^^ a doctor in a densely populated city is frightened. She has good reason. But : will this season’s pathogenic fear become a political first premise after this is over ? Will we ever again live the optimism that established American liberty as a foundation principle ? I seriously doubt it. I think our liberty centuries are over
—— ——- ——
Sixty years ago my college friend Ken and I were having one of those all-night bull sessions we lived for. W e were talking about the libertine life so abundantly available to us who had grown up in very different circumstances. Ken paused and went silent. And then :
”Michael; we are trading political freedom for the sexual,” he said. “The whole nation is doing it.”
Ken was a little ahead of himself, but he got me thinking then, and he has me thinking even more today.
The events of 9/11 led to a huge curtailment of our liberties, stuff we had taken for granted. An entire new bureaucracy was set up, and staffed, to (a) surveilling us and our private communications (b) search us at airports (c) create no-fly lists that woe betide you if you have a Nam similar to someone on that list. Our even go put you on that list with only burdensome means of obtaining removal fro the list (d) require passport to visit Canada — a crossing that had been easy and neighborly and (f) authorized torture of prisoners taken in the legit,ate fight against ALQ and then ISIS.
More generally, we came to live in fear and paranoia, far afield from the confident optimism that made America so special.
Doubtless most of the so-called “Patriot Act” was served up by well intentioned legislators. Unhappily, good intentions are sometimes secret emissaries of illiberty. In any case, we know what life has been like for air travelers in the nearly two decades since 9/11 : all of it aggravated since the election of Mr Trump, by travel bans; by detentions of people profiles for their skin color, nation of origin, and in a few cases, for their political leanings. Customs agents have been known to demand the contents of travelers’ private social media. Immigration police (ICE) have stopped buses and private cars on American highways and demanded papers. They’ve gone into courtrooms in search of undocumented residents; threatened hospitalized undocumented with removal; forced families into detention centers.
And lots of people applauded them for doing it.
And now we have the corona virus and what its arrival has generated : almost complete control of our lives by a very few. Doubtless much of this broad-brush control is necessary, yet control is not eased by being unavoidable. Control is control. And even if the present corona virus control is eased, or even set aside, does anyone think that some future “very few” won’t bring it back if they deem a situation to be a crisis ? Have we not heard climate-change zealots describe the climate events as a crisis and that “we have no time to lose” The climate crisis folks have tried to import much of their agenda into the 3rd #stimulus Bill now being debated (as of this writing) in Congress. Can anyone doubt that, if the climate crisis interest acquires the kind of power being amassed by Mr. Trump these.days, they will impose all manner of restrictions upon us ?
They will be different controls, yes, but controls none the less, and from what I have read about the crisis agenda, it won’t be pretty. Serious privations of liberty, especially in the arena of personal movement. Gone will be the autonomous vehicle. Goodbye also to the domestic air flight (aircraft pollute us !!) Hello, public trains and buses, a transportation of control, inconvenient and crowded, a throwback to Orwell’s 1984.
But one need not fixate on crisis dictatorship Do you really suppose that any American candidate for President, henceforth, will shy from the sort of sweeping executive claims, immunities, and orders that Mr. Trum0 has shown them how to use ? Congress may pursue legislation to curb Presidential dictatorship — though I doubt it. Because the majority, if of the same faction as the President, will want her to dictate stuff— but the President will contest it in Federal Court, and who can say that she won’t be successful ?
To the Bernie generation, freedom means sexual freedom, just as my friend Ken surmised so many years ago. I am all for sexual liberty, and am thrilled that LGBT people can now — in many jurisdictions — be fully themselves And marry the person they love. Yet the college generation, which loves Bernie Sanders so much (or so the pollsters tell us), and which has grown up Taking sexual civil rights almost for granted, evidently sees no such advantage in political freedom. It supports speech codes; uses social media to bully those who express opinions it dislikes, opposes opinion with condescension; and seeks government control of the infrastructure, and the economy; and it scapegoats my generation. The drive to eliminate the electoral college, would, if successful, leave us with a majoritarian overrule unfettered by checks, limits and political rights for the minority.
The current college generation grew up after 9/11. It has ever known federal, Political liberty. What it has not known! It cannot miss. The world is heading in the direction of illiberty — not liberty. As I am of an earlier generation, I object. My objections are laughed at by the censorious, command-and-control, defiant young know it alls.
Good luck to the illiberal politics of libertine tomorrow.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere