In an age of bureaucracy, overcriminalization and militarized police, it often seems as if no good deed goes unpunished. Indeed, although Charles Dickens immortalized the money-loving, Christmas-hating, bah-humbuggiest of humbugs Ebenezer Scrooge in his classic “A Christmas Carol,” the world has always been plagued by Scrooges so single-minded in their pursuit of money, power and control that they exhibit few qualms about stamping out acts of kindness, compassion and true charity when they arise. Still, we must press on, despite the Scrooges of the world. So how do we press on and make the world a better place in the face of weaponized drones, far-reaching surveillance and a government that with every passing day is coming to resemble authoritarian regimes of old?
If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat, what you smoke or whom you love, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home.
If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property. If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own—they are the property of the state.
Imagine a robot hovering overhead as you go about your day, driving to and from work, heading to the grocery store, or stopping by a friend’s house. The robot records your every movement with a surveillance camera and streams the information to a government command center. Whether you make a wrong move, or appear to be doing something suspicious, even if you don’t do anything suspicious, the information of your whereabouts, including what stores and offices you visit, what political rallies you attend, and what people you meet will be recorded, saved and easily accessed at a later date.
I will be the first to acknowledge that there is much to be thankful for about life in America, especially when compared to those beyond our borders whose daily lives are marked by war, hunger and disease. Despite our kvetching, grumbling and complaining, most Americans have it pretty good compared to less fortunates the world over.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that all of our so-called blessings will amount to little more than gilding on a cage if we don’t safeguard the freedoms on which this nation was founded, freedoms which have historically made this nation a sanctuary for the oppressed and persecuted. And if there is one freedom in particular need of protecting right now, it is the Fourth Amendment, which has been on life support for quite some time. READ MORE.
The year was 1961. I was fourteen years old, the only child of blue-collar workers living in Peoria, Illinois. Lacking any great understanding of the winds of change that were blowing through our nation and the world, I sat transfixed in front of our small black-and-white television as John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address as the nation’s 35th president. The sound might have crackled and the picture wavered, but Kennedy’s message came through loud and clear. It was a message of hope, challenge and faith to an America that could be a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world.
Kennedy called us the “heirs of that first revolution” and spoke of rights that come not from the state but from God. “Let the word go forth,” he said, “that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is responsible for the growing spate of police shootings, brutality and overreach that have come to dominate the news lately, whether it’s due to militarized police, the growing presence of military veterans in law enforcement, the fact that we are a society predisposed to warfare, indoctrinated through video games, reality TV shows, violent action movies and a series of endless wars that have, for younger generations, become life as they know it—or all of the above. READ MORE.
No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later. What is unusual is our lack of outrage, the relative disinterest of our elected representatives, the media’s abysmal failure to ask questions and demand answers, and our growing acceptance of the status quo in the United Police States of America—a status quo in which “we the people” are powerless in the face of the heavy-handed tactics employed by the government and its armed agents.
It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud “Crash! Bang! Boom!” Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone—or several someones—are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something—anything—that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son’s baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you’d never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It’s the police. READ MORE.
We labor today under the weight of countless tyrannies, large and small, carried out in the name of the national good by an elite class of government officials who are largely insulated from the ill effects of their actions. We, the middling classes, are not so fortunate. We find ourselves badgered, bullied and browbeaten into bearing the brunt of their arrogance, paying the price for their greed, suffering the backlash for their militarism, agonizing as a result of their inaction, feigning ignorance about their backroom dealings, overlooking their incompetence, turning a blind eye to their misdeeds, cowering from their heavy-handed tactics, and blindly hoping for change that never comes. READ MORE.
To fully understand the phenomenon of binge-watching, it would be best to take a look at where we are today: our late capitalism, one might notice, is distinguished by an unparalleled permissiveness, one that is taken to a hedonistic degree. Now, the rather orthodox critique of this is that, in this all-permissive era, children and young adults are growing up without any set limits, without any substantial prohibitions, and this lack drives them wild with anxiety and discontent and other unpleasant feelings. Frustrated with the lack of a discernible limit in their lives, kids and young adults alike are being driven from one excess to the next, in search of a firm limit, in search of that symbolic authority that will guarantee both stability and, real enjoyment. READ MORE