By John W. Whitehead
“All the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.”—Historian Milton Mayer,They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45
There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.
Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware. Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware. And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.
The world has been down this road before.
We are at our most vulnerable right now.
The gravest threat facing us as a nation is not extremism—delivered by way of sovereign citizens or radicalized Muslims—but despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money.
We’re in a national state of denial.
Yet no amount of escapism can shield us from the harsh reality that the danger in our midst is posed by an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution, Congress, the courts or the citizenry.
If the team colors have changed from blue to red, that’s just cosmetic.
The playbook remains the same. The leopard has not changed its spots.
Scrape off the surface layers and you will find that the American police state is alive and well and continuing to wreak havoc on the rights of the American people.
“We the people” are no longer living the American Dream.
We’re living the American Lie.
Indeed, Americans have been lied to so sincerely, so incessantly, and for so long by politicians of all stripes—who lie compulsively and without any seeming remorse—that they’ve almost come to prefer the lies trotted out by those in government over less-palatable truths.
Here’s a truth few Americans want to acknowledge: nothing has changed (at least, not for the better) since Barack Obama passed the reins of the police state to Donald Trump.
The police state is still winning. We the people are still losing.
In fact, the American police state has continued to advance at the same costly, intrusive, privacy-sapping, Constitution-defying, relentless pace under President Trump as it did under President Obama.
Police haven’t stopped disregarding the rights of citizens.
SWAT teams haven’t stopped crashing through doors and terrorizing families.
The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security haven’t stopped militarizing and federalizing local police.
Schools haven’t stopped treating young people like hard-core prisoners.
For-profit private prisons haven’t stopped locking up Americans and immigrants alike at taxpayer expense.
Censorship hasn’t stopped.
The courts haven’t stopped marching in lockstep with the police state.
Government bureaucrats haven’t stopped turning American citizens into criminals.
The surveillance state hasn’t stopped spying on Americans’ communications, transactions or movements.
The TSA hasn’t stopped groping or ogling travelers.
Congress hasn’t stopped enacting draconian laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the NDAA.
The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t stopped being a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.”
The military industrial complex hasn’t stopped profiting from endless wars abroad.
The Deep State’s shadow government hasn’t stopped calling the shots behind the scenes.
And the American people haven’t stopped acting like gullible sheep.
Here’s the problem as I see it: “we the people” have failed to recognize these warning signs as potential red flags to use as opportunities to ask questions, demand answers, and hold our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law.
Unfortunately, once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms, or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is what happens when you ignore the warning signs.
This is what happens when you fail to take alarm at the first experiment on your liberties.
This is what happens when you fail to challenge injustice and government overreach until the prison doors clang shut behind you.
In the American police state that now surrounds us, there are no longer such things as innocence, due process, or justice—at least, not in the way we once knew them. We are all potentially guilty, all potential criminals, all suspects waiting to be accused of a crime.
So you can try to persuade yourself that you are free, that you still live in a country that values freedom, and that it is not too late to make America great again, but to anyone who has been paying attention to America’s decline over the past 50 years, it will be just another lie.
The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.
As the wife of a prominent German historian recalled: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderfulyears.”
In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed and turned into slave labor, life was good.
This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.
Remember, freedom demands responsibility.
Freedom demands that people stop sleep-walking through life, stop cocooning themselves in political fantasies, and stop distracting themselves with escapist entertainment.
Freedom demands that we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and start thinking like human beings, or at the very least, Americans.
Freedom demands that we not remain silent in the face of evil or wrongdoing but actively stand against injustice.
Freedom demands that we treat others as we would have them treat us.
In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp—if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest—if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves—if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say—if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts—if you don’t want your children to grow up in a world without freedom—then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how tempting the reason or how fervently you believe in your cause.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.