Monday, March 26, 2001

Week of 03/26/2001

All Hail The Notorious Ones!
- by David Matthews 2

Check out this article...

Dateline: Los Angeles, California. A small band of terrorists stormed a small microprocessor company in the middle of the night, holding off police officers with a wide variety of automatic weapons before blowing up most of the building. Surprisingly, the loss of life was small, with most of the officers sustaining minor wounds. Among the casualties were Doctor Miles Dyson, an innovative scientist working at Cyberdyne Industries, whom the police believed was kidnapped in his home earlier in the evening by the trio of suspected terrorists.

Hmm… sounds like a very dangerous group of terrorists. Thank god the loss of life was small, huh?

But doesn’t it sound a little familiar? A trio of terrorists, holding off police with automatic weapons, blowing up a company called "Cyberdyne"?

That’s right, that was taken straight from the movie "Terminator 2". But you never saw it that way, did you? No, you saw it from the perspective of Sarah Conner, the suspected terrorist in the movie. And how many of you saw her as a terrorist?

Here’s another news article.. this one from the old colonial days:

Dateline: Boston, Massachusetts. Authorities are searching for a band of suspected terrorists who stormed the Boston Port, seizing one of the docked vessels, and emptying its cargo into the sea. The terrorists had disguised themselves as Native Americans, however authorities suspect they are the same group of insurrectionists who opposed the government’s export programs. Authorities estimate the damage to the destroyed cargo in the thousands of dollars.

Nasty bunch of people, don’t you think? Maybe if the cost of tea went up in those days, you’d be blaming them, right?

But we remember that incident differently, don’t we? Yes we do, because our history books recall that day as the day our founding fathers stood up to the government to protest an unfair tax on certain exported goods, such as tea… which we later called the Boston Tea Party.

For the past few years, it has been considered politically correct to blame the ills of society on what some call our "violent culture." Politicians, ministers, social activists, reporters, parents, all blame the movies, television, books, music, and most importantly guns, on the rash of shootings in schools and in the workplace. We all scratch our heads and wonder.. nay, we scream to the heavens.. "WHY?"

But while we’re blaming the peripherals for the evils that men do, there is one other factor that we seem to ignore… and that is our fascination with notorious people.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. we love the rogue players, the wild cards, the mavericks, the people who break the rules and dare to challenge the system and the status quo. We’re fascinated by these people. We even idolize these people. This is not some recent trend, but one that has stayed with us since the dawn of history.

We read about Moses in the Old Testament, who was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We consider that to be a good and glorious deed. But from the perspectives of the Egyptian rulers, Moses was an treasonous insurrectionist, who led people to rebel against the will of the very government he was raised to one day assume.

We revere Jesus of Nazareth, yet he was considered by many in the time of being a rebel who worked outside of the established norms. When he was tried and executed, it was for being an insurrectionist. But history didn’t paint him as a villain.. quite the opposite.

We love Robin Hood. Why? Because he stole from the wealthy and supposedly gave the money to the poor. Nice sentiments.. unless you happen to be one the people Robin and his band of thieves took money from. Then you wouldn’t think so highly of them, would you?

We consider George Washington and the rest of the founding fathers to be revolutionaries who freed the American colonies from a tyrannical government, but in the eyes of that government, George and the others were traitors to the crown. As a matter of fact, not everyone in the American colonies WANTED to be free from Britain’s rule. They watched with disgust how their own countrymen were waging war against the crown, even siding up with sworn enemies like the Spaniards, and the French. One of those Tories, believe it or not, was George Washington’s own mother!

How about Al Capone? The mob boss who kept the liquor flowing through Chicago when there was a federal law against it. He was the darling of the media, and the thorn in the side of every prohibitionist who wanted to enforce the law. Yes, crime escalated thanks to mob figures like Capone, but most people tolerated it because they provided the alcohol in defiance of a very bad law.

We look at the tales of Bonnie and Clyde with an unusual fascination. Yes, they were bank robbers, and they certainly didn’t give the money back to the poor. But bear in mind that this was the 1930’s, amidst the Great Depression. The only people making money then were the banks.

