Totalitarian history of Russia and Nazi Germany evokes passionate sentiment of brutality and government policy gone horribly awry in the minds of the American public, who since birth has been surrounded by traditional democratic ideals.
These were government systems that were enabled to produce urgency, compliance and idealism based on the exploitation and psychological coercion of the masses. A situation that was grounds for terror, panic and widespread helplessness led the people to seek refuge in the last place it was offered: the state.
Seemingly far from the totalitarian government of these respective historic periods is the United States. The U.S. prides its reputation on the provision of equal rights and just treatment for all. The security measures have recently been further augmented with the introduction of what is referred to as the PATRIOT II Act. The breadth of the PATRIOT Acts infringes upon the rights of all residing in the United States, disregarding this American ideology of civil liberties.
Superficially, these recent provisions may seem logical. Upon definition of an axis of evil and a continual time frame that is so volatile and crucial, it is necessary to identify the enemy terrorist. This definition of the terrorist as the other, as evil, elevates the United States to unquestioned authority and an ordained responsibility to remedy the situation. But whose definition of terrorism is this reliant upon?
Upon closer examination, this process of tracking those deemed terrorists has completely disregarded both constitutional and human rights. The fact remains that since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specified rights are enumerated to all human beings, regardless of race, sex or citizenship. Within this doctrine, as well as the Fourth and Sixth Amendments, are the rights to be secure in one’s person and effects, as well as the right to trial.
The provisions of the PATRIOT Acts clearly violate the guarantees set forth in the U.S. Constitution and the standards offered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This proposal’s infringements on these rights is a marked display of the unjust and hegemonic American state in action.
The underlying contradiction here is the intricate interlock between the actual rights seized and the balance of government power manifested in the current system. The Bush administration, as well as Congress, insists that this increase in government exercise of power is a necessary provision in the ongoing war against terrorism. The logistical conflict of the process, then, is the government proposing a solution that is based upon an upheaval of the very rights that it is said to protect.
Against the foundation of deliberation and balances, the conflict lies in the unilateral judgment. It is the president and administration that decide what constitutes an attack on our democracy. The ambiguity in its definition provides for an inordinate amount of power assumed by the president. Here, this extension establishes that the usurpation of one right can escalate into a further invasion of our constitutional rights, which has clearly been fulfilled with the proposition of the PATRIOT II Act.
While these measures are directed toward an enemy group, the process of slowly invading these rights is a threat to all people in the United States. Rights have become a political tool, the government mobilizing this power to create false rationale for the masses. While it seems that these measures are for the protection of American democracy, the provisions will not discriminate. All persons residing in the United States could potentially be enemies of the state. Speaking out against the government, rallying support for a position or refusing personal combat in future conflicts could serve as enemy motives.
Katherine Drabiak is a junior law and society and sociology major.