Sunday, March 4, 2007

America is awesome

I have seen a bumper sticker frequently around town that says "I don't have to love Bush to love my country." As Americans were so often reminded during the Clinton impeachment affair, we are a nation of laws, not men. Now that seems to be changing.

Cenk Uygur has an excellent post on this topic today (also found here):
I wasn't born a Republican. I chose to be one because I believed in the things the party stood for. But when the party changed from the New World Order to preemptive strikes against countries that did not attack us, and when it changed from being the party of law and order to the party of ignoring the rule of law, I was able to see that they weren't right for the country anymore.

This is not the Republican Party I grew up in. This is not a conservative philosophy that treasures our constitution and our form of government. This administration has become an embarrassment. They never believed in the greatness of this country and the strength of its principles.
I coinsidered myself a Republican until the evening on January 16, 1991. I was a 16-year old peacenik at the time, but I still stand by my decision. I talked about this in depth in an earlier post.

We are often told by our leaders that "9/11 changed everything." This quickly became a rationale for changing all the rules. These, however, are the rules that have made America as great as it is. We are, to the best of my knowledge, the second-oldest functioning democracy in the world (behind San Marino, which was founded in AD 301), and may very well have inspired democracy elsewhere. We have endured through any number of crises and several secession attempts (of various degrees of seriousness and success). We only rank 17th on The Economist's Democracy Index of 2007, but that's still top 11% (17 out of 167--North Korea ranked last, Sweden first, in case you're curious).

If I had enough time and bandwidth to summarize de Tocqueville and add in a few million words of my own thoughts, I could fully lay out my thoughts on this matter, but my overall point can be summarized as this: 9/11 did not change enough to make it worth throwing away 220 years of such a successful constitutional track record. America has been around for almost 231 years, 220 with our current constitution. We may not have the longevity of the Byzantine Empire (approx. 1100 years)--at least, not yet. International terrorism has been around for decades, if not centuries or millenia. 9/11 wasn't even the first time it directly affected the United States. What made 9/11 different from all terrorist attacks before it was its brazenness and the extent of damage it caused. Again, to the best of my knowledge, no one had set out to cause such a huge amount of damage before, although there had been mass hijackings and plans to use planes as missiles before. This is not to diminish the severity, tragedy, or reprehensibility of the 9/11 attacks--the 9/11 attacks were incomprehensible, unjustifiable, and unforgivable--in that the perpetrators (who are still at large, I might add) deserve all the FUBAR-ing we can give them. But I still don't see how a large-scale revamping of our system of constitutional checks and balances is necessary (again, see how the 9/11 perpetrators are still at large). What actual benefit have we received from, say, warrantless wiretapping that couldn't have been derived from tapping the same phone lines with FISA court approval? What actual benefit has the shadowy treatment of Jose Padilla achieved? I don't doubt that there have been shady goings-on within our government since at least the start of the Cold War (although I stop short of X-Files-style conspiracy theories.) What exactly about our system that has worked so well for so long is no longer applicable now that a terrorist attack that has been envisioned and attempted before, but never before succeeded, has succeeded on American soil? Which laws, to draw from John Adams' phrase, are no longer as important as the men who run the country?

We have often been told that 9/11 occurred because there are people out there who "hate our freedoms." Yet now we see a concerted effort to chip away at those very freedoms, an observation I have made before.

Let's face it: al Qaeda is probably not an imminent existential threat to America. They can cause damage, and lots of it, but they cannot conquer and hold territory on our soil. They can, however, sow fear. After the Oklahoma City bombing, I remember a conversation with a friend where we discussed how, if there is a threat to the continued viability of the United States, it would be a threat from within. I'm not necessarily talking about homegrown terrorists or militias--we may just change our system enough, and slowly enough, that America ceases to be America anymore, and no one notices until it is too late.

America is too awesome to let that happen.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

He also said: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Wise man, indeed.

Here are some smarmy videos to lighten the mood:

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