When the unthinkable becomes a certainty, the inconceivable becomes a possibility

In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration joined with the conservative media to insure that the 900,000 people who signed petitions for his recall were blacklisted from government appointments and candidacies, and that those already in office were targeted with character assassination. In order to make it easier for right-wing zealots to harass petition signers in their homes and workplaces, the names and contact information for those 900,000 people were posted online. The fact that we can’t stop the fascists in Wisconsin makes it a bit harder to think that we can stand against the far more powerful fascists in D.C.

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…
The right of the people to be secure…against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or other infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…

Could any words be more comforting, yet who can you look at U.S. policy since 9/11 and think that America still believes them? Do you ever wonder what the government would do if you pissed it off, for example if you exercised your First Amendment rights by putting a list of inflammatory words and phrases on your blog?...

Ammonium Nitrate. Mail ricin. Aryan Nation. Assassinate Boehner. Jihad. Hate America. Terrorist. Bomb the capital. I’ll show them. Kill Alexander. Mail anthrax. C-4. Suitcase bomb. Christian Identity Movement. Target government agents. How to make firebombs. Death to America. Revenge bin Laden. Assassinate the president. No one will ever know. Death to abortionists. Bomb the Golden Gate. Urea nitrate. Al-Nusra. Death to the infidels. White supremacy. Timothy McVeigh. They’re watching us. We’ll show them. Al Qaeda. Shoot the survivors. Bomb abortion clinics. Strike during the World Series. We’re going to get even. Kill niggers. Jewish conspiracy. Dirty bomb. TNT. Gray area. Hold for ransom. Cover-up. Don’t volunteer information. Allahu Akbar! Bigger than 9/11. Off-the-books. Hidden assets. This means war. Target Americans. Racial superiority.. Refuse to answer questions. The Great Satan. Al-Zawahiri. Germ warfare. Mujahedeen. They’re asking for it. Go after liberals. Detonator. Kill Moslems. Taliban. Sharia. Spread infection. Plant a bug. They owe it to us. New Crusades. Martyr for Allah. Burn the Koran. Born to kill. Cyanide. Carbon monoxide. Bomb the Brooklyn Bridge. Target Christians. Sniffer. Hail, Hitler. Kill school children. Secret search. Photograph target. You can buy it all at Radio Shack. Bomb the Pentagon. They’re going to be sorry. Don’t tell anyone. Make them suffer. Contact me through the usual means. Frame him. Sneak-and-peek. Print counterfeit money. I’ll die before I talk. Bomb the embassy. Conspiracy. Secret society. Poison the water supply. Attack the subway. Bring down the Sears Tower. Dynamite. Nitro. Kill infiltrators. Nerve gas. Secret weapons’ cache. They deserve to die. Death to Israel. Secret code. Cayman Islands. Bomb churches.

...Would it tap your phone, hack your computer, knock on your door, audit your taxes, delete your blog, destroy your credit, question your neighbors, deny you a passport, empty your bank account, plant kiddie-porn on your hard drive, attach a GPS transmitter to your car, conduct a “sneak-and-peek,” put your name on a No-Fly List, lock you up for years without a hearing…? When the government operates in ever greater secrecy, unapologetically violates its own laws, and does its best to destroy the lives of those who call attention to its wrongdoing, all of the above are conceivable, so the remaining question is whom do they consider important enough to turn their wrath upon. Surely not me, but how can I be sure? If you were to put a long list of provocative words on your blog, would you be sure?

“Paranoia strikes deep
. Into your life it will creep
. It starts when you’re always afraid
. Step out of line, the man will come and take you away.” –Buffalo Springfield

We send our young people to die in foreign lands, not in defense of freedom at home—we’re destroying that ourselves—but in the hope that them being killed over there will somehow keep us from being killed over here, yet every time we violate another nation’s sovereignty by murdering its own people on their own soil, that nation’s hatred of us increases. How many hundreds of thousands of lives lost to “collateral damage” over how many decades is too much? How much spying on ourselves and our friends is too much? How much ignoring the sovereignty of other nations and treating them as our vassals is too much? Amnesty International says we’ve already passed the limit. What took them so long?

Our founders’ concept of America was about more than preserving lives and infrastructure; it was about upholding rights and liberties. I had known since the 1960s that my government spied on some of its citizens without just cause, but it was only with the passage of the ironically named “Patriot Act” that it occurred to me that my own name might appear on a government watch list if I Googled one too many of the wrong words; or wrote a blogpost that some analyst didn’t like; or sent money to PETA, Earth First!, or the Julian Assange Defense Fund.

I told myself that I was surely being paranoid, if only because it was laughable to think that even the most misguided analyst would consider me worthy of government scrutiny. Then came Edward Snowden, and I learned that WE’RE ALL under government scrutiny, if only to the extent that it stores personal information about us for the day on which it decides to take a closer look at any one of us, and who knows when or why that day might come? Now, I’ve learned that my government not only collects data on all of its own citizens, it collects data on millions upon millions of people in France, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and maybe other places that the Snowden documents will soon reveal.

I put a list of inflammatory words on my blog because I want my government to look at me when I say: Terrorists aren’t our gravest threat, you are, because only you can betray the promises made to us by the Founding Fathers. By declaring a state of everlasting war during which you set yourself above the Constitution and treat us all as potential enemies, you erect a wall between you and us so that it is no longer “We the people…” but you the powerful and we who cower at your feet in the hope that you won’t someday turn your jaundiced eye upon us. No matter how physically safe you make us, if you throw our founders' ideals in the garbage, where is the nobility that justifies our existence? Have you forgotten the words you put into your so-called Patriot Act...

“We must seek the guilty and not strike out against the innocent or we become like them who are without moral guidance or proper direction.”

...or were they just put there to placate the masses with false assurances?

My question to myself is whether I would do as Snowden did. The whole rest of his still young life is looking none too good, yet when he dies, he can die knowing that, with one idealistic act, he made his entire existence meaningful. Just as Johann Pachelbel justified his life with a four-minute piece of music, Snowden justified his by standing alone against the unholy strength and resolve of The Government of the United States of America, and I envy him that. I bear life better when I focus upon what one person can accomplish for good, yet I am daily discouraged to find that far more people labor in the cause of evil. What then is left for any person of nobility but to conclude that, if one must choose, it is better to lose by doing good than to win by doing evil? Better to be an Edward Snowden in the Moscow airport than a Barack Obama in the White House or a Scott Walker in the governor’s mansion.

I chose the above version of Pachebel’s Canon in D because it was performed by one person, a plain and simple man who appears unused to the limelight and uncomfortable in it, yet a man capable of such beauty that he gives me the courage to be alive, as did the writer of the Canon... as did the bravery of Edward Snowden.