Even today, we have more than our share of cherished rogues. Conservatives had President Ronald Reagan, who flaunted the will of the Democratic-controlled Congress. Liberals had President Bill Clinton, who flaunted the rule of law and many Constitutional Amendments.. amongst other things.. to get his way. Clinton was the trademark rogue, which probably explained why so many supporters revered him in spite of all he’s done, up to and including the pilfering of the White House during his departure.

The music world is surrounded by notorious rogues as well. From Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, who challenged traditional music standards of the day, to guys like Marilyn Manson and Emenem, who challenged the prefabricated music performers and the system itself. Not too long ago, Sean "Puffy" Combs was acquitted of a weapons charge in New York. His acquittal was celebrated by many fans and supporters.

There have been plenty of other rogues in our society, from baseball’s John Rocker, to the computer world’s Steve Jobs. Men and women who buck the system, who challenge the status quo, and who defy conventional thinking.

Quick, name one of the most popular shows on cable TV today. Simple, it’s "The Sopranos," a series about a mob family. People who defy the traditional system with one of their own. How about two of the most popular comic book characters? Well, there’s the Batman and the Punisher. Both are vigilantes who work outside of the law.

Why do we love these notorious people? Why do we celebrate people who fight the system, and defy the status quo? Simple.. because deep within us is that sense of frustration over the status quo. We’ve all been stuck in the long lines at the express cashier, and at the bank, and the DMV. We all hate the long process, and the complex forms, and the bureaucracy on top of the bureaucracy. We hate the system. We hate it all, and we wish we could just bypass it and stick it to the system.

But we can’t do that ourselves. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid of change, of being proven wrong, of getting caught. Most of the time, though, we know that no matter what, we can’t buck the system, no matter how much we want to. We’ve been taught that sort of stuff is wrong. We’ve been told to obey those in authority, and have respect for the system. That’s why.. deep down inside us.. we cheer for those who fight the system.

So what does this have to do with the recent rash of violence in the workplace and in the schools? Well, ask yourselves this one question: what do they all have in common? The answer is simple.. they were all screwed by the system. The worker who was fired from his job, the school kid who was teased and harassed by his peers. These people feel powerless and trapped. Then they hear about someone else who bucked the system and took a stand, and how they got all of the attention, no matter how wrong the act was. Suddenly, they feel they have a way out. Something to.. pardon the expression.. shoot for.

If we want to point fingers at something for all of the chaos that’s been going on recently, we need to stop looking at the peripherals and look at the real root causes. It’s not the gun, or the TV set, or the movies, or the video games.. and it goes beyond our "culture of violence". The true causes are the systems that oppress us, and our fascination with the rogues who look to fight that system. We need to look at the system itself, and do more than just give in to it and complain about it. We need to find ways to cut it down BEFORE people resort to violence.

The author Tom Robbins once said that "When life demands more of people than they demand of life - as is ordinarily the case - what results is a resentment of life almost as deep-seated as the fear of death." True words. We need our notorious rogues to shake up the system, but we must all be a little more rogue-like in our action to keep from having that system become so overwhelming that some would see no other recourse but violence.

Monday, March 19, 2001

Week of 03/19/2001

Making the Leap
- by David Matthews 2

"When you say that you agree to a thing in principle you mean that you have not the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice." - Otto von Bismarck

There comes an inevitable point in one person’s life when their personal philosophy is tested. It usually happens when everything they’ve been taught to believe in and accept is matched up against the rigors of the real world, or perhaps even in conversation amongst friends.

The hardest part, though, comes when you’re forced to accept that your personal philosophy is faulty, or perhaps does not match up with some of the things you say and support.

Let’s say, for instance, that you claim to support free speech. But then, along the same conversation, you say that you hate pornography, and that you would wish government would ban it. You also say that you’re opposed to strip clubs, and other forms of sexual expression, including the offensive magazine on the shelves, and even the so-called "booty dancing" of young adults. Hmm.. that contradicts your earlier statement of supporting free speech, doesn’t it? You excuse it, however, by saying that you’re just wanting to protect children, and that you would support any other kind of speech.

