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).