unable to turn the other cheek

There are a few things that I just have trouble forgiving. While I am not exactly cheering the medical difficulties of the Attorney General, I don’t exactly find myself brimming with sympathy either.

That some conservatives just don’t get how some of us can have such contempt for the man as is evidenced by the diatribe that inspired today’s Curmudgeon entry. Hopefully, I can shed some light.

You see, I don’t take being called a traitor lightly. I remember well listening to the AG’s speech on the radio and hearing that accusation hurled at me. I turned the radio off within a few moments of hearing this outrageous venom spewed:

[T]o those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists—for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.

You see, the farcically named Patriot Act had already riled me up but until this moment, I viewed the law as merely a typical political reaction to the American public’s cry for action. Being accused of using tactics to aid terrorist because of harboring a reasonable viewpoint on civil liberties took my concern to a whole new level: Ashcroft was declaring a war on political dissent. The ensuing months did nothing to quell my fears that our government was asserting its power to ignore the limits imposed by the 4th Amendment.

But of course the “Real Patriots” know best.

According to the diatribe, We civil libertarians apparently are just ordinary ingrates. We do not realize our own “unmitigated insipidity and apathy” and “what this man and his department have done to protect [our] right to be free, safe and stupid.” The temptation here is to argue with this schlub on the merits, but it is more significant that this basic mantra is bought by so many well meaning people. I remember well having a discussion sometime during the Patriot Act rubber stamping extravaganza wherein somebody said to me, and I paraphrase, “well, you may not be interested in protecting yourself but I am, so stand back and let those who know what’s good for you take care of business.”

It is almost funny that people think I am that stupid. Really, I don’t drool profusely or watch Professional Wrestling. Honest.

Here is the point: I am quite capable of balancing the risk of my harm at the hands of terrorists and the risk of my harm at the hands of my own government. I may make that assessment differently than you do, but it doesn’t make me stupid or unpatriotic. It might seem shocking to you to know that many of us civil libertarians are in fact among the most patriotic people you can find. Our patriotism is rooted in those civil liberties that we purport to hold so dear and I don’t see near the passion coming from the conservative ideologues that I do from the libertarians.

In the unlikely event that I made some of you feel a tad guilty for labeling me a stupid traitor, please rest assured that your guilt is entirely unnecessary: I have in the past labeled you as stupid in your cavalier willingness to throw away the civil liberties bravely wrested from the Monarchs over the last six centuries. But at least I didn’t call you a traitor like the Attorney General called me.

One irony is that though I never supported Ashcroft’s boss, I was on Ashcroft’s side during the Senate confirmation imbroglio. I thought at the time that confirmation was being unreasonably withheld because based on his record, he seemed qualified even if he wouldn’t be my choice. The Senate’s job is to advise and consent-not to tell the President what viewpoints are acceptable for what jobs.

In retrospect, perhaps the good Senators knew a thing or two that I did not.

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