THE PATRIOT ACT
What is the Patriot Act? Is it a means of enhancing collective security or a testimony to the degree to which we have already consented to the abridgement of democratic values and civil liberties? Does it protect the citizens of the United States, or do the citizens of the United States need protection from it?
Here are the questions that are in each mind that cares to know what is happening in this country. There are the obvious answers offered by partisans on each side of the debate, and there seems to be no way of reconciling the differences between those who are for and those who are against. Yet, there is a way of acknowledging, historically, what has been true in every instance in which civil liberties were abridged in order to protect a population. Namely, that the absence of these very liberties, to the extent that they were diminished, constituted a more grievous threat against the population than the threat they were aimed at protecting against. This is history speaking and history repeating itself in the rise and fall of power – in the conquests of the Roman Empire and the subsequent fall of Rome, in the Napoleonic Wars, in the persecution of Jews and other 'unwanteds' by the Nazis and the downfall of the Third Reich, in the development and eventual dismantling of the Soviet Union, in the persecution of Hindus by Muslims and of Muslims by Hindus that has led to numerous wars between Pakistan and India – and of course within American history itself where a Civil War was fought in order to regain the rights of the individual for a populace that had darker skin than the rest.
Wherever rights have been deliberately abridged in the name of some principle, there, too, have wars been fought, empires lost, revolutions fostered, and consequences revealed that were unanticipated by those who found justification for the restriction of fundamental rights and liberties.
We must understand that there is no such thing as freedom that is based on the infringement of freedom. It may be spoken of as if such were possible, but it is not. There is no such thing as the protection of democracy that is based on the abdication of democratic principles and the furtherance of behavior that is autocratic. There is no such thing as the preservation of a just society through the enactment of injustice meted out toward others. These things may be verbalized as possibility by some, but they are not possible. A chain of events is set up by the actions themselves which move away from the noble cause ( namely freedom, democracy, human rights, justice), and those actions which separate themselves from what they are trying to protect become the causes for limiting the possibility of attaining what is wished for.
On one level this is called the Law of Cause and Effect. Yet, in another way, it is just how energy operates on all levels of experience. Energy expressed through action, word, and thought either moves events, people and historical trends toward greater wholeness through building on that which already contains wholeness and expanding that wholeness. Or, misdirected energy, in its misguided desire to create wholeness (read: freedom, democracy, security, justice) through a shortcut, tears itself away from the wholeness it comes from and becomes abuse of power, cruelty, injustice to others, and secretive, manipulative or deceptive behavior. Wholeness can only grow out of wholeness – not out of something that separates itself and says “I’ll come back to you later on.”
What is wrong with the Patriot Act is not its intention but its methods, not its desire to safeguard the security of a nation, but its willingness to sacrifice ideals that are at the heart of that nation. This is more than a matter, as some would describe it, of the debate between the individual and the collective, or between individual liberty and the safety of the whole. It is true that each society has to find a balance between these two. However, the Patriot Act is not and cannot lead to the security of the many because it is flawed in the degree to which it represents the many.
When an action is taken by a government that claims to represent the interests of the governed but in fact no longer represents these interests, but rather, represents the interests of the few, then that action cannot be spoken of as being an effective tool for maintaining security or any other goal that benefits the welfare of all. Such action is implicit in the Patriot Act which narrows the arena of control and empowerment to a small group of people, leaving the rest of those who are governed outside of the sphere of power. This is a dangerous situation, made more dangerous when people do not realize what is happening. Fortunately, America is beginning to awaken to the truth of manipulation, and the increased light that is present in the spiritual atmosphere and therefore in the consciousness of many, is aiding this on many levels. Let us hope, together, that the increasing sense of truth held by the many can grow and prosper before another event occurs that will make it seem as if the loss of liberty is actually a fair tradeoff for the protection of the many. For if a catastrophic event were to occur without the sense of truth being implanted in people’s hearts, America would become vulnerable to an even greater misfortune than what appears to be happening right at the moment.
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