Monday, October 6, 2014

Of, by, and for

Somewhere along the way, the fundamental relationship between the American people and their government has changed. Where we were intended to elect representatives, we have chosen to elect rulers. Where the people were intended to be the authority, they have settled for the role of subjects. The creation, and existence of the American political class required the complicity of two parties - the elected politicians, and the American voters that enable and tolerate it. This dysfunctional relationship has permeated government from the lowest level to the highest.

At the local level we see increasing effort by city managers to implement agendas of far away global strategists. The philosophy, and direction, of government increasingly comes from beyond the community rather than from within. The increasing militarization of local police departments and federal agencies reinforces an "us vs. them" mindset. "No knock" SWAT style raids are more frequently arriving at the doorstep of innocents - sometimes with terrible consequences. We see stories of the abuse of citizens through misuse of asset seizure laws,  leaving work-a-day Americans pitted against the infinite resources of government simply to retain their personal property. Imminent domain authority has been abused to take the property of one private individual and give it to another so that the recipient and the government can benefit financially. In some cases that imminent domain authority is even given directly to a private enterprise. This is not the behavior of governments subject to the authority of citizens.

The nature of the relationship between the average American citizen and his government no longer reflects the ideas of citizen authority and public servants at any level. As a society we have chosen to be the subjects of rulers that increasingly wield an anti-American authority. Today's federal government openly acts against the interests of American citizens. Our President openly dismisses the concept of American exceptionalism, and he has built a cabinet of similarly minded individuals. Our courts consult foreign law in their decisions. Our Congress ignores its Constitutional duties regarding separation of powers. All three branches use the Constitution when it suits their agendas, and disregard it when it does not. We are increasingly governed by elected officials that regard themselves citizens of the world first, and Americans second.

The reality of how deep this problem runs is illustrated in the current left/right schism in views about stopping non-aid related flights into and out of the West African Ebola zone. The lack of seriousness regarding border security and immigration policy in recent decades has revealed a pervasive lack of interest in preserving American culture. Not terribly surprising coming from those that scoff at the idea of American exceptionalism. But concerns over the health of American citizens within American borders is a deeply perplexing subject in which to find a right/left divide. When the director of the CDC makes a statement that travel restrictions to the United States would make the Ebola outbreak worse, it uncovers a view that places governments of the world together in one category and lumps the peoples of the world into another. The director's comments are shockingly devoid of logic and present a condescension that leaves one wondering if the only border he considers is the one between those in authority and the world's masses.

Just as we have seen a significant increase in illegal immigration from Latin America, we have also seen a significant increase in illegal immigration from West Africa at our Southern border. As desperate people seek to escape the horrors of Liberia, they will take any available route to first world medical care. The open invitation of the U.S. Southern border is a beacon for potential disaster in third world nations of our own hemisphere. Routes to the United States through central America, or Mexico potentially provide more time for viral incubation, and more time exposed to fellow travelers after carriers become symptomatic. This doesn't even begin to touch on the risks posed to other countries in our hemisphere that are much more vulnerable to viral epidemics than is the United States.

To placate fears about the spread of Ebola, officials talk about airline departure screening efforts. And to show us that they are taking things seriously they offer to consider arrival screening efforts. How effective is this? The screening amounts to an honor system questionnaire, and a temperature scan. The first symptom of Ebola is usually fever, but sometimes it is headaches, or a sore throat that will not be detected by a temperature scan. A passenger can be contagious without having a fever. Assuming a passenger is symptom free at boarding time, the length of these trips typically range from about 24 to 36 hours. If the arrival screening identifies an Ebola case, what will then be the procedure for dealing with the victim's fellow passengers, the flight crew, the plane, and whatever portion of the airport the ill patient has passed through? These screening activities are simply not serious efforts.

Among a minefield of risks the U.S. open border policy remains untouchable. Within our government lies a pathological inability to secure our borders or restrict the free flow of people into and out of the United States in even minor ways. It probably shouldn't surprise us. If the threat of terrorists sneaking into our homeland, and the health risks of re-introducing long eradicated diseases is not enough to secure the border, why should the threat of a viral epidemic spur our elected officials to act in defense of the American people? This betrayal makes it clear that a government of, by and for the people has become a myth that the people themselves have had a hand in creating. It's past time for the people to make it a reality again.

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