In my previous column I mentioned Hannah Arendt, who wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism after she fled Nazi Germany and came to the U.S. It’s been a long time since I read that book, but I remember one of my main takeaways from it. There are no inalienable rights. The right to privacy, to trial by jury, to free speech and thought, any right we think of as representing our exceptional freedom can be taken away from us whenever the state decides it’s to their advantage to do so. We may have guns, but they have the military.
So when Thomas Jefferson and his friends talked about “certain inalienable rights,” they were just giddy with Enlightenment values. Our subsequent history demonstrates that neither Congress nor the White House have ever been reluctant to take rights away from the people. The ink was hardly dry on the Constitution before the Federalists were passing bills to restrict the freedom of immigrants, arguing that it would make everyone else safer. Sound familiar? During my life span of over 75 years in this country, our nation has used enemies to justify unconstitutional spying at home and to suppress democratic governments abroad. Check it out. All over the world, we support more dictators than democrats.
When I was an infant, we went after the Nazis. We and our allies managed to defeat them in what is still considered “the good war.” Then, we moved on to the Soviets, our allies against the Nazis. We persecuted citizens who were curious about or sympathetic to the U.S.S.R. We waged war on an economic/political theory. Vietnam, for instance, had the wrong economic/political theory. We didn’t win that war and we’ve been pissed off about it ever since. On this continent, we killed thousands and thousands of suspected Communists in Central America.
The majority of Americans don’t worry about the carnage we brought to foreigners around the world. Our history demonstrates that Arendt was right. Sure, there are a few bleeding hearts who believe we should do good not evil, but the rest of us don’t, as long as the evil is being done to someone else. We are securely wrapped in the flag while we bomb the bejesus out of anyone who stands up.
Our so-called President has “tyrant” written all over him. Like Nixon, he believes that whatever the president does is legal. We don’t need no stinking constitutional rights. We’ve got a dear leader who’s going to build a wall around us. Is that to keep “them” out or us in?
Mary Ella Anderson remembers that the FBI and other government agencies infiltrated resistance groups with agents that agitated for the use of violence in protests.