Later on in that same conversation, though, you say that you’re just as offended about rap music and performers like Emenem, and you’re not to keen on seeing Britney Spears or Christina Agulera flaunting themselves about. And then you wonder why someone doesn’t do something about these people to get them to clean up their acts. Hmm.. sounds like you’re not happy about that aspect of free speech either. Of course, once again, you excuse that as wanting to protect children from all of that offensive material.

Then the conversation turns to television and movies, and again, you’re not too happy about the stuff that’s out there, and you wonder why the Federal Communications Commission or Congress can’t do something about all of those voyeur TV programs, and the violent R-rated movies out there. After all, what kind of lessons are being taught watching "Survivor" or "The Mole"? And let’s not even get into "Temptation Island"! Or worse yet, the World Wrestling Federation! Then there are all of those violent movies like "The Matrix" and the "Scream" trilogy. You KNOW those movies are being marketed towards kids.. so why isn’t there something being done about them? Mm-hmm.. So you’re not too keen on free speech when it comes to TV and movies either, huh? Oh, but wait a minute.. that goes back to protecting kids, right? So that’s okay, according to you.

Boy, that knocks out a lot of speech, doesn’t it?

So let’s summarize here… you’re all for the freedom of speech, unless it involves anything sexual, violent, homophobic, racist, or voyeuristic. Did I leave anything out? Maybe you also feel certain political statements should be best left unspoken. Certain scandals that should remain hidden. Some other topics that perhaps should never see the light of day.

In other words, you aren’t really a supporter of free speech, are you?

That’s just one good example of how people are forced to reevaluate their personal philosophies, and reassess what they say versus what they support. It’s one thing to say you support free speech; but, as you’ve just found out, it’s another thing completely to say you support free speech in all of its various facets, both mainstream and fringe.

And yet, that sort of hypocrisy happens on a regular basis. You see newspaper editors proclaim that they support the freedom of speech, and yet in the next paragraph they’re explaining why they feel that speech should be stifled. You see politicians proclaim they support individual privacy, but still think that privacy should take a back seat when it involves law enforcement, or bank transactions, or medical records. You see religious leaders proclaim they support the freedom of religion, but then proclaim that other religious beliefs are "dangerous" and should be kept out of society. You see these people say one thing, and then out of the other side of their mouths, support its opposite.

Worse yet, nobody’s calling them on it! Let’s get brutally honest here.. we have a whole gaggle of two-faced hypocrites out there and nobody’s calling them such!

We’re being told we have to respect their positions. Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t mean we can’t call them on their hypocrisy. That should not stop us from saying "Mister newspaper editor, Reverend so-and-so, and Senator you-know-who, with all due respect, you’re hypocrites! Stop lying to yourselves and to us and figure out just where you stand on these issues."

It’s not easy having to reassess your personal beliefs. I know this as a fact. When I was a conservative and card-carrying Republican, I had to re-evaluate my feelings and beliefs when it came to a lot of the GOP’s positions that I had opposed. In the early 1990’s, when conservatives like Rush Limbaugh were constantly squeezing the moderates and forcing them to decide which side of the fence they wanted to fall on, I had already made the decision that I was neither a conservative, nor a Republican.. I was in fact a Libertarian.

But even that decision made me reevaluate myself when I realized that there were parts of the Libertarian philosophy that I had a hard time accepting. Issues like drugs, immigration, free trade, and campaign finance reform had me once again rethinking my positions and explore what it means for me to be a libertarian. Again, it wasn’t easy, but I realized that if I was a libertarian – if I supported individual freedom – I had to put those issues in the proper perspective.

That’s something that needs to be done at all levels of the political spectrum, because certainly what is going on now can be considered nothing less than ideological anarchy amongst liberals and conservatives. Because we are not calling on people when they hypocritize themselves, we are having to deal with double-standards from both sides of that outdated political spectrum. Where minorities try to solve the problem of discrimination with still more discrimination; where feminists try to liberate women by telling them what roles they should and should not play; and where religious groups proclaim their freedom by trying to get government to limit other religious groups.

