From the noble sounding freedom rhetoric used by Bush and other presidents, foreigners would not have insight into the real meanings of U.S. freedom. The world’s poor people struggle just to survive. Middle class Americans, however, indulge in the combined fruits of our Judeo-Christian, freedom-loving heritage.
Those 4 billion third-worlders with factory or field jobs, barely eking out enough to survive, lack the freedoms we possess. They can however, aspire to embrace the American way of finding Jesus at nearby shopping malls or even on line. Most of the world’s poor cannot hope to satisfy their most minute religious and sexual urges by sitting at their computer, which they don’t have; or reading an evocative email, which they’ve never received.
Pious and lonely Americans, however, can find mates through on-line dating at <Christian.cafe.com>, “the premier Christian singles site.” They can meet devout (read repressed but horny) partners of the other sex and read salacious biblical passages to each other — before making out, above the waist only of course.
“Thank you, ChristianCafe.com,” one woman wrote, “for being used by God to bring my husband and me together. Jason and I met on <ChristianCafe.com> in December 2003. Then in February 2004, we met face to face for the first time. We are enjoying married life immensely!”
Or, “thirty plus Christians”–illustrated by photos of a pretty blond woman and handsome brown haired guy–can “stop wasting time on online dating sites and meet real Christian singles.”
For the lewd and lonely without religious facades, and who feel the ennui of married life, the Web offers spicy sex games. “Do you have the moves to drive your man wild? The art of the striptease involves more than a revealing costume, stiletto heels, and a red feather boa. To successfully release your inner stripper, ladies, you’ve got to have the moves (of course!), but most important you have to exude self-confidence. Bedroom Games Book is your key to turning your (and his!) most secret sexual fantasies into reality and giving the man in your life a night he won’t soon forget! 186 pages. Hard Cover.”
For non readers, the internet offers “Glow in the dark foreplay dice.” “If your love life consists of been there…done that, then here is a way to spice it up!
If you just don’t feel that “sense” of excitement, one company offers a game to “awaken all five senses. Sensations puts everything together to ensure that the mood is set for soft caresses, quivers of sensual delight, communication, passion and humor! All your senses will come alive. Includes: 2 tokens, die, hourglass, blindfold, board, 2 spinners, 30 challenge cards, 30 favor coupons, stimulator (one AA battery required, not included), bottle of massage oil and instruction booklet.”
For the less sexually obsessed who still focus on The Bill of Rights, events at the Santa Cruz campus of the University of California caused serious concern. The Pentagon dispatched a snoop unit to collect data on anti-war activists on campus. On April 5, 2005, some 200 students vigorously protested the presence of military recruiters at a job fair. The protesters’ enthusiasm not only drove out the recruiters, but led the university to temporarily close the job fair.
When Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) learned of the Pentagon spy squad, she wrote Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “What Department of Defense components are authorized to collect or maintain information on U.S. Persons on U.S. territory without court approval? Under what circumstances are Department of Defense components authorized to collect, report, maintain, database, analyze, fuse or otherwise handle information concerning U.S. Persons engaged in activities protected by the First Amendment?”
“Shocked” and “appalled” Congressman Sam Farr, who represents Santa Cruz, promised to seek answers about the incident when the Defense budget comes up for review.
The Bush Administration countered by claiming the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) implicitly authorized domestic spying and prohibiting warrant-less domestic spying impinges upon the president’s authority as commander-in-chief. Harvard Law School Professors argued that such spying could violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
Two other incidents should alert people about the precarious state of that “other freedom” that lots of Americans once treasured almost as much as shopping. Hector Carreon in the January 12, 2006 La Voz de Aztlan reports that a Homeland Security agent left a business card under his door with a note that said “Please call.”
The DHS agent wanted to interrogate him about La Voz de Aztlan, which Carreon says, is “an internet news service for Mexican and Mexican-Americans in the U.S. Southwest and in Mexico.”
Subsequently, in Carreon’s home, one agent said “La Voz de Aztlan has raised eyebrows in Washington.” Another agent asked about “Aztlan being a separatist organization, and whether I believed that the Southwest should separate from Washington and become part of Mexico.” Did Carreon believe “in the armed and violent overthrow of the U.S. government.” They asked him for the names of his associates and the location of his weapons.
Carreon replied that he “believed in making social and political changes through the ballot box.”
Carreon signed a document permitting them to examine his computer. “I decided that it would be the best course to continue to fully cooperate with the federal agents.. Right after I signed, the lead agent radioed someone and within five minutes two more special agents arrived to my home with suitcases of electronic equipment. The lead agent asked me to escort them to my computer room where they spent two hours copying the hard disk of my computer.”
Another indication of the wobbly state of our other freedoms comes from James Moore, former television news correspondent and co-author of Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. Jan. 4, 2006, Moore confirmed his flight reservation before leaving home, “went to the electronic kiosk” and got an error message when he tried to print his boarding pass. “Please see agent,” the screen read.
After the agent entered his driver’s license number into the computer system, she said: “I’m sorry, sir. There seems to be a problem. You’ve been placed on the No Fly Watch List.” That’s the one the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created “or people who might have terrorist connections.”
Moore called TSA in Washington to find out how he “got on the No Fly Watch List.” “I’m not really authorized to tell you that, sir,” the TSA bureaucrat said. She did offer, however, that there was “something in your background that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for.”
Moore, whose name has appeared on the No Fly Watch List for a year, concluded that “I will never be told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been given to work from has since grown to 80,000.”
While TSA punishes people by not letting them on airplanes, NSA spies on them–not only by eavesdropping on their telephones and emails. NSA used local police in New York City and Baltimore to monitor anti-war protestors. Members of the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, loosely connected to the local American Friends Service Committee, have a history of nonviolent civil disobedience.
An NSA e-mail proves the “Baltimore Intel Unit” of the Police Department gave NSA all the details of a July 3, 2004, protest at Fort Meade. An attorney for the Baltimore Pledge people obtained the email through the discovery process from NSA..
If you want freedom to have virtual sex–even with the pious Christians running all three branches of government– the U.S. is the place to be. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed: those old-fashioned freedoms: of speech, expression and worship; and freedom from want and fear. Well, that’s history–at least for now.
We don’t need more documents to know that the once inviolable rights not to be abused or tortured have eroded. Indeed, despite denials from the White House, Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared that the Bush administration’s strategy depends on abusing terror suspects during interrogations. (HRW annual report released Jan 18, 2006)
HRW drew this conclusion from solid evidence, including statements by senior Bush officials. The report stated that Bush’s declaration that the United States does not torture suspects rang hollow.
What to conclude? Enjoy the freedom to shop and play sex games, but don’t foolishly endanger national security with those other, once sacred freedoms?
SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.