Saturday, May 27, 2006

How Would a Patriot Act?

So I bought Greenwald's book at Kramer's at Dupont Circle this week and finished it the next day thanks to a long flight delay. Good stuff. For those who haven't read it yet (I might have just about been the last one), it's a quick in-and-out summary of the President's year-long I-broke-the-law-for-your-protection imitation of Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men. Like a good lawyer, he builds the case slowly and comprehensively, and when he's made his point, he rests his case 120 pages in. Like other bloggers have said, there's not a lot to it that they haven't read on his blog and others, but he simplifies everything to where just about any reader can understand, and that's a good thing. Also a good thing, I think, is that The Butterfly told me a lot of folks who walked by me in the airport while I was reading it did a double take and studied the title and cover before moving on. That, or maybe I just had my fly undone or something.

Anyway, How Would a Patriot Act? has been reviewed by about 4000 bloggers at this point (just read his
front page), so I really only have one thing to add that hasn't been discussed. Throughout the book he does a lot of quoting of forefathers, be it in Federalist Papers or Common Sense or other writings. I'd read most of them before, but I hadn't caught a really really good one from John Adams that he uses in Chapter 5 (Fear as a Weapon).

Fear has never been a defining attribute of the American character, in part because the founders of the country were so aware of its corrosive and toxic effect on liberty. In Thoughts on Government, John Adams wrote:

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

With great prescience, these warnings describe exactly that tactic which the Bush administration and its supporters use in insisting that Americans give up their basic liberties in exchange for promises of "protection" from these dangers.

Honestly, I've never read much of Adams, period...he doesn't seem to have been one of the more eloquent forefathers, but hey...eloquence is overrated sometimes. But I think that's a damn-near perfect summation of today's situation. Which is brutally sad, since he wrote that, what, about 215 years ago?