What do you believe? Some would say this is a government full of violence and overreach. Is it still of the People, by The People and for the People? Do we now know we are commanded to obey obvious unconstitutional State and Federal laws at gunpoint? Has the protection from terrorism by use of preemptive strikes and massive surveillance caused our government to become the terrorists? Is the Government in fear of and have disdain for, the People? John Whitehead identifies key points in his writings to consider in this article.
“What started with the passing of the USA Patriot Act in the aftermath of 9/11 has snowballed into the abolition of any important protection against government overreach, corruption, and violence.
The citizenry’s unquestioning acceptance of whatever the government wishes in return for the phantom guarantee of protection and security has resulted in a culture that is militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of any idea upon which this nation was established.
Our constitutional liberties have been steadily eroded, undermined, and eviscerated against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, police violence, and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House, and the courts.
The Constitution’s protections, if they haven’t already been eviscerated, are on life support.
Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, the presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, government accountability and transparency, privacy, the press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, and representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more petty with each passing day.
Indeed, since the twin towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, the US government has posed a greater threat to our liberties than any terrorist, militant, or international power ever could.
While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the US government and its agents have easily killed ten times that number of civilians in the US and abroad since 9/11 through police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes, and profit-driven efforts to police the globe, sell weapons to foreign countries (which all too often end up in the hands of terrorists), and foment civil unrest.
The American people have been spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to various intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, refused due process, and killed as if they were enemy combatants.
We failed to realize that the United States government—the government that was meant to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”—has become the enemy of the people by allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, international wars, color-coded alerts, underwear bombers, and other carefully planned experiments in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation.
Over the past 240 years, this government has been so corrupt, greedy, power-hungry, and tyrannical that our constitutional republic has given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).
Do our agencies see citizens as customers and bits of data to be purchased, sold, and shared with its corporate partners?
Do our employees spy on their employers and treat them as though they have no right to privacy, especially at home?
This is a government that is setting the groundwork for using the public’s biomedical data to punish such “unacceptable” social habits. Surprisingly, a new government agency, HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA), will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo, and other devices as part of a proposal being considered by the Trump Administration.
This is a government that regularly imposes taxes without representation, and whose elected officials campaign for our votes only to forget us once they are in office.
This is a government made up of faceless technicians, petty bureaucrats, and vigilantes posing as policemen.
This is a government that railroads taxpayers into funding government services whose sole aim is to increase the corporate elite’s power and wealth.
This is a government—a warring empire—that forces its citizens to pay for wars in other countries that serve no reason other than to extend the military industrial complex’s scope.
This is a government that subjected its people to TSA scans, inspections, pat downs, and other humiliations, as well as VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus terminals by black-clad Darth Vader impersonators.
This is a government that uses fusion centers to monitor citizens’ movements, document their interactions, and archive their transactions. Fusion centers represent the joint monitoring efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement.
This is a government whose omnipresent surveillance has created a suspicious culture in which the presumption of evidence has been reversed, and Americans are presumed guilty unless and until they can demonstrate their innocence.
This is a government that treats its citizens as second-class citizens with no rights, and which works tirelessly to stigmatize and dehumanize everyone who does not suit the government’s vision for the nation.
This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones, and trespass laws to silence, censor, and marginalize Americans, as well as limit their right under the First Amendment to speak truth to power. Hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, and left-wing speech are among the types of speech the government considers dangerous enough to be red flagged and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation, prosecution, and outright elimination.
This is a government that passes laws that make it illegal for Americans to conduct religious studies at home, cultivate vegetables in their yards, and collect rainwater, among other things.
This is a government that keeps renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gives the president and the military unlimited power to arrest and detain Americans.
This is the government that imposed the Patriot Act on us, which opened the door to a slew of government violations and intrusions into our personal lives.
This is a government that has authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a standing army through programs that pass surplus military hardware to local and state police, despite dire warnings from those who created our country.
This is a government that has militarized America’s domestic police, arming them with military hardware like “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars, and aircraft,” among other things.
This is a government that has given police cover to shoot and kill innocent people simply for standing or acting in a certain way, or for carrying something—anything—that police could mistake as a gun, or for instilling some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with a real threat to their safety.
This is a government that has permitted private companies to enrich themselves at the cost of taxpayers by imprisoning citizens for life for nonviolent offenses. Thousands of citizens in the United States are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses such as stealing a hat, siphoning fuel from a vehicle, stealing equipment, and trying to cash a stolen check. To hold these nonviolent criminals in jail, it costs around $29,000 a year per prisoner. Meanwhile, corporate America has turned to American prisons for cheap labor.
This is a government that has developed a Constitution-free zone within 100 miles of the US border, allowing Border Patrol agents to search people’s houses, probe their bodies closely, and rifle through their belongings without a warrant. Inside that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free region, nearly 66 percent of Americans (2/3 of the US population, or 197.4 million people) now live.
This is a government that treats public school students like prisoners, implementing zero-tolerance measures that criminalize childish conduct and indoctrinating them with rote memorization and test-taking over studying, synthesizing, and critical thought.
This is a government that is in the red on every front: it spends far more than it earns (and takes from American taxpayers), and it borrows heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government running and finance its never-ending wars abroad. Meanwhile, the country’s aging infrastructure—railways, water pipes, ports, dams, bridges, airports, and roads—is increasingly deteriorating.
This is a government that uses asset forfeiture rules, speed traps, and red light cameras to enable police officers to benefit at the detriment of the people they are sworn to protect.
This is a government that subjected its citizens to TSA and VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets such as shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader lookalikes.
This is a government that employs fusion centers to track citizens’ movements, record their conversations, and catalog their transactions. Fusion centers represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement.
This is a government whose pervasive surveillance has created a suspect society in which the burden of proof has been shifted to the point where Americans are presumed guilty until and unless they can demonstrate their innocence.
This is a government that treats its citizens as second-class citizens with no rights and works tirelessly to stigmatize and dehumanize anyone and everyone who does not fit the government’s vision for this country.
This is a government that employs free speech zones, roving bubble zones, and trespass laws to silence, censor, and marginalize Americans, thereby limiting their First Amendment right to speak truth to power. The following types of speech are considered dangerous by the government and are subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation, prosecution, and outright elimination: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, and left-wing speech.
This is a government that passes laws criminalizing Americans for conducting religious studies at home, growing vegetables in their yards, and collecting rainwater.
This is a government that is determined to renew the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes the president and military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely.
This is the government that imposed the Patriot Act on us, paving the way for all manner of government abuses and intrusions into our privacy.
This is a government that, despite dire warnings from those who founded our country, has allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a standing army through surplus military hardware transfers to local and state police.
This is a government that has militarized the domestic police of the United States, arming them with “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars, and aircraft,” in addition to armored vehicles, sound cannons, and the like.
This is a government that has given police cover to shoot and kill unarmed individuals simply for standing in a certain way, or moving in a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police may misinterpret as a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in the mind of a police officer that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
This is a government that has enabled private corporations to amass wealth at the expense of taxpayers by imprisoning people for life for non-violent offenses. Thousands of people are serving life sentences in America for non-violent offenses such as stealing a jacket, siphoning gasoline from a truck, stealing tools, and attempting to cash a stolen check. It costs approximately $29,000 per year per inmate to house these nonviolent offenders. Meanwhile, American prisons have developed a reputation as a source of inexpensive labor for Corporate America.
This is a government that has established a Constitution-free zone around the United States within 100 miles of the border, allowing Border Patrol agents to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings without a warrant. Nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the United States’ population, 197.4 million people) now live within that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.
This is a government that treats public school students like inmates, enforcing zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior and indoctrinating them with instruction that prioritizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing, and critical thinking.
This is a government that is operating in the red on every front: it spends far more than it earns (and takes from American taxpayers), and it borrows heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to fund the government and its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s chronically neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports, and roads—is deteriorating rapidly.
This is a government that has empowered police departments to profit at the expense of those they are sworn to protect via asset forfeiture laws, speed traps, and red light cameras.
This is a government whose gun violence against unarmed citizens is a greater threat to the nation’s safety and security than any mass shooter. It is perpetrated by battlefield-trained SWAT teams, militarized police, and bureaucratic government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later. There are now more bureaucratic (non-military) government agents armed with advanced, lethal weapons than US Marines, according to reports.
This is a government that has allowed the presidency to devolve into a dictatorship that operates above and beyond the law regardless of which political party is in power.
This is a government that views dissidents, whistleblowers, and liberty activists as state enemies.
This is a government that has unleashed unspeakable atrocities on the world—including its own citizens—in recent decades in the name of global conquest, wealth accumulation, scientific experimentation, and technological advancements, all disguised as the greater good.
This is a government that allows its agents to violate laws with impunity, while ordinary citizens face the full force of the law.
This is a government that communicates through force. What is this forceful language? Militarization of the police, squads of rioters. Camouflage clothing, uniforms in black, vehicles with armor, arrests in large numbers. Pepper Spray, Tear Gas Searches Vests ma Unmanned aerial craft. Weapons of mass destruction. Weapons that are less than lethal are used with lethal force. Bullets made of rubber. Concussion Grenades that maim . Journalists have been arrested. Techniques for crowd control. Tactical intimidation. Accusations of contempt of a cop.
This is a government that justifies all forms of state tyranny and power grabs in the guise of national security, national crises, and national emergencies.
This is a government that exports violence throughout the world, with weapons being one of the most profitable exports. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter, has been selling violence to the rest of the world in order to sustain the military industrial complex and its endless wars abroad.
This is a government obsessed with extracting every last penny from the populace and appears unconcerned if fundamental liberties are trampled in the process.
This is a government that routinely violates the Constitution and tramples on citizens’ rights, eviscerating individual liberties in order to expand its own powers.
This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and without regard for the Constitution.
In other words, this is not a government that values, much less protects, liberty.
Thus, where do we stand?
As is customary, the initial step begins with “we the people.”
As John Whitehead demonstrates in his book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, our strength as a citizenry stems from our ability to agree on and stand united around certain non-negotiable freedom principles.