Monday, July 04, 2005

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws

The Patriot act is set to expire soon, the provisions of which are a troubling marriage of practicality and arbitrary power. Taken as itself, I am unable to unequivocally state a firm and all-encompassing opposition to the law. Certainly, as past events have adequately displayed, there is (and likely remains) a powerful case to be made for the utility of expanded police powers. The old adage of prevention and cure remains not merely relevant but, when measured within the context of human life, very nearly unquestionable. There are unmistakably aspects of the law whose impact on our privacy is both bearable and substantially less threatening than the harms they aim to prevent.

Unfortunately, the analysis does not end there, for the entirety of the act manifests nothing so clearly as a means by which the entire republic could be unwound from within. I am unwilling to ascribe to its supporters the labels, which range across the entire spectrum and encompass the complete range of governmental tyranny, so popular among the act's detractors. I think, so long as we leave aside the reactionary rush prevelant in the public and especially the Republican public, that most of the Patriot act's supporters are as dedicated to freedom as anyone else. Nonetheless, they believe that terrorism represents a greater danger to our society, and this is where we differ.

Let us be very clear. Al-Qaeda will never destroy the United States. Not in their most delusional of dreams can they even hope to accomplish anything so grand. What's more, not withstanding the individual tragedy of each death, neither are they really all that dangerous to any given American. Suitcase nukes, bioterror weapons, another 9-11; if these things were easy, they would be done. That they are not, while providing no reason to halt in our efforts to prevent them, is a testament to the fundamental truth of our terrorist opponents. They just aren't a danger to our republic. They never will be.

However, we ourselves are very much capable of ruining our society. In the end, even the most grievous lost of people, places, or products can be overcome. It is instead when we yield our principles that our way of life becomes endangered. Al-Qaeda cannot destroy the constitution. But secret warrants, citizens captured on American soil and held without trial or advice of counsel, military tribunals, and the other trappings of arbitrary, unchecked power have within their draconian applications abuses of unimaginable and irredeemable severity. In the end, it is from ourselves that the greatest danger to our society faces.

If this struggle with terror is truly a war, then it should be recalled from among the lessons of conflict that ideas can be more powerful than even the most fearsome weapons. The surest way to bring the full force of our true power, a legacy of liberty and democracy tarnished, perhaps, at times and yet each time revealed even stronger, is to show an unwaivering faith in ourselves. It is for that reason, an inability within myself to yield conviction to circumstance, that I urge everyone to beware the passage and application of that foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws.

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