Jewish World Review June 19, 2002 / 9 Tamuz, 5762
love the feds
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A fundamental divide appears to have arisen in America between those who trust the government and those, increasingly on the left, who don't.
In a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics survey, 71 percent of Americans reported being more concerned that the FBI have the tools and freedom to spy on terrorists, while 13 percent professed to worry more deeply that the agency would spy on them. Even as 63 percent are willing to "expand law enforcement powers to catch suspected terrorists, even if it requires sacrificing some personal liberties," 24 percent refuse to back such measures.
For many Americans, 9/11 represented the end of the Vietnam era. We moved from being suspicious of men and women in uniform to embracing and welcoming them. We morphed from seeing our government as part of "them" to considering it part of "us."
If the naive infatuation with our nation and its leaders that characterized our love affair with President John F. Kennedy was our first marriage, then Vietnam and Watergate was our divorce. Now most Americans are entering the second marriage.
Warily, cautiously, tentatively, we discard the cynicism that grew like a scar over the wounds of our disenchantment with Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and reach out to embrace our government and our national ideals.
But for some, nothing has changed: The ghost of J. Edgar Hoover still roams the corridors of the FBI, and the history of wiretapping the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is still fresh.
When Ashcroft asks for more power to investigate Americans suspected of cooperation with terrorists, the memories of the abuse of power resurface as in a nightmare that keeps repeating itself. More fearful of the government than of those it seeks to investigate, they react with a suspicion born of experience to what most other Americans see as reasonable grants of power made necessary in this era of terrorism.
This cultural divide makes the positions of some of us incomprehensible to others:
Who's right? For now, the mainstream sees things more clearly. It is not just that Ashcroft needs the powers he requests to protect us. It's that we trust him and President Bush not to abuse the authority we give them. We feel a new sense of unity with our leaders and a symbiotic understanding of the need for protection.
In the future? The pendulum will inevitably swing the other way. The powers we vote today are the grounds for abuse tomorrow.
Unfortunately, there is no happy medium. Governments usually end up misusing the powers we give them. Power corrupts. Bureaucrats shed their fear and with it their inhibitions. They go too far and pry too deeply into activities that are none of their business.
For our part, once the crisis fades, we forget to take the authority away until after its abuse has triggered scandal.
But we don't live in the future. We live in the present. And, for the present, with the threats that loom so drastically over our national life, there is no question but that the right policy is to trust our leaders and give them what they ask to defend us.
Let's just try to remember to be careful to rein them in when the danger has
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06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine