Saturday May 25, 2013
How Did We Get HereRick Ames for Salem-News.com
A few weeks ago, during the search for Christopher Dorner, we learned that a drone from ICE was used as an aid to locate him.
(SALEM) - This is a question that, at least in my life, tends to use the collective pronoun "we" instead of the singular "I." I say tends to, because probably like many of you, when I end up somewhere that I am to blame for putting myself, it's usually not a mystery how I arrived there. Most of the time, anyway. However, many times in the course of living my life, I find myself asking the above question exactly as I typed it for the title of this article. How did we get here.
Today the "here" has to do with the current discussion surrounding drones for domestic use. Last week we saw something which, at least in recent history, has been somewhat of a rarity: The correct use of the Senate filibuster. This was carried out by the Honorable Senator from Kentucky, Mr. Rand Paul. He spoke for something around 13 hours in an effort to wrangle from the Executive Branch an answer to the question "Will drones be used to kill American citizens on American soil?" As an American who, happens to live on American soil, this question interested me greatly, as I'm sure it did many others. After many hours, a short letter appeared from Eric Holder, Attorney General of The United States, where he stated that the president did not have Constitutional authority to kill an American citizen on American soil.
Wow, that's a relief.
While I do find that answer to be much better than one where he would claim that the President would have that power, I was left with the question with which I titled this article. How did we get here? Actually, when I first asked the question it had an expletive in it, and while I have sanitized it for a broader audience, I believe the original form was probably more appropriate given the subject.
I would like to think that Senator Paul was pure in his motives to stand up to the President and his appointee, but the cynical side of me is telling me that we've been had.
When exactly did any of us approve of the use of drones domestically? When was that debated? Where is the legislation specifically authorizing this intrusion into our lives? Where is the argument showing how it doesn't violate our Fourth Amendment rights to have drones watching us as we go about the business of our lives? Perhaps I missed something, perhaps I was not privvy to the debate between those who would use drones to watch us here in this country, and those who are against it. I do tend to ignore domestic media, so perhaps I just missed it. Well, I've looked around, and while my search was far from comprehensive, something as important as authorizing the government or its agents to watch us while we live our lives should have been easy to find. Well, it is my informed belief that this debate never took place, or if it did, it was never properly settled.
A few weeks ago, during the search for Christopher Dorner, we learned that a drone from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was used as an aid to locate him. The questions from the preceeding paragraph should have been asked at that time, but to my knowledge, they were not. Now, our collective attention spans have moved on to something else, but we still have in our memories somewhere, the knowledge that a drone was used here domestically, but it was for our safety, so that's probably okay.
You see, it is my belief that while we were all busy doing the things that we do to fill the time in our lives, something very sneaky occurred. While we were hearing the reports of Senator Paul and his filibuster, the actual agenda was being carried out. I personally don't believe that the goal, at least at this time, was ever to have drones used to execute U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. I believe the goal was simply to get people used to the idea of drones watching them, by introducing something so outrageous as summary executions carried out at the whim of the President, that when the real goal was given to us, we would gladly, or at least silently accept it. It appears to me that, if this was the mission, it was handily accomplished.
During his filibuster, Senator Paul was brought a snack by Senator Kirk from Illinois: An apple and a thermos full of tea. Does anyone remember the movie Mr. Smith goes to Washington? How many of us look back on the time when that movie was made with more than just a little nostalgia? How many of us look back on those days as "the good old days?" Was this symbolic? I'm willing to bet it was. Was it simply a gesture to show support in a manner that would harken back to those days? Or was it something more, maybe sinister is not the word, but perhaps manipulative? We all know, or should know that the use of Hollywood by the government for propaganda is nothing new, it's almost as old as Hollywood itself. How many people witnessed that gesture and thought of Jimmy Stewart, thought of the warm memories invoked by the nostalgia of the "good old days," and looked at Senators Paul and Kirk through the lense of that nostalgia? For a moment, I did, but then I noticed how the debate had shifted.
