The United States: At the Crossroad

When I was in college, back in the early 1980’s, I had a classmate who posted a cartoon on his door. It depicted a bedraggled couple with two children. They were standing in front of a prison cell with a sign that said, “Police State.” The caption read, “It sure looks safe in there.” Let me just say that I am a member of the Democratic Party and a supporter of President Obama. I look forward to seeing Hillary Clinton become the first woman President of the United States. With that said, I would like to voice some serious concerns that I have about the future of the United States of America.

Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have eagerly surrendered their Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search and seizure for the sake of national security. I find it perplexing that the Patriot Act passed the muster of the Supreme Court. The National Security Agency’s gathering of what is called “metadata,” alarms me. The creation of a secret court of law that reviews requests for gathering of this information brings to mind the Star Court of Henry VIII.

As Americans, we must cling to our Constitutional rights that protect us from unwarranted, arbitrary violations to our rights of privacy. There’s an old-fashioned saying, “Every man’s home is his castle.” Taking away the medieval, gender-biased nuances of this statement, I would translate it to say, “Every individual’s home, phone and online communications can not be investigated, or reviewed by legal authorities without a warrant from a public court of law.”

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows. I think Rand Paul is a thug and a cold-hearted opportunist, who seeks to manipulate a minority segment of the Republican Party in order to gain his political party’s nomination for the Presidential elections of 2016. His father is a well-documented racist and hate-monger, and apples don’t fall far from the tree. That being said, I support his class-action lawsuit against the NSA, and by proxy, against the Obama Administration.

Government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens in a thin wedge. We already live in an era, reminiscent of Venice in the 16th Century, when all one had to do was slip a person’s name into conveniently stationed boxes with the denouncement of treason. Do you realize that all you have to do is call the FBI, give a person’s name and address and denounce them as potential terrorists, and the full weight of the Justice Department will fall upon that individual’s head?

The Patriot Act is clearly unconstitutional. It is reminiscent of the Anti-Sedition Act that was passed under President Adams, America’s second President. At that time, the Supreme Court struck it down because it violated the provisions of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

America is at a crossroad. While there is an upwelling of progressive/liberal views on issues like distribution of wealth, government intervention to create jobs, to provide assistance to the poor for food, housing and healthcare; there is a complacency on the political left to look the other way when it comes to our Constitutional Rights for protection against search and seizure. I have mixed feelings about Edward Snowden. On one hand, he blew the whistle on the extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) level of intrusion into the private lives of American citizens. On the other hand, he took an oath of secrecy. To break an oath is a serious moral breach, and it’s hard for me to get passed that. At the same time, I must give him credit for shining a much-needed light on the extent of the NSA’s UNCONSTITUTIONAL intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, and our international allies. I feel much the same way about Bradley/Chelsea Manning. Can an individual be a traitor to their country, but at the same time be a hero to that same country? It’s a complex question, made even murkier by the Constitutional nuances at play in the tug of war between national security and the rights of individuals against unwarranted search and seizure of personal information.

Has the United States already crossed the line from democracy to fascist state? My personal opinion is that we at the crossroads. We can turn to the right and become “safe and secure” under the watchful eye of a state apparatus geared to provide security to communities and individuals who are under the potential threat of terrorism. Or we can adhere to the principles of the Founding Fathers who sought to protect the citizens of this country from unwarranted government intrusion into our homes and private lives.

Editorial Amendment (March 20, 2016) – Since penning this post, I have withdrawn my support for Hillary Clinton. I am now supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary in Maryland on April 26.  I have not seen one “Hillary for President” bumper sticker here in Annapolis; however, I’ve seen quite a few Bernie bumper stickers. I really hope he wins Maryland.  Maryland does not have a lot of delegates to vote in the National Convention; however, as a Marylander, it would do me proud to see my state go with the candidate who is best qualified for the office of President.

There are a number of reasons that I’ve decided to throw my hat in with Bernie Sanders. First and foremost, his overall political philosophy more closely overlaps with mine; that is, unabashed Liberalism- a belief that the State has a responsibility to its citizens to provide basic services such as education and healthcare.  His foreign policy positions also mirror my own: less intervention in the affairs of other countries, a reduction in the amount of tax dollars spent to support the industrial-military complex and an emphasis on international cooperation, diplomacy, rather than unilateral actions that ignore the opinions of our allies.  Also, Bernie Sanders is not in the pocket of multinational corporations that are responsible for the disturbing decline of America’s middle class and the ever increasing concentration of wealth into the hands of the privileged few. His desire to redistribute wealth via taxation from the upper two percent back into the hands of America’s poor and middle classes also seems like the only realistic remedy to income disparity.

Finally, I just have to say that I am sick and tired of Hillary Clinton.  Just as when she went against Obama back in 2008, she projects a sense of entitlement that I find obnoxious.  She seems to think that the Democratic nomination should be handed to her on a silver platter.  Her voting record as a Senator was rarely in accordance with my own beliefs, such as her support for the invasion of Iraq.  The unbridled arrogance that prevents her from admitting that her vote was a mistake earmarks her as a divisive and intransigent personality.  At this stage of the political process, the United States needs a leader who can compromise, work with a hostile Congress and accept advice from all quarters.  The political machine that she has inherited from her husband is also obnoxious to me.  She is eager to accept money from anybody with a checkbook and that includes the aforementioned multinational corporations that have led the labor force of this country down the primrose path of penury.  Hillary Rodham Clinton tries to portray herself as a political centrist, but in reality, she is just another political opportunist, little better than the Republicans that she is supposed to oppose.

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About Russell Smith

I was born at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. I find inspiration in the lives of so many people from Joan of Arc to Oscar Wilde. While my primary avocation is photography, I also enjoy philosophy, theology and most of all, history. My beloved wife, Robin Anne Smith, who passed away in 2013 is also an inspiration to me. My beloved partner, Dana is also a great support and inspiration to me. I'd be remiss if I did not mention my cats: Natasha, Maxwell, Tigger and Nigel.
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One Response to The United States: At the Crossroad

  1. Pingback: The Political Circus of 2016 | Random Thoughts of Russell Smith

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