John Whitehead's Commentary
Mile Markers of Tyranny: Losing Our Freedoms on the Road from 9/11 to COVID-19 [SHORT]
You can map the nearly 20-year journey from the 9/11 attacks to the COVID-19 pandemic by the freedoms we’ve lost along the way.
The road we have been traveling has been littered with the wreckage of our once-vaunted liberties, especially those enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.
The assaults on our freedoms that began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act laid the groundwork for the eradication of every vital constitutional safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. The COVID-19 pandemic with its lockdowns, mask mandates, surveillance, snitch lines for Americans to report their fellow citizens for engaging in risky behavior, and veiled threats of forced vaccinations has merely provided the architects of the American police state with an opportunity to flex their muscles.
These have become mile markers on the road to tyranny.
Here is what it means to live under the Constitution, post-9/11 and in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault.
The Second Amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government, yet Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against government agents armed with military weapons better suited to the battlefield.
With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces, it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil—in violation of the Third Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.
The government conveniently manages to disregard the Fifth and the Sixth Amendments’ assurances of due process, a fair trial, and property rights in its so-called war on crime.
Not surprisingly, the government continues to attempt to undermine the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—under the Seventh Amendment.
The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment provides little protection from a government that condones torture tactics and the death penalty.
The Ninth Amendment’s affirmation of the people’s rights has been turned on its head by a federal government that sees itself and its powers as supreme.
As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite.
If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.
Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to the Deep State—the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that has set itself beyond the reach of the law and is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.
This is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.
This is a government that spies on its citizens.
This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data.
This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power.
This is a government that allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely.
This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.
This is a government that has established a standing army made up of militarized domestic police.
This is a government that has allowed private corporations to get rich at taxpayer expense by locking people up in private prisons for non-violent crimes, while providing Corporate America with a source of cheap labor.
This is a government whose gun violence poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter.
This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.
This is a government that speaks in a language of force.
This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.
This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.
In sum, this is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.
This is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.
So where does that leave us?
As always, the first step begins with “we the people.”
Those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them. Our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain freedom principles that should be non-negotiable.
It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” “We the people” have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.
Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.