Wednesday, February 6, 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS - February 7, 2008

The accomplishments of the American Experiment are fading everywhere in the world. Not only in the US, but in every country where it has been taken up as a model. Even the Brits, who live with the illusion that we got it from them, are eroding the belief that a rigid adherence to a principled code of governmental restraint is less costly in human values than the temptation to yield to the exigencies of the moment, notably in the seductive search for absolute security. It is traditional in US to quote B. Franklin as the author of the adage that those who are willing to abandon the strictures of Liberty in the pursuit of security are unlikely to achieve much of either. I had always heard it attributed to Tom Paine. But the doctrine was always credited to the French Enlightenment in my high school, where Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and others were the thinkers cited. In the days of the Cold War, Stalin’s USSR always attempted to excuse their police state by pointing to the assault on their attempt at Socialism by the powerful capitalist countries in the West but we, living on the supposed doctrine of rigid adherence to Liberty at whatever risk, scorned their alibis. But today the Cheney administration makes the same false claim for its new police state, and there is no longer an iconic libertarian state anywhere in the world to shame others into following the Torch of the Enlightenment. In Parliament this week, the mob spirit that lurks in the shadows of every constitutional government has risen to say that the interchange between citizens and their elected representatives should no longer carry a shield against police surveillance, even secret bugging. In this situation, the smarmy advocates of the police state use the supposed sanctity of the supposedly privileged relationship to tempt their quarries into behaving like free men & women instead of hiding their opinions from the thought police. They thus make the Constitution a bait for the unwary, a means of depriving them of the caution they should always exercise when they are under the gaze of the unprincipled, whether the agents of the Tsar, the special branch or W’s CIA.

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