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Barack Obama campaigned—at least the first time—on the idea of hope and change.
Recently, he said, “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
This sounds a lot like something his predecessor—a guy from an entirely different party—would have said to justify his actions. So so much for hope and change.
If we have to choose between 100 percent security and 100 percent privacy, to me it’s an easy choice. I’ll choose 100 percent privacy any day of the week, twice on Sunday, and three times on federal holidays. If there’s some kind of pawn shop out there where you can walk in and throw a pile of security on the counter, and walk out with a fist full of privacy—literally trade your security for privacy—I will be first in line at that shop when it opens in the morning. I will sign up for its membership newsletter. I will carry its barcoded card on my keychain.
The only reason we need security in this country is because our government keeps giving people reason to want to kill us. The only reason we have plane and subway and shoe bombers in America is because America seems like a country in dire need of a good plane, subway, or shoe bombing to foreigners.
Anyone who was waiting for Obama to usher in something different than the Bush who preceded him has nothing left to hope for now. All those funny little people out there—those hopeful little people, with dual Obama and peace sign bumper stickers on their Subarus—need to face the facts and accept what’s going on. There is no hope. There is no change. Not from Obama. Not from anyone. The last few weeks have made this clear.
The hope and change president is the president who gave us the scandal in Benghazi. He is the president who gave us the IRS being used a political weapon. He is the president who gave us journalist subpoenas, and drone strike after drone strike, and NSA phone and internet surveillance.
His predecessor—a man from the other party, remember; a man from a group diametrically opposed to Obama’s—gave us Iraq. He gave us Afghanistan. He gave us free speech zones. Bush was the president who gave us Quakers being spied on for anti-war activities. He is the president who gave us the Patriot Act.
Two men. Two parties. Sixteen years (when all is said and done) between them.
All of it looks identical.
All of it looks like two parties acting as one, committed to war, committed to American empire, committing the kind of privacy infringements it takes to either silence the people who disagree with them or at least scare them into keeping their thoughts unspoken.
Obama supporters can’t deny this any longer. Obama is horrible. Obama is Bush.
We are now at the point where no matter who we vote for, if it’s from the two parties, we get the exact same guy. We painted ourselves into this corner as a country. Party allegiance was the brush with which we painted. We kept picking the lesser of two evils until we dug ourselves to Hell.
A guy I know, a diehard conservative, recently came up to me and said, “You know, your boy Ron Paul was right.” When I asked him what it was Ron Paul was right about, my friend responded, “The Patriot Act. Domestic spying. All of it.” Of course. You say this now, when Obama is in power. Where were you and why weren’t you saying this when Bush—a guy you liked—was the one doing all the spying? Was it okay then? Why was it okay then? Why was it okay then but it isn’t okay now?
I said when Bush was in office that you should never give powers to a president you like, that you’d hate to then fall to a president you fear. Conservatives who supported Bush are now fretting over Obama acting much as Bush did. Their own guy set this precedent. Which doesn’t let Obama off the hook; it just explains how we got here.
Back when I had a cup of coffee as a teacher, I used to tell my history students nothing in history happens in vacuum. Everything happens as a result of something else. And most of it happens at a very slow pace. Tyranny doesn’t come overnight like a movie. It doesn’t knock on your door and introduce itself as tyranny. It creeps through the window, inch by inch. It makes itself at home.
Anyone who is nervous now, who sees what’s going on, with all this spying, with all these intrusions, with all the wars and the “security” measures that are necessary because of those wars—anyone who sees these things and is nervous about them, now is the time to clear your head. Now is the time to abandon your ship, to rip up your GOP or DNC membership card. Because you’re fooling yourself if you can’t see this now. Your two parties, together, got us to this moment. All your voting for the lesser of two evils built this current predicament.
I asked myself recently if we’ve reached the point of no return—if we’ve gotten to that moment where we’re so embedded in our problems that the only way out is to start it all over. I don’t want a revolution. Most people don’t. Most people don’t want other people to die and for valuable infrastructure to be destroyed. That’s why our own Declaration of Independence says that people are more likely to accept certain evils from their governments than to go through the trouble of overthrowing light tyrants.
But these are not light tyrants. Not anymore.
This is the biggest, strongest, most intrusive government in history. So if the question is whether we’ve reached the point of no return, the answer is to look yourself in the mirror and say: Well, that depends. It depends on us doing the right thing from here. It depends on delegitimatizing the major parties by failing to vote for either of them. We supposedly still have the right to nonviolently overthrow our leaders at the ballot box. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to go in another direction? Are you willing to vote for someone who will honestly end the wars, and honestly respects Americans’ civil liberties?
Barack Obama says the choice is liberty or security. I say, at this point, the choice is all yours. Stop giving powers to a president you like, that you’d hate to then fall to a president you fear. Because sooner or later there will be one who all of us fear. And maybe we’ve already gotten there after all.