All I Want for Christmas
I know I’m a bit tardy with my request, but here it is.
I would like a restoration of our civil liberties for Christmas.
I know it’s big, but I have been mostly good this year. I was going to ask for world peace, but I haven’t been that good.
I understand that you keep an eye on who’s been naughty and nice. I appreciate that. I do think you should know, however, that things are getting crazy down here.
You know about the PATRIOT Act. Yes, that was scary, but it was born of frightening times. People were willing to look the other way as the government trounced all over our rights in the name of Homeland Security.
Now, it turns out, the government has been spying on and monitoring its citizens willy-nilly. The president says it’s to help fight terrorism, but look at some of the groups they’ve been monitoring.
Quakers. The F.B.I. had a group of five Quakers and one grandmother in Lake Worth, Florida under surveillance. Perhaps I take such umbrage because I am a Quaker. I can’t imagine how Quakers could possibly be construed as a terrorist threat. Quakers are pacifists, based on Jesus’s teaching to turn the other cheek and the belief that there is the “Light” in every person. Unless the government fears an outbreak of silent vigils or potluck suppers, I’m hard pressed to think of why Quakers need monitoring. Perhaps it’s to send a message to the Amish and Mennonites.
Vegans. In case you don’t know, these are people who eschew eating or wearing any part of an animal. Basically, they graze in open pastures. I find it hard to believe they’d have the energy to plot anything beyond their next meal. And let’s face it, if someone thinks that animal life is so sacred they will go without decent footwear or a milkshake, I hardly think they’ll be targeting Americans for harm.
Catholic Workers. Again, pacifists. This time, though, they’re Catholic. The F.B.I. described the group as having a “semi-communistic ideology.” Last time I looked, Communists didn’t worship God. Catholic Workers do. In fact, they are moved to a life of simplicity and nonviolence based on their religion. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
All of the groups under surveillance -- illegal surveillance, without the benefit of a court-ordered warrant -- were exercising their Constitutional rights. It frightens me to think that in a time when our resources are stretched so thin, with the deficit growing by leaps and bounds, that it is a priority of our government to monitor law-abiding citizens. It reminds me of COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program), the government’s surveillance of activists in the 1960s which, when it came to light in 1975, horrified Americans and led to stronger Congressional oversight of law enforcement.
I’m scared that our government, while ostensibly fighting terrorism, is in fact terrorizing its own citizens. Why are we fighting for democracy in Iraq if democracy in this country is being eroded?
So please, Santa, restore our basic rights. Talk to the President about abiding by the Constitution. Tell him he doesn’t need to live in fear of his own citizens.
And if I promise to be really good next year, could I please have world peace?