There’s nothing like a trip abroad to remind you about all the things you love about the place you call home. My recent trip to Guatemala with a couple of old friends was no exception. As much as I enjoyed the lush jungles, awesome Mayan temples, and sleepy mountain villages, it was a pleasant shock to return to the United States where you can drink the tap water, people don’t treat traffic signs as rough guidelines, and a much smaller percentage of our population suffers under the grinding poverty that I saw in many parts of that otherwise-enchanting country. Spending time in a beautiful nation that’s still recovering from a military dictatorship also helped me savor the freedoms we take for granted here. It also reminded me how quickly those precious rights can be swept away.
Hopefully, whoever wins our Presidential election this November will keep this in mind as they set their administration’s priorities for the next four years.
Earlier this year my Editorial Oil-ternative Futures
suggested that one of the top priorities for the next president must be to start our nation on the path towards energy independence and a carbon-neutral future. Since then, the US has been rocked by the worst financial disaster the country has seen since the Crash of 1929. While our next President will have his hands full already trying to deal with both these challenges (not to mention a war or two), he will also inherit a subtler, less obvious threat to our nation’s future in the form of the abridgments to our constitutional rights to privacy, due process, and the separation of powers that have kept our democracy alive for the past two centuries.
With the recession, energy crisis, and Iraq/Afghan wars (and the candidate-of-your-choice’s latest gaffe) occupying everyone’s attention, it’s no wonder that the current administration’s extra-legal escapades with warrant-less wiretaps, spying on legitimate, peaceful political opposition groups, and radical interpretations of the Bill of Rights have not gotten more attention. We’ve discussed some of these issues in other Editorials
, but, rather than trot out the full laundry list of threats to our rights and our political process here, I’ll let a great little video I just saw do the talking for me. Titled The End of America
, it’s written and produced by best-selling author Naomi Wolf, who brings to light some cold, hard facts which indicate that American democracy is under threat. In her film, she examines the parallels between our current situation and the rise of dictators and fascism in once-free societies. Among other things, Wolf uncovers a number of deeply unsettling similarities-from the use of paramilitary groups and secret prisons to the targeted suspension of the rule of law. I’d hope that both our Presidential candidates, as well as many regular citizens as possible watch The End of America
and do some of the simple things she suggests as part of a grass-roots initiative to take back our precious legacy of freedom and justice.
Our country is strong enough to survive
a trillion-dollar investment debacle, and a three trillion-dollar war, but if the legal foundations that have protected our freedoms since our founding are permanently undermined we will become another crumbling empire within this generation. Whoever is elected to be our next President must work closely with Congress to quickly undo the crazy legislation and suspend the un-American activities that have been sanctioned in the name of security over the past seven years. If they don’t, the country our children inherit will be a nation that bears little resemblance to the country we grew up in and believed in.
Regardless of the outcome of this election, it’s up to all of us to pitch in and work together to re-secure the democracy we’ve nearly lost. I’d hate to wake up and find myself a stranger in my own country.
Comments? Questions? Thoughts on what hot issues you would want the next President to put on his to-do-list?
Write me at lhg at en-genius dot net
, or post your comments on our blog.
is primarily a technical journal for professional engineers we have, on occasion, felt it our duty as citizens to weigh in on issues where technology, politics, and social issues intersect.
Among our more notable commentaries was my May 2006 editorial Burning the Village to Save It
. I followed up a year and a half later in a January 2008 Editorial Unequal Justice
, which explored the country’s leading telecom carriers’ complicity with the government’s illegal, warrantless wiretaps.
Even our Editor-in-Chief Paul McGoldrick has weighed in from time to time, including back in October 2006 when his Editorial Big Brother Is Alive And Too Well
made some keen observations about our shrinking privacy.