Don’t Tread on Me

Maybe I’ve allowed paranoia to set in.  Or maybe I’ve just begun to shed my naiveté.

The horrendous attacks on the Boston Marathon were devastating.  But the chilling events surrounding the ensuing identification of, and manhunt for, the perpetrators have been equally upsetting.

And they’ve caused me to consider the very real possibility that the parents of Dzhokar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev might be right; they may well have been set up.  I don’t doubt the two young men are, in fact, responsible for the bombing.  But I wonder if they have served as pawns in a series of events, the consequences of which could further erode our civil liberties.

Hear me out; I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist and I’ve never bought into the nonsensical B.S. manufactured by conspiracy theorists.  But this situation feels different, though it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s a conscious conspiracy.  And it may not be a conspiracy at all; it may just be a complex set of accidents, circumstances in which events just fall into place in such a way as to put democracy as we know it in peril.

I’ll not try to connect all the dots; I’ll just present some of the issues and questions that have given rise to  my paranoia…if that’s what it is.

  • The unparalleled governmental shutdown of an entire city may have set a precedent; in the future, less ominous circumstances could be used to accomplish the same thing.  In the wake of Boston and Watertown, we’re not as likely to complain.  We’re likely to obediently stay off the streets, close our businesses, and do as we’re told…whatever the reason for the order, next time.
  • The images of police officers going door-to-door, entering homes and searching them, will not leave me.  What reasons will be given the next time the police come to our doors?  Did they have warrants for searching all of those homes?  No one objected…how could you?  After all, this was a life or death scenario; they were going after terrorists who had killed and maimed people on American soil.  How much easier will it be, next time, for us to accept door-to-door searches without warrants?
  • The government’s present stance…that Dzhokar Tsarnaev will not be read the Miranda warning…is of grave concern to me.  The use of the “public safety exception,” which allows investigators to question a suspect before apprising him of his rights when they believe there is an imminent public safety threat, appears to me to be unnecessary and sinister.  But if it works with Tsarnaev, its use in other circumstances will be a little easier for the public to swallow. Incremental dissolution of our rights is a scary thing to consider.
  • The demands by some U.S. Senators that Tsarnaev be treated as an “enemy combatant” gives me chills.  This guy is an American citizen who set off bombs at an American event in an American city and then participated in subsequent crimes of robbery, carjacking, and murder (yes, I know they are allegations, but I don’t doubt they are true).  Yet these Senators want to treat him as an “enemy combatant” so his rights as an American citizen can be taken away in the interests of expediency.  Consider this: how much of a stretch would it be for them to call for the same thing for a naturalized American citizen of Mexican birth who is accused of running guns for a Mexican drug cartel?  And then, how much of a stretch to apply the same designation to a natural-born American citizen accused of aiding and abetting the gun runner by robbing banks to supply the gun-runner with cash?  Incremental diminution of citizens’ rights, even the worst citizens among us, has the potential to diminish the rights of all of us.  We have laws that protect our rights for a reason; they can work, even in an age of terrorism.
  • In the aftermath of the bombing and the subsequent manhunt, we were told things would change for us…this post-911 attack would understandably add inconvenience to our lives as the government further intrudes on our freedoms.  Of course it’s understandable; something like that doesn’t just happen and go away.  It’s as if we’re being told: “You must understand that government needs to be more intrusive, needs to infringe on your liberties just a bit more, because that’s the new world we live in.”  And, of course, we do understand.  Which is exactly what “they” are after.  Who are “they?”  I wish I knew.  Whoever “they” are, I do not want them enshrouding my rights and the rights of other American citizens with suffocating blankets that will be hard, if not impossible, to cast off.

My fear is that we’re being led well beyond where we need to go, to a place that makes it harder and harder for us to push back against unacceptable levels of government trampling on our rights. My concern is that the very real threats we faced with the bombers have caused us to accept things from the authorities that we would otherwise not have accepted.   I’m not convinced the authorities needed to do what they did in Boston and Watertown to get those guys.

Was it a conscious conspiracy to overstep the bounds in an effort to “soften” us for the next time?  I don’t know.  Actually, I rather doubt it.  But I think that may be exactly what happened.  And I think the “authorities” know that.  And they will remember.  And the next time it may be a little easier for them to decide to go beyond what once was off-limits.  And the time after that it will be easier still.

It is plausible that a “legitimate” and excusable overstepping of governmental authority this time can be used as a rationale for more extreme measures in the future.  For that reason, alone, I think the public should be vocal in condemning unreasonable searches and questioning suspects, even the most heinous suspects, without reading them their rights.

Put the bastards away forever…make the remainder of their lives empty, hopeless shells…but do it legally and do it in accordance with the laws that protect ALL of us from a government that takes more power than we’re willing to give.

I am a strong believer in the need for government to serve people.  We give government control over many aspects of our lives to ensure that we are safe, protected, and can indeed pursue our rights.  But we must never cede to government the ability to remove or run roughshod over the very rights we ask it to protect.  Guns will never protect us from a government we have allowed to transform into a tyranny.  We simply must never allow that transformation to take place.  And we prevent that transformation by speaking out, early, against those incremental attacks on our liberties.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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