Do We Have the Will To Remove The Infrastructure of Tyranny We Have Erected?

Think, think, think…

I’m not going to waste a lot of your time recapping what you are already being bombarded with in the news these past few days. The IRS Scandal, everyone is fair game to be spied on, etc.

Justice Antonin Scalia put it well when he wrote the dissent (which was supported also by Justices Kagen, Sotomayor, and Ginsberg) recently in the Supreme Court decision for allowing DNA swabs to be conducted on anyone who is arrested.

Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes; then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection. I therefore dissent, and hope that today’s incursion upon the Fourth Amendment, like an earlier one will some day be repudiated.

When I was reading this (the dissent starts on page 33), I couldn’t help but see him wearing that St. Thomas More hat during the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. Nor could I get the vision of More out of my head when I read Conor Friedersdorf’s piece in the Atlantic today.

What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants — to use power oppressively and unjustly — to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could’ve scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we’re counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after. Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant’s checklist that they’ve provided their successors:

Who all the spying didn’t thwart…

* A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review

* The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial

* Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027

* Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan’s blessing

* Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret — and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations

* The permissibility of droning to death people whose identities are not even known to those doing the killing

* The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven’t been convicted of anything

* A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order

Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?

I am not saying no one would resist a tyrant. Perhaps Congress would assert itself. Perhaps the people would rise up. Then again, perhaps it would be too late by the time the abuses were evident. (America has had horrific abuses of power in the past under weaker executives who were less empowered by technology; and numerous other countries haven’t recognized tyrants until it was too late.) Part of the problem is how much the Bush-Obama paradigm permits the executive to do in secret. Take that paradigm, add another successful 9/11-style attack, even after many years of very little terrorism, and who knows what would happen?

No one does.

That’s because we’re allowing ourselves to become a nation of men, not laws. Illegal spying? Torture? Violating the War Powers Resolution and the convention that mandates investigating past torture?

No matter. Just intone that your priority is keeping America safe.

Read the entire piece.

Speaking of becoming a nation of (strong) men instead of a nation of laws, for the “sake of safety,” I wonder what St. Thomas More would say about that?


Which reminds us that as our system of government evolved into one that derives its power from the consent of the governed, St. Paul’s divinely inspired counsel to the church in Rome here,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

cuts us to the quick when we realize we ourselves are responsible for this mess. Both major parties supported it, and neither one currently has the will to thwart the potential for the further accretion of power into the hands of the few.

I don’t often quote Mark Shea in these matters, as the Federalist Papers are usually more appropriate, but I will now.

A post-Christian culture will be a slave culture because slavery is the normal state of fallen man. It is the brief period in history where Christian civilization, after a labor of centuries, finally threw off slavery, that is the exceptional thing. It is the other 200,000 years where slavery is taken for granted that is what we are absolutely guaranteed to see–unless we repent and believe the good news.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The offer still stands. We just have to want it.

And where does the Church stand in all this? I argue that she stands for the light of liberty in the midst of this gathering of tyrannical darkness,

“We remain fully committed to the defense of our religious liberty and we strongly protest the violation of our freedom of religion that has not been addressed. We continue to work for the repeal of the mandate. We have grave reservations that the government is intruding in the definition of who is and who is not a religious employer . . .

To that I would add, “and who is, and who isn’t an enemy of the state.” Just today our lead shepherd reminds us that,

Defending religious liberty and making it available for everyone, Pope Francis said, is everyone’s responsibility. Doing so “guarantees the growth and development of the entire community.”

Liberty these days is our responsibility. It’s like the bard sings of here,

We’ve got work to do if we want to keep this garden we call a republic. At a loss for what to do? You can start right now by praying this special novena to the Immaculate Heart today with me, and with many others. Do it every day between now, and June 16th.

Never underestimate the “weak” strength of prayer.

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10 Responses to Do We Have the Will To Remove The Infrastructure of Tyranny We Have Erected?

  1. AnneG says:

    Frank, why didn’t the Patriot Act have an expiration date? Even Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus but only for a short time. That is what they should have done. When you have as much information as the government collects none of it is useful. For a while there were so many classified cables you couldn’t read them, so people didn’t. And people sent stuff that was classified as unclassified so people who needed it would read it. That is the nature of a bureaucracy. Everything you have mentioned does threaten our republic and our independence.


