Our government now treats us with the condescending air of an imperious patriarch,
minutely monitoring our behavior and expecting instinctive obedience to increasingly
As a naval officer my father grew accustomed to obedience, and he never seemed
to recover from that expectation. My mother often doubted the wisdom of his ways,
and her noncompliance drove him to imperious monologues on the proper management
of a household, to which she would listen patiently. When he had finished she
would say "Yes, O Great White Father," and then return to the same activity
that had inspired his peroration.
Occasionally I hear myself delivering similar dicta to the teenagers who inhabit
my home, and with similar results. That should be no surprise, for the society
of 2005 recognizes even less parental authority than that of 1965. Now schools
and parents more often take instruction from children than vice versa, thereby
effectively acknowledging the assumption of superior adolescent intelligence.
Apparently, people are now thought to grow increasingly immature and irresponsible
with age. Adults consult with children before deciding whether to regulate their
behavior, while government micromanages adult society with hardly any consultation
Late in July the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the so-called
Patriot Act. Only a few days before that vote I attended one of Congressman
Jeb Bradley’s "town meetings," my congressional represenative
in New Hampshire, at which I asked him whether he intended to vote for the reauthorization.
He said he did, and then he launched into a defense of the various intrusions
and impertinences of that insidious legislation. He noted repeatedly that a
judge’s order was necessary before the government could snoop on American
citizens. I asked him what comfort that offered, since the judge had no discretion
to refuse the order.
"That’s not how I understand it," Bradley said.
In other words, Bradley did not understand the Patriot Act very well at all.
A federal agent seeking, for instance, to tap a citizen’s telephone or
bug his home is required by the Patriot Act only to "certify" that
"information likely to be obtained by such installation and use is relevant
to an ongoing criminal investigation." The judge is then required to issue
a warrant for that surveillance, whether he believes that agent or not. Given
the notorious dishonesty among federal officials in the Bush regime, we are
left with precious little protection against Big Brother. Of course that poses
no immediate threat to knee-jerk supporters of the Bush agenda like Jeb Bradley,
but what if they should ever disagree -- however slightly -- with Bush, DeLay,
Bradley’s blind support of legislation that he has obviously never read
follows a congressional tradition. None of those who passeed the original Patriot
Act could have read it, either, for it had not even been printed when they made
their decisions. Like the politicians who create it, congressional legislation
usually presents an image contrary to the reality behind it, so most federal
laws carry unpleasant unintended consequences.
Unless the U.S. Senate shows better sense than the lower chamber, American
citizens will continue to be less free than they were four years ago -- and
not a bit safer. The Patriot Act has initiated a great deal of, expense, inconvenience,
and injustice, but nothing in it has stopped a single terrorist action. When
the new enemies of presidential cultivation respond to George Bush’s invitation
to "bring it on" they will bring it on indeed, regardless of the freedoms
that we have surrendered to appease our cowardly new national nature.
I heard of this latest congressional lunacy on my way to climb Galehead by
way of the Twin Mountains. Only in such natural surroundings can one feel truly
free from the madness of modern government. While resting at the Galehead hut,
though, I got my first glimpse of the wheelchair ramp built a few years ago
to meet provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In its usual wisdom
Congress inadvertently imposed such a demand for the accommodation of any hiker
who negotiates one of the precipitous access trails in a wheelchair. So far
no one has done so without the aid of a platoon of attendants who basically
carry them up the mountain and then stand admiringly by while the "hiker"
wheels the final four feet up the ramp.
Our peerless leadership now intrudes even on that windswept ridge in New Hampshire's
White Mountains, making absurd demands on the many to provide ineffective protection
for the few. All hail the Great White Father.