I TOOK MY 89-YEAR-OLD mother home to New England from California this past week by air. American Airlines was most solicitous and very kind making sure she had wheelchair service at every stop along the way. However, the security people at the Santa Barbara Airport made her not only walk through the security device, they made her take off her shoes while teetering from one foot to the other.
I was again randomly chosen by the computer to have all my baggage gone through by ticket agents and security personnel, my body wanded and my shoes searched, while the security person did his best to pat me down with his hands. Watching security search me thoroughly, my mother, whose first husband had escaped from the Soviet Union, said, "It’s just like Soviet Russia, isn’t it?"
What is happening to our way of life, our freedom? Over-reaching laws implemented at the whim of a computer, which is, of course, politically neutral, constrain our freedom of movement. The computer selects those to be searched, while allowing others to be exempt. It cannot be chastised for its selection of those that may be terrorists, because it has no judgment. It cannot be accused of racial, religious, or gender profiling, because the selection criteria are generated through the use of random numbers. A robotic computer now implements political correctness.
Those that choose to fly, of course, cannot express their displeasure to the human beings manning the ticket counter because they aren’t in charge; "the computer did it."
I have thought about my mother’s comment for several days. The more changes I see taking place in this country, the more I know she’s right. Our response to those despicable attacks of September 11 has been to turn America into a police state where fear has replaced freedom.
Sadly that’s our response to a lot of smaller "crises" too. Indeed airline security isn’t the only thing to have succumbed recently to Soviet-style thinking. Our political system is falling prey as well, as evidenced by the battle over campaign finance reform. Next week the US House of Representatives will take up the Shays-Meehan bill that had been put on hold last summer. This is the bill that takes away everyone’s First Amendment rights to publish their opinion about any candidate in the last 60 days of an election. The only groups that benefit are the media and the big labor unions.
Does anyone think this bill is truly about Enron giving money to politicians and political parties? No, this bill stops political action committees (PACs) – except unions – from spending dollars on political advertising during the crucial final 60 days of any campaign. Buy an ad – pay a $250,000 fine.
And who is supporting such a travesty on the Bill of Rights? Politicians from both sides of the aisle support Shays-Meehan because they want to control the information flow to the average voter. They fear that if the average voter hears from different constituencies, he or she won’t make the right decision.
The supporters of this legislation are hypocrites. A year ago, February 11, 2001, the New York Times printed a story with a headline that read "Race Is Underway for Campaign Cash Before New Limits." That story pointed out how supporters of campaign finance reform from both political parties were rushing around in a frenzy of fundraising to beat the clock before they voted to change the rules.
Democrats support the legislation because they know that it will give them an advantage. It is called the union/media advantage. They will be able to speak while all other independent voices will be silenced before an election.
Although the Enron debacle is the new catalyst to planting fear in the minds of the citizenry, it is obvious that campaign finance reform and the collapse of Enron are not related. If the bill had been enacted years ago, Enron executives would still be facing criminal charges and its employees would still be jobless and without their 401(k) assets. Again politicians are using fear to promote less freedom and more government control. Now the government is acting to keep Americans safe from corruption by denying their First Amendment rights.
Supporters of the Bill of Rights should be horrified by what’s happening in America. Our government’s reaction to criminal behavior has been to turn America into a police state. It really doesn’t matter who the criminals are – Militant Islamic terrorists, greedy Enron, Global Crossing, Arthur Andersen executives or possibly Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Unfortunately, Mom, you’re right. Sadly, we are well on our way to becoming a twenty-first century Soviet Union.