If you want to be respected, and you want your views to be respected, you have to be true to them and to yourself.

If you claim to support free speech, that means having to deal with and accept a lot of speech that you find offensive. It means having to accept pornography, and Emenem, and "Survivor", and "The Matrix". You may not like them.. and you would rather not have to deal with them, but if you claim to support free speech, you have to support these things too.

If you claim to support individual privacy, that means that you have to support the right of people to be left alone. That includes whether or not your neighbor is doing drugs, or having a huge swingers party. That means keeping the government out of your bank account, your insurance records, your book purchases, your video rental, and where you’ve been online. That also means having someone post messages or send letters to the editor under a pseudonym, or send them anonymously. (As a side note, did you know that James Madison’s Federalist Papers - the ones that set the foundation for the US Constitution - were first published anonymously?)

If you claim to support the freedom of religion, you cannot limit yourself to just a handful of religions that you would deem to be "acceptable" or "true" religions. That also means supporting those religions that aren’t what you would consider to be "mainstream".

If you cannot support these things, at least have the courage to admit it! There’s nothing wrong in admitting that you don’t support free speech, or the freedom of religion, or of individual privacy. Those of us who do support those things will respect your honesty. We may not like it, and we may disagree with it, but we will respect it anyways.

However, if you do support these things, you have to be willing to make that philosophical leap. To step forward like Voltiare and say with pride that you may not like what someone else has said, but you will defend their right to say it. That is the only way you can be true to yourself and to what you believe in.

There’s been enough hypocrisy in our society. Let’s try a little bit of honesty for once.

Monday, March 12, 2001

Week of 03/12/2001

Questions Still Not Answered
- by David Matthews 2

"Deeds of violence in our society are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate that they, too, are significant." - Rollo May

Once again, the eyes of America are forced to turn towards yet another school tragedy. This time, two students were killed, and thirteen were injured. And once again, after this tragedy, there were others who thought about doing the same thing, or, in the case of a girl in Pennsylvania, actually went out and shot another student.

And once again there were the same questions asked.. Why? Why now? Why here? Why these people? Why did they do it? Why are these students snapping like twigs?

And then there is the most important question asked: Why didn’t we see this coming?

Let’s get brutally honest here, people… ever since the Columbine massacre almost two years ago, school systems across America have suffered the classic case of militant overcorrecting. We’ve investigated every aspect of a youngster’s life; the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, the games they play, the programs they watch.. we looked, we scrutinized, and then we censored. We banned certain colors of clothing, and certain kinds of clothing. We persecuted gothic students, or students whose religions weren’t considered mainstream. We targeted violent music and violent video games, and some cities even passed laws to ban them. We’ve even persecuted kids for pointing fingers and pieces of chicken tenders and drawing pictures of guns!

And we’ve over-moralized. The bible-thumpers once again tried to force kids to pray in schools, blaming the rash of violence on their delusional belief that God somehow was being barred from the classroom. They seem to forget that God can go anywhere God wants to go.. God doesn’t need a public prayer to be invited anywhere. The super-patriotic thought that forcing students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance would somehow make them be better citizens. And the simply overbearing felt that if we put in brand new "codes of conduct", or a layman’s version of the Ten Commandments, that students will miraculously become better students.

Guess what folks? It still didn’t stop the killing.

After all of that. After every incident of expelling kids for being Wiccan, or playing "Cops & Robbers" or having a three-inch key ring chain or drawing a picture of a gun, there were still students getting real guns and going on real shooting sprees.

Yes, some incidents of violence were prevented, but how many of those could be directly attributed to spotting how a person dressed, or what kind of music they heard, or how they handled fried pieces of poultry? No, the incidents that were stopped didn’t come from how a person prayed, or whether or not they liked listening to Marilyn Manson or Emenem.

Do you really want to know how those incidents were stopped, but not the ones in San Diego and Pennsylvania? Simple. People opened their eyes and they paid attention to the world around them instead of trying to second-guess it.