  2. Fabio Paolo Barbieri says:

    A song for when tyranny looms across the horizon:


  3. Fabio Paolo Barbieri says:
  4. Fabio Paolo Barbieri says:
  5. Fabio Paolo Barbieri says:
  6. Fabio Paolo Barbieri says:

    Our ancestors tore their freedom from gathered armies, they bled and died for it, they went into exile and suffered poverty and starvation rather than live as slaves. Are we really going to let a bunch of bureaucrats with computers undo all that?

    The Old Issue

    by Rudyard Kipling

    October 9th, 1899

    “Here is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
    “Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
    “It is the King—the King we schooled aforetime !”
    (Trumpets in the marshes—in the eyot at Runnymede!)

    “Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
    “Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
    “It is the King!”—inexorable Trumpets—
    (Trumpets round the scaffold at the dawning by Whitehall!)

    . . . . .

    “He hath veiled the Crown and hid the Sceptre,” warn the Trumpets,
    “He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
    “Hard die the Kings—ah hard—dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
    Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!

    Ancient and Unteachable, abide—abide the Trumpets!
    Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
    Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets—
    Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!

    All we have of freedom, all we use or know—
    This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

    Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw—
    Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

    Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
    Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

    Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years,
    How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

    So they bought us freedom—not at little cost
    Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

    Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
    Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

    Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
    Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time shall cure.”,

    (Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
    Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)

    Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
    Suffer not the old King here or overseas.

    They that beg us barter—wait his yielding mood—
    Pledge the years we hold in trust—pawn our brother’s blood—

    Howso’ great their clamour, whatsoe’er their claim,
    Suffer not the old King under any name!

    Here is naught unproven—here is naught to learn.
    It is written what shall fall if the King return.

    He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
    Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.

    He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
    He shall change our gold for arms—arms we may not bear.

    He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
    He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

    He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
    Watchers ‘neath our window, lest we mock the King—

    Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
    Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

    Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
    These shall deal our Justice: sell—deny—delay.

    We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
    For the Land we look to—for the Tongue we use.

    We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
    While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

    Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
    Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

    Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
    Laying on a new land evil of the old—

    Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain—
    All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

    Here is naught at venture, random nor untrue—
    Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

    Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
    Step for step and word for word—so the old Kings did!

    Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
    Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed—

    All the right they promise—all the wrong they bring.
    Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King!


  7. Katy says:

    The PATRIOT Act did have an expiration date – or at least it did originally. It’s been renewed at least once.


  8. Katy says:

    There’s really NOTHING that the government could not justify under the guise of fighting terrorism, is there?

    I think of what is said during the gun regs debate: “If ONE child can be saved, then all of these measures are worth it!”

    We don’t value privacy. The old folks don’t seem to care because, “if you are not doing anything wrong, then there’s no reason to be afraid.” The young are so used to online private entities gathering info on them they don’t even think twice.

    I care, and I think there are a few of us…


  9. Poll results I saw over on Yahoo! today…

    Do you think the government is overstepping its authority by collecting emails and phone records?

    Yes, they should step back (93059) 56%

    The need to fight terror outweighs it (40454) 24%

    I’d be more outraged with companies giving it away (13600) 8%

    I don’t want to answer because I know they’re watching (20488) 12%

    Even the Daily Kos is wandering in the wilderness.


  10. Pofarmer says:

    “And where does the Church stand in all this? I argue that she stands
    for the light of liberty in the midst of this gathering of tyrannical
    “We remain fully committed to the defense of our
    religious liberty and we strongly protest the violation of our freedom
    of religion that has not been addressed. We continue to work for the
    repeal of the mandate. We have grave reservations that the government is
    intruding in the definition of who is and who is not a religious employer .”

    You are conflating things here that have no business together. How do you get from wiretapping and monitoring to the church stomping on the rights of those that work for it’s businesses? And by the way, it is exactly the govts business to say who is and is not a religious employer. The Chruch’s idea of “religious freedom”(which really isn’t about freedom at all) is that they have the right to tell me what I can or cannot do if I work for a Catholic hospital or Catholic owned business. That is ANTITHETICAL to what the idea of FREEDOM is all about.


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