If I could pick one characteristic that I love about the good old United States of America (and there are many, many good things) it would have to be that I could not get picked up by the cops, or any other law enforcement agency, without any reason.
Such a thing does seem to occur, though, as I notice on Cops almost every Saturday night. On a side note, that show makes me furious. I mean, I see people allow the police to search their cars without challenging them, law enforcement read Miranda rights to multiple alleged criminals at the same time, and read said rights badly. Its enough to make you lose faith in the powers that be.
But for the rest of us, the thought of walking down the street and getting harassed and then detained by law enforcement is something we very rarely think about.
Most of my clients are from countries other than this one, and they tell me entirely different stories about their homelands. In some countries, the cops pick people up on a daily basis, mess with them a little, and request a bribe so that the person will be released. In others, the authorities are nothing more than a private army for a corrupt government or a local crime kingpin. In those instances, enemies of the state or competitors are collared by the police and held without reason until theyre executed or perish in captivity.
I never thought the United States would ever come close to what I heard was occurring in other countries. But, with the passage of a new bill through Congress, it would appear that we as a country are moving closer and closer to a police state.
The straw that appears to be breaking the camels back, as it were, is the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or the NDA. The NDA would allow the government to detain any person that it deems a threat to the security of the United States. Said detention could occur without any reading of Miranda or hope for a speedy trial and, in my opinion, could open the door to torture.
Thus, this passed legislation seemingly not only allows the federal government to pick up aliens in this country without probable cause and a reading of Miranda, but also American citizens that are suspected of having ties to terrorist organizations. While, in theory this sounds like a safeguard we could all use, the question has to be posed: where will it end?
Will the next iteration of the law be that anyone who looks like they could possibly be associated with a terrorist organization be thrown in the hoosegow for an indefinite period of time? Or will it be that those who are of certain ethnicities or religious beliefs be detained? I know the phrase is used quite often, but this indeed is a slippery slope that we should all be afraid of sliding down.
When the first Patriot Act debate occurred, I had a friend that was steadfastly against all of it. Every. Last. Bit.
One night, while we were discussing other topics, the PA topic splashed down in front of us. He informed me that he was generally one hundred percent against it. I half-teasingly called him a communist, and informed him that if he didnt come on the team for the big win, (Note: Full Metal Jacket reference) he could hardly consider himself an American.
His response certainly changed the way I looked at the issue then, and it continues to resonate with me to this day: When you start sacrificing little pieces of liberty for security, pretty soon, you will have no liberty left.
Im kind of old and really out of shape. I get winded getting up from the dinner table on my way to the couch to watch my addictive reality television. I cant run (well, I can run, but its not something people would willingly want to see) and my fisticuff days are a long way behind me. But I say this from time to time and I think about it almost every day of my life I treasure this country, and I have sworn to uphold its Constitution. However, if the beliefs behind this law continue even if said beliefs are shined up some so they look presentable - I will no longer stand to have more of my liberty taken. I will fight for this country that I love. I encourage all of you to do the same.
Christopher Markham writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.