NOVEMBER 26, 2001
A crisis of faith
© 2001

I am a big believer in the benefits of scar tissue.

Some 19th century philosopher once noted, "God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.

Scars (physical, emotional, or spiritual) leave marks. Good judgment is a product of experience, and often experience is the product of bad judgment. Consider the axiom as sort of an executive summary of the whole "there are consequences to what we do and don't do" rant.

For a variety of reasons, I want to believe in, trust and rely on this current administration. George W. Bush is in many ways the antithesis of his predecessor. Clinton personified abuse of power under the color of authority, wrapped up in ribbons of contemptible personal character.

I have often observed that routinely our government lies to us. This is no scoop or newsflash -- especially to WND readers. The refrain of James Forrestal, JFK's assassination, Vince Foster's death, Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, TWA Flight 800 and more all demonstrate that our government's "official story" routinely does not bear close scrutiny. But, hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day, isn't it?

Isn't it possible that this administration is telling us the truth? I want to believe. I really DO -- but cannot.

I have never met this President Bush. However in many ways I feel he is a better, more honest, more focused and more courageous man than his father. So why am I growingly fearful of potential abuse of power that will overshadow the abuses of Bill Clinton, FDR and even Abe Lincoln?

Elbert Hubbard wrote, "Would you have your name smell sweet with the myrrh of remembrance, and chime melodiously in the ear of future days? Then cultivate faith, not doubt. And give every man credit for the good he does, never seeking to attribute base motives to beautiful acts. Actions count!"

Damn! Until I got to that "Actions count!" part, I was almost feeling guilty for my cynicism.

Before the tragedy of 9-11 -- in fact the day before -- I wrote a column about The Hobbled First Amendment. Although that column predated the 2001 Patriot Act, it warned of the potential threat to freedom and liberty. I wrote then that, despite very specific prohibitive language which states "Congress shall make no law," Congress has in fact passed laws allegedly "in the public interest" which were specifically designed and intended to restrict freedom of speech and press.

Some of the more famous include the Alien And Sedition Acts of 1790, the Smith Act of 1940 and the McCarran Act of 1950 -- on top of which a gaggle of federal agencies and prosecutors have sparked actions that have resulted in various limitations on freedom of speech and press.

The latest assaults on liberty and freedom rationalized as "necessity" are chilling. Hypocrisy notwithstanding I found it almost amusing that Ellen Ratner (WND's newest liberal contributor) played the Reichstag fire analogy.

The USA Patriot Act and associated presidential executive orders annoyingly resemble the product of the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts.

Once upon a time the Alien Act of 1798 tried to grant then-President John Adams the authority to order foreign nationals he deemed "dangerous" to leave the country and, if they did not, to imprison them and to forcibly deport them.

The act was specifically intended and targeted at French and Irish nationals. The French were attacking U.S. shipping. The Irish were engaged in a fight for independence from Britain (even back then).

However it was used to persecute many would-be citizens who criticized the Adams administration -- including newspaper editors and publishers who were harshly critical of Adams (not unlike the way the Clinton administration unleashed the IRS on Joseph Farah and others).

The defeat of John Adams and election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, in what is called the "Revolution of 1800," allegedly settled the issue that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional.

When President Lincoln tried civilians in military courts during the 1861-65 War of Secession, the Supreme Court held, "Those great and good men foresaw that troublous times would arise, when rulers and people would become restive under restraint, and seek by sharp and decisive measures to accomplish ends deemed just and proper; and that the principles of constitutional liberty would be in peril, unless established by irrepealable law. The history of the world had taught them that what was done in the past might be attempted in the future" (my emphasis).

So did we learn the lesson? Hell no! During WWI a Sedition Act was again adopted that made it a crime to criticize the government or Constitution of the United States. Hey, isn't that what King George did to the framers?

What are we fighting this war on terrorism for? It should be for the essence of America, and that essence is delineated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

All our leaders, the policy makers and all the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, who are doing the actual for real fighting, have sworn an oath to "preserve and protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. ..." If or when we as a nation undermine, abrogate and ignore key components of what we claim to be the nation, then we are either hypocrites or ignorant sheep being led by would-be (and apparently successful) controllers.

Thomas Paine in "Common Sense" observed, "Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness. ... The first is a patron, the last a punisher."