Last Thursday, the Senate proved just how scared it was to take a stand against the president’s dangerous expansion of police powers by renewing the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act 89-10.
Of course, this is a compromised version that allows you to challenge the gag rule but does not let you say anything to anyone if the government searches your house during an investigation.
Roving wiretaps are still allowed, and the government can still search your house without telling you.
Despite anger from civil liberties organizations and the tireless campaigning of Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), 34 Democrats voted for this bill, and the few Republicans who call themselves civil libertarians also caved in to pressure. Our politicians are afraid to be seen as “soft on terrorism,” which explains the hubbub over the United Arab Emirates company buying American ports. Yet no one is willing to be seen as strong on our rights.
The USA PATRIOT Act is unnecessary. It should have expired along with the hysteria and fear that blanketed this country after 9/11. However, the urge to stand up and question what is done in the name of security does not exist in our government.
This urge to be as complacent as possible extends to our campus as well. It is well known that we are not a very political campus, but occasionally there are some interesting moments.
Recently, two new political groups have formed on campus, including one that has provoked a great deal of opposition from the Student Government Association (SGA). If you read the “Eye on the SGA” column in The Signal last week, or attended the recent political debate, then you know I’m talking about the International Socialist Organization.
As quoted in The Signal, many members of SGA were vehemently opposed to the creation of this new group, inventing excuses for why they should not be allowed to form and hurling personal attacks in the most refined manner.
The feeling that overriding conformity should be maintained at all costs is not only damaging to our civil liberties and an environment of open intellectual discourse, but also speaks of a willingness to never question the way the world works.
Eighteen million people die every year of easily preventable diseases and conditions like malaria, dysentery and malnutrition. But that’s just how the world works.
Drugs to fight HIV and AIDS are well out of reach for millions of afflicted people in Africa, but that’s just how the world works.
Our government has tortured people all over the world, including Guant?namo Bay and Abu Ghraib. It’s a common refrain that such poverty and misery will never disappear because that’s just how things are.
What we need now is change. We don’t need a bunch of people telling us not to question the way things are because they will never change.
What we need now is a willingness not to believe such cynical and uncompassionate views, not only because they spur inaction that harms and kills millions, but also because they kill the spirit that the world can improve.
For that to happen, you have to go against people who urge complacency and acceptance. Every time these people win, change gets further away.
There is always enough pain, misery and death in the world, but never enough justice, equality and hope.
Dissent, dissent, dissent, please dissent.
Information from – nytimes.com, “Investigators for U.N. Urge U.S. to Close Guant?namo,” Feb. 17, 2006, by Warren Hoge