We’re missing the point. The whole kerfuffle about the NSA and who knows who else looking under the beds and peeking into kitchen cabinets isn’t really about privacy, or national security, or potential misuse, or any of the other dozens of valid but secondary concerns surrounding this kind of invasive skullduggery. Yes, secondary: however important privacy may be, or national security, or the dangers of misuse, they are not the biggest concern we should have here. As much as the notion of beady-eyed squits scanning the emails and phone records of their girlfriends, secret crushes or personal enemies disgusts us, there’s a much bigger aspect to this that these Clouseaus are glad we have overlooked.
What happened to dignity? What happened to our personal stake in our country? Where is our common ownership of the ship of state evinced by a government that treats us all as though we were suspects?
It as if we have suddenly awakened to find that the reasonably comfortable campground we have checked into is really a kind of minimum-security prison. No fences, walls or locked doors, but the guards listen to all the phone calls and open all the mail. And it doesn’t stop there. Warden Bloomberg has taken the soda machines out of the chow hall because sugar is not good for you. And so on.
When did the citizens of the United States devolve into wards of a star chamber? What document did we sign that forfeits rights guaranteed us by the Constitution? What crime did we commit to justify our sudden incarceration in this tangle of restrictions, confinements, inspections and de facto confiscations?
Most important, how do we get back our dignity? We need to understand that nothing justifies this level of intrusion into our lives, where awful little people can pore over our phone calls, sift through our emails, finger our personal belongings and generally treat us like faceless items of property or chattel in the name of some amorphous notion of “security.” The first document does not say “subjects.” It says “We, the people.”