Instead of trying to punish every gothic student for wearing black just because the Columbine punks wore black, parents, teachers, and friends paid attention to the troubled students that were just a little too moody. The students who were being teased too much, or being harassed too long. The ones who really couldn’t take the modest joke at their expense. The ones who thought that "going postal" would be the only way to get some attention, or to right a perceived wrong. They approached those troubled students, talked to them, and if they believed violence was immanent, they went to the authorities for action.

Parents, peers, and teachers didn’t need any new laws, or any ceremonies, or publicity rallies, or federal inquiries to do these things. No, they just needed to open their eyes, ears, mouths, and minds and reach out to those troubled youths.

Could the situation in San Diego have been prevented? Perhaps. Signs of trouble were there. The boy’s friends and teachers heard the warnings, and some of them discounted the warnings as being trivial. The boy wasn’t what they considered to be a trademark shooter, if such a term could ever exist. Even the so-called "experts" don’t have a clue there. The boy wasn’t taken seriously, they thought he was just kidding. They found out the hard way that he wasn’t.

Credit has to be given, though, in how the folks at Santana High School handled the shooting afterwards. It was a traumatic act, but they didn’t want it blown out of proportion like it was in Columbine. The school was only shut down for two days. No parts of the building were barred off or demolished, and most of the students were back with only a modest celebration. There were no big presentations, no big parades, no marches to supposedly "take the school back." Some students even were hostile towards the reporters that were there to cover their return to classes. They didn’t want the media to turn the event into a circus like they did with Columbine… even if the reporters were simply "doing their jobs."

Harsh for those journalists, perhaps, but it is a lesson that politicians and special interest groups should also be given.

Unfortunately, those are the people who use these incidents to the extreme. They’re the ones who resurrect such tragedies whenever they want new gun control laws passed. They’re the ones who stir up the feelings of helplessness and loss when they want to try to enact some "bold new experiment" in youth control. They invoke the names of the shooters and especially their victims when they try to censor forms of the media that they do not like. They’re the ones who made such a big deal about tragedies like Columbine, who make such big displays of compassion and concern. And even though they are quick to blame everything and anything under the stars for such tragedies, they refuse to consider - even remotely - the notion that perhaps their overly dramatic displays of concern over the initial tragedy would inspire copycats.

Perhaps the question still not answered is why don’t these people get a clue?

The public is getting tired of empty programs and political theatrics when it comes to these tragedies. They’re tired of hearing about grief councilors and gun control activists and social-control politicians who use these things as the catalysts for their empty crusades. The problem is not that there aren’t enough gun laws, or enough prayers to God, or the wrong shade of clothing, or the wrong kind of music. The problem is that the people who should have seen the warning signs didn’t, and the people who could’ve acted didn’t.

Look, folks, I’ll be the first one to tell you that school life can be hell. There have been plenty of times when I was tempted to find a quick way out of the torment. Fortunately for me, I didn’t turn to violence. I found a way to put the pain aside through theatre and through other programs. It wasn’t easy, but the name of the game is not who wins, but who gets through it all and makes it to adulthood. Believe me, once you get that far, everything that you’ve endured in those four years will all seem trivial.

Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Week of 03/07/2001

Target: Government’s Abuse of Power
- by David Matthews 2

"Government will always misuse the machinery of the law as far as the state of public opinion permits." - Emile Capouya

You know, when you hear the words "abuse of power", most people think of how the Nazis persecuted Jews, gypsies, and other people they deemed to be inferior. They think of the atrocities in Bosnia or in the Middle East. They think of Chinese tanks running over dissidents, or even of US warplanes bombing cities where suspected terrorists might be hidden.

And then after mentally going through all of those instances, most people in America say to themselves that they are thankful that they don’t live in a country where all of that can happen to them! Oh, no, that sort of stuff can happen in other countries, but not here! Not in the good old US of A. No, we have laws that are supposed to protect us!

Do we now? Are you sure about that?

You don’t have to look towards incidents like Waco or Ruby Ridge to know that even here in the United States, a country that is supposed to be based on freedom, abuse of power by agents of government is going on regularly.

