Government needs to have less power over the people |

Government needs to have less power over the people

Apathy seems a common state of mind for so many Americans. People seem to be going along with whatever the government says without even raising an eyebrow.

Do we really believe the government has all of the answers and should not be questioned? Or do we just not care? Or do we feel powerless?

Earlier this month President George Bush had the audacity to say loyal Americans would not begin to question his actions or the government as a whole.

This sounds more like a dictator than a democratically elected president. He is not Saddam Hussein, who this month was “elected” leader of Iraq without a single opposing vote. Who won the November 2000 election is not the issue here, it is our civil liberties and our responsibility to ask questions and challenge authority without repercussions.

It was refreshing to have Richard Bryan, Nevada’s former governor and U.S. senator, speak out against the government’s heavy-handedness.

“… the political reality is that people are not interested today in hearing a history of the abuse of power,” Bryan said at UNR earlier this month. “Ultimately it is the public that is driving this in terms of their own fears.”

I am baffled that we are willing to blindly allow our government to revert to its horrendous behavior of days gone by. There was not much in history books about the Japanese internment camps when I was in school. Thankfully that has changed. We need to face reality — even if our actions as a country are heinous. But we seem to have not learned from our history.

In the wake of 9-11 the government has rounded up countless aliens. Their names have not been released, charges have not been filed. The president has ordered some of the detained terrorist suspects to be kept in military brigades without access to legal counsel. Rumor has it he will soon release a handful of the hundreds at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but will not say who or what country they are from.

In the long run we will lose more by allowing the government to relax wire/phone tapping regulations than we gain in the short term.

All of these actions make it hard to be proud to be an American. I am not a Taliban sympathizer. I am a strong proponent for justice. Our system mandates people have their day in court. If we go against this basic right, we go against all that the United States stands for — liberty and justice for all.

I do not want to live in a police state. I do want law enforcement to be able to pull me over without just cause. I do want to have to show identification whenever asked. I want to be free to be an American, not a captive in my own country.

Last year I finally felt what it was like to be discriminated against because of color. In the United States I had been discriminated against because of my gender, marital status and being child-free. But this was different. And worse.

While in South America I was singled out because of my fair skin. I had to produce my passport more than once to prove my nationality. I had to explain why I was where I was. Had I looked just like the other people around me, I would not have been treated this way.

When I was at the Empire State Building last year I was asked to show my ID. If I had not been with my mother, I would have turned away and told them to go to hell. What does picture identification have to do with my ability to visit one of New York’s most famous landmarks?

The hijackers had driver’s licenses. Fake and legal ones are pretty darn easy to get.

It was reassuring on Aug. 6 when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said it was unconstitutional for the Bush administration to close hundreds of deportation hearings.

“Democracies die behind closed doors,” the court wrote. “The only safeguard on this extraordinary government power is the public, deputizing the press as the guardians of their liberty. An informed public is the most potent of all restraints on government … the First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people’s right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully, and accurately.”

But as journalists we are feeling the constraints of the government. In the New York Times on Oct. 14 a reporter delves into this issue under the headline “White House Keeps a Grip On Its News.”

Reporters told the Times they could not remember a White House that was more grudging or less forthcoming with information. Reporters spoke of the abundance of policy and governmental decisions being called off-limits since 9-11 because of national security concerns.

This is any easy cop-out by officials and should not be tolerated by the media or the public.

The public must speak out against the erosion of our civil liberties because once they are taken away, it will be near impossible to get them back.

After all, it was the government that failed on 9-11, not the security personnel. Pocket knives were allowed on planes. Now we have the government overseeing security at airports — the same government whose constant bickering and inability to share information prevented the warnings of Sept. 11, 2001, from being heard.

We all know what happened next. Our government failed us that day. Do we really want to give the government more power?

Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Tribune. She may be reached at (530) 541-3880, ext. 251 or e-mail

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