This idyllic area used to be the Frontier, nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond which was Terra Incognita. Two of this nation's greatest explorers came from within spitting distance of where I am typing now - Lewis & Clark.
We also had our own Paul Revere type character - his name was Jack Jouett. He rode ahead of Colonel Tarelton and his English cavalry to warn Jefferson (Governor of Virginia at the time) and the Legislature that the Brits were coming for them. You should really read the wiki on him... an interesting fellow.
Also, three of the Founding Fathers came from this immediate area - Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. They were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Presidents respectively. Jefferson was arguably one of the most notable intellectuals of his age with a list of amazing achievements far too long to detail here.
No, this isn't intended to be a history lesson. All of the people listed above come from within 20 miles of where I am right now. Without many of these people America may not exist. It certainly would be a very different place and it's unlikely that the difference would be good. In many ways, America and the promise of America were born here.
It is in the shadow of this greatness that an anger in me wells. I feel treasonous and small when I see what is happening to this country. I feel this way because with all of the shameful outrages being committed against our liberties and the promise of America, I do relatively little about it.
People from around here risked being hung to secure the liberties we are too lazy to defend these days. After 9/11 the authoritarians in this country saw an opportunity to consolidate power and they took it. Like sheep the Congress passed the USA Patriot Act despite the fact that only a handful of legislators even read the act.
We are being spied on, lied to, and arrested with no charges, no trial, and no counsel in some cases. What are we doing? Ha. We're blogging. I obviously consider myself among these less-than-revolutionary revolutionaries.
I hold myself in nearly as much contempt as I hold most of the sheep out there. The one difference is that I am a sheep who has opened his eyes. I inform myself, at least. I don't know - maybe it's worse to know what's going on and to do nothing than it is to be willfully ignorant. No, I have to believe that informing myself and at least voting from an informed standpoint makes me just a bit better than those who vote against their own self-interest out of sheer ignorance.
I do a little more than nothing. I volunteer for candidates in whom I believe. I am somewhat active in local politics. I teach my children to think and not to follow. I teach them to hold ignorance in contempt.
And yes - the book I am reading is fanning these flames in me. If you knew me, however, you'd know that I have long had these issues on my mind. I'm the conspiracy nut in my group of friends. The saying, "Just because you're paranoid don't mean they're not after you" has never been more true to Americans at large.
What do I mean by that? They know who you've been calling. Oh, yes, friend. The Administration has been pushing for a retroactive law to immunize the phone companies for assisting the NSA in their warrantless wiretapping program. Can you say data-mining? I knew you could.
They also know what your spending habits are. That means the government knows whether or not you like to visit websites about bondage and sado-masochism. They know if you visited a gay dating site. They know if you rented a hotel room last week in Richmond and not Alexandria like you told your spouse. Think of everything that goes on any plastic you own... debit or credit.
Not only do they know what you charged on your plastic, they know where you go on the internet regardless of whether or not you bought anything there. ISPs have been issued orders under the USA Patriot Act to turn over their records. Gag orders come as part of these requests for data. Not only can they not refuse the request from the government, but they cannot appeal to judicial review. Been to WebMD, lately? Got a condition you don't want anyone to know about for whatever reason? The fact that you looked up information on Erectile Dysfunction is now no longer a secret, no longer anonymous.
The one thing that protects us in the mountains and mountains of data they have to sift through. But if your name pops up on some list somewhere, blowing your "cover", they can immediately look up all sorts of information on you. Big Brother sees all. In today's world of technology it is actually possible, unlike in Orwell's time when it was merely a dark fantasy.
In today's world of multi-terabyte databases it only takes a handful of people feeling pressure from the government to cave in and turn over gobs and gobs of data to the feds. It would take entire forests' worth of paper to print the data that could be rapidly and quietly turned over to the government without a single sheet of paper. An innocuous flow of ones and zeroes streaming over a secured pipeline through the internet.
The Information SuperHighway runs through your living room, beyotch.
This spying, this mining of dirty little secrets, is made even easier if a warrantless wiretap or two are placed on a key set of influential people. Maybe they have a dirty secret or two. Add to that the notion that these federal agents are "fighting terrorism" with this information and these executives may turn over the information without requiring a warrant and with no need for blackmail.
If the FBI or the NSA needs this information, it must be important. Right?
With the War on Terror being called the Long War, we are stepping onto an Orwellian stage from which no good can come. A stage that Orwell could only dream of but which is now lit with the harsh glare of technology. A war with no end in sight is a tyrant's wet dream.
- Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.
- If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
- It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.
- No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.