It was seen in the picture that was shown in newspapers all around the world of a black-garbed Seattle police officer kicking a World Trade Organization protester in the balls while holding a tear-gas launcher point-blank at his chest.

It was seen in a 27-year old woman in suburban New York who was forced by a police officer to walk home half-naked in the freezing cold on New Year’s Day. Angelina Torres said she had pulled her car to the side of the road following an argument with her boyfriend when a police officer came up and demanded she take a breath test, which she passed. Then she was forced to take more sobriety tests until she failed one of them. She was handcuffed and drove for about an hour until they stopped just a few blocks away from her home, where the officer told her the only way she could get out of a drunk driving charge was to walk home naked.

It was seen when an 82-year old widow in Brooklyn was strip-searched simply because she fed pigeons and listened to talk radio. Mary Novak was charged by the police with harassment after she refused to heed the demands of the neighbors to turn down the radio and stop feeding the birds.

It was seen when a Nassau County officer in New York was accused of forcing women to perform oral sex on him. The officer, formerly from New York City, was alleged to have stalked one of his victims and forced her to submit to him.

Listeners to know about what happened with radio sex expert Dr. Susan Block when her broadcast studio and art exhibit were invaded by members of the Los Angeles Police Department under the pretext of trying to locate suspected bank robbers. Although the "official" police report said the officers were there for only ten minutes, members of Dr. Block’s studio audience confirm her allegations that the police were really there for two hours, pouring over every inch of the studio, harassing staff members, and preventing her show from starting for at least an hour.

Some residents in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, found out about abuse of power in 1997 when the police demanded they surrender copies of the movie "The Tin Drum" they had rented from one video store after a local judge had erroneously declared the Oscar-winning movie obscene. The police found out where these people lived because they forced the video store manager to give out that information in direct violation of federal privacy laws. The courts later declared that the movie did not in fact violate obscenity laws, but by then, the damage was already done.

And most recently it was seen in Tampa, Florida, as police officers stormed the residence of a voyeur website without a warrant or court order and forced the residents there to leave the building and shut off the cameras. The lawyer for the company hosting the website has said that the City of Tampa has a long history of such illegal police actions against businesses they do not like.

Yes, some instances of abuse of power come from rogue operatives, like the police officers in New York, but the most notorious ones are those approved of - either officially or unofficially - by government itself. The illegal raid of the voyeur residence in Tampa and the raid of Dr. Block’s studio in Los Angeles are the perfect examples of such government-condoned abuse. These are not police officers acting alone, but rather acting under the orders of someone in city government. People who, no doubt, will remain in the shadows and let their lackeys take the heat of their villainy.

Statists would obviously excuse such actions as simply rare exceptions to the rule. Besides, they would say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Well let’s get brutally honest here.. abuse of power by government is far more dangerous and far more destructive to any society that claims to cherish freedom than any street crime. It destroys any kind of faith the ordinary citizen would have on government as well as actually encourage even more crime.

Like any other kind of criminal activity, abuse of power happens when those in government feel they can get away with anything. But unlike your ordinary criminals, those in government have a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card they can use called sovereign immunity. As long as they can declare their actions to be part of "their job", they are immune from responsibility. But stray away from that.. as was the case in New York.. and they’re on their own.

What’s worse is that there is no such thing as personal accountability in government as long as there is sovereign immunity. That is because under sovereign immunity, the state can do no wrong. If a group of police officers raid the wrong house looking for drugs, they themselves aren’t responsible for what happens to that house. They just shrug and say "Whoops! We are SO sorry! Nothing personal, eh? Just doing our jobs here."

Of course, the police aren’t the only ones who are plagued with the abuse of power. Legislators can also be guilty by passing laws or regulations that affect a business, knowing that those laws are wrong.

For instance, Fulton County officials in Georgia passed an ordinance banning the sale of alcohol in places that deal with adult entertainment. Their rationality was that doing so would cut down on crime, even though their own studies proved just the opposite. The ordinance was wrong, but they passed it anyway, knowing it would hurt those businesses the politicians despised. Fortunately, a federal appeals court saw the error in the county’s argument and put stop it.