I believe that the debate between those who would have drones watching us, and those who are against them was never settled. I believe that the goal all along was simply to get us to accept the government surveilling us anytime and anywhere they like, as we go about our lives. I believe that now that the argument of whether or not it's okay to execute U.S. citizens with drones has supposedly been settled, that we have all been lulled to sleep by the answer to the ludicrous claim that there was a possibility of the government using drones to execute someone outside of due process.
Furthermore, it is also my belief that one day the debate will in fact be about whether or not drones may be used to carry out executions of U.S. Citizens, on U.S. soil. I believe this because the debate about drones being used for this purpose should absolutely never taken place since we never settled the one about them being used on us at all. It is there that the debate should have returned, or never left in the first place. What right does the government, supposedly our servant, supposedly empowered by our consent, have to watch us as we go about our lives? The answer was, is, and always should be, none.
But that's how this seems to work. Some call it the Hegelian Dialectic, others, like myself, simply call it manipulation, and I believe it is evil and wrong. Just as in the past with other issues, we will be subject to debates that will proceed from the relative point produced by the resolution to the last debate, instead of from the foundation, as it should. I believe that this is known as the slippery slope. For example, when gun control is debated, it is always from where we are now as a result of the laws that have been passed since the inception of the second amemdment, and not from the second amendment itself. Each successive debate stands on the shoulders of the resolution of the last, instead of being argued against the foundational standard. To argue this way is to gradually, and usually with little notice, watch one side slowly decay to the point that, eventually, there is nothing left for it to lose, and the other side wins by attrition.
So I believe it will be with the government's surveillance of us. At one time, we would not accept the government putting cameras up to watch the roads, but we went along with it because it was supposedly for safety reasons. At one time we would never have accepted the intrusions into our lives from the TSA as we travel by air, but then we were told it was for our safety, and now look at the treatment we accept in order to fly. So it will be with the drones. For now, they remain outside, in the air. What about when technology develops smaller and smaller ones? Even now there are drones in development that are the size of insects. At what point do we all say enough!?
Are you comfortable with them watching you as you drive? Well then, why not while you play with your children? How about having them keep an eye on your children when they're outside, and you can't be out there with them? What about in your living room, as you watch TV, or discuss things with your spouse? In the back yard while you sunbathe and try not to have tan lines? What about in your shower? Your bedroom? Where does it end?
It's for our own good, after all...Besides, the government is only comprised of people of the highest moral caliber who would never abuse their power or access, right?
It sort of makes me wonder what all that fiber optic TV line they've been installing is actually for, along with the televisions that now have cameras on them. Perhaps those will be used for our safety as well. Don't worry, Winston, you just keep on watching that telescreen, we'll take care of everything.
Rick Ames is a native Californian, who found his way north to Oregon about ten years ago. During his life, he has been, or currently is a student, a musician, mechanic, cashier, IT professional, car stereo installer, U.S. Marine, sailor, hobbyist machinist, occasional welder, general tinkerer, metal caster and fabricator, amateur rock hound, amateur astronomer, guitarist, singer, writer, speaker. His most important roles, however, are those of a husband of almost 20 years to a most wonderful and intelligent woman, and father to two very special children.
Despite having no formal training in either journalism, or writing, Rick credits his writing ability not only to the fact that he is a voracious reader, but also in no small part to the way his Asperger's Syndrome allows him to view the world around him. While the latter may sound like a disability to some, it has allowed Rick to have a unique perspective on many issues. While his condition has a very real impact in how he's able to function socially, and to a lesser extent, professionally, it has also helped him to remain somewhat unaffected by the peer pressure that seems to lull far too many people into a place where they don't question the world around them. It is through the gifts of writing, and his so- called disability that Rick hopes to impact the world around him, and perhaps help to bring about positive change for the world his, and all of our, children will one day inherit.
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