The Insidious American Police State
But our leaders mean well.
September 17, 2003
In a three-point presidential plan that critics are already dubbing Patriot Act II, Mr. Bush is seeking broad new authority to allow federal agents without the approval of a judge or even a federal prosecutor to demand private records and compel testimony.Several years ago a quotable lady, who happens to be our oldest daughter, said with an edge on her voice, “I’m getting sick and tired of people who mean well.”
Until this week, it never occurred to me to apply the term “police state” to my own country. It popped into my head unbidden on Sunday, as I was reading the New York Times report quoted in the epigraph. Then I discovered, in a hasty search, hundreds of websites with the words “police state” in their title, most of them expressing outrage at the road taken by the national government since September, 2001. I was late catching on.
Coincidentally, on the same day the Times ran a column by Thomas Friedman on the “unintended consequences” that have grown out of the Israeli-Arab conflict. That phrase has almost universal application when things go wrong. Unintended evil consequences are not evil in origin, but they’re just as evil as intended ones to those on the receiving end.
Last week, with Friedman, I was sick and tired of the unintended consequences that the Israelis and Palestinians are inflicting on themselves and their world. This week, I am sick and tired of the unintended consequences inflicted on America by an insidious progress toward a full-blown police state. I really don’t care how well-meaning the President is in this case. Unintended evil consequences are just as evil as intended ones.
If you think I am guilty of overspeak, what else but *police state* does justice to the proposed “broad new authority” given the police to raid our homes and examine our records on the basis of no authority higher than their own? That is what a police state is and does. It prostitutes the noble profession of the police and disgraces their name.
Noble? Yes. I was teaching religious education to young teen-agers, and as an exercise I asked them to tell me who it is that God resembles. One of the girls said, “God is like a policeman.”
“How is God like a policeman?” I asked.
“A policeman will die for you,” she answered.
But in a police state, the policeman doesn’t die for you. You are more likely to die for him.
About the Author:
Barnabas was born free.
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