Federal regulations concerning the environment have worked in the same way. Imagine, for instance, purchasing the perfect plot of land to build your dream home on. Then imagine being told that you can’t build anything on that land because doing so would violate some wetlands regulation or some projected migration path of an endangered species should we suddenly be plunged into another ice age. Then imagine being told you can’t sell the property to anyone because they won’t be able to do anything with the land either. Nor would the government be willing to buy that land from you. Essentially, you’re stuck paying property taxes on a plot of land that nobody can do anything with. Is it wrong? You bet your ass it is! But that’s the government for you.

The motivations behind such abuses are as diverse as the incidents themselves.

Sometimes it is done out of frustration. Government officials being berated endlessly by rabid anti-American moralists for action, willing to do anything to get those zealots off of their backs, if only for just a few days. Moralists of late have been upping their demands for action, and are not willing to wait however long it would take for procedures to play through. They want action, and they want action NOW.

Sometimes it is out of publicity. A self-righteous crusader looking for the quick flash in the newspapers, knowing full well that the media won’t even mention the repercussions with as much passion as the initial action. A "street sweep" of so-called "undesirables" will get page 1, but the ruling from the federal court that the action was unconstitutional will get perhaps page 23, just underneath the article of the grandmother who just got her GED. For many a government crusader, it is not the overturns that matter, but rather it is how many page 1 headlines they can generate.

And sometimes those in government abuse their power just because they can. They know that they can do whatever they want without being held accountable for their actions. They know that the victims of their actions are less-than-noteworthy people (or will be so afterwards), and the public won’t really care too much about them. Who’s going to have pity on the drunk driver on the side of the road, or the topless dancer just getting off work late at night, or the elderly woman who lives alone and listens to that "offensive" talk radio? Who’s going to care if some "naughty" voyeur website gets raided? Or some equally "naughty" public access studio and art exhibit? Or about some German-made film from 1977? As long as it doesn’t become an issue of vox populi, they feel they can do whatever they want to and get away with it.

The important thing to remember is that these politicians and regulators risk absolutely nothing if they are proven to be in the wrong. They won’t go to jail because of their over-zealousness. They won’t lose their homes or their life savings if they make a mistake. The most the state will do in "compensation" is offer cash payments, and those payments will come from the taxpayers. For them, it’s a win-win situation.

The notion that the state can do no wrong is perhaps the biggest lie that government could ever conceive. The state can do wrong, it has done wrong, it does wrong, and it will continue to do wrong. As long as there are people in power whose motivations are less than noble, who stand to gain much and risk almost nothing, the state will do wrong.

The best way to remedy this is to eliminate sovereign immunity itself. Put risk back into play, because right now those in government risk nothing if they are wrong. Lawmakers risk nothing if their law is proven to be unconstitutional. Law enforcers risk nothing if they failed to follow procedure. They have no incentive to do right, and every reason to bend the rules whenever possible to get results.

Eric Hoffer once said "Absolute power corrupts even when exercises for humane purposes." I would go one further and suggest that those who abuse their power in the name of humane causes bastardize those very causes. In their zeal to "serve the public good", these statist supporters of "the ends justify the means" cause the public to question the good intentions of those in government. They have to wonder, then, when they see a police car approaching them if they will be the next Angelina Torres. They will wonder whether or not the police will come knocking on their door over a video they rented. They will live in fear and mistrust of the very government they are told they must support "at all costs".

It is ironic, then, that rampant abuses of power are going on in a country that was created on the allegations of abuse of government power. Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, America went to war against Great Britain on alleged abuses of power. Indeed, many of the rights we have today have come BECAUSE of those abuses of the crown. How sad it is to know that since that time, we have not purged ourselves of the very things that caused those abuses in the first place.

If we are to ensure a free society, we must never tolerate the abuse of power by those in government. They must be held personally accountable for their actions, both for good and for bad. That is the only way we can keep their intentions noble and their actions just.