Want to find partisan common ground? Eliminate the Patriot Act

By Mark Reiner
Reader Contributor

There are many articles decrying the chaos of the recent past. Most of them call for a unity based upon real communication, tolerance, and a healthy dose of American pride. All of them have good points, but none have specific actions that may be taken to reduce or eliminate the specific areas of friction. 

One area of friction is the perceived overreach of the federal government in many areas, notably with the reduction of freedoms and increase of surveillance resulting from the various Patriot Acts. By October of this year, a special “enhanced” driver’s license is required if one is going to be allowed to fly commercially, even if only domestically. The X-ray and searches required to enter an airliner assume one’s guilt until proven innocent. Most of these are justified as safety measures, but all are based upon a “what-if” fear. There are many others, and with these a large portion of the population is fed up, for they are perceived as unnecessary intrusions into one’s privacy and at the same time reinforce the fear. Now that the Capitol in Washington, D.C., has been subjected to the anger of a lot of these people, we have to ask what is going to be the response? 

It is at this point where one can see an unexpected union of understanding between the right and the left, for many on the left foresee a further set of restrictions, and recognize these as unnecessary and even counterproductive to the professed call for unity. In the February issue of The Nation, a very left-leaning monthly periodical, there are three articles that demonstrate this common recognition. The first is “No New Terror Laws,” which states in part, “Reacting to the recent spate of politically motivated violence by granting more power to national security and law enforcement agencies won’t solve anything.” It later states, “We should not enlarge the reach of the War on Terrorism to the point where we all, in one way or another, fall under its umbrella. We should instead be aiming at ending it.” 

Another article titled “The Security Blanket” details “The Department of Homeland Security’s overreach into local law enforcement [which] has led to the investigation of matters laughably unrelated to terrorism.” 

It offers examples and later states, There are, “reports detailing protests that, far from being terror threats, would appear to be constitutionally protected First Amendment activity that is supposed to be exempt from law enforcement monitoring. The National Capitol Region Threat Intelligence Consortium even lists a report explicitly titled ‘First Amendment-Protected Events,’ claiming the activities under investigation have the ‘potential for low-level violence.’”  

The third article perhaps offers the most down-to-earth suggestions. The author writes, “Since people are taught by example and not only by precept, bad examples on any side should not be tolerated.” The article ends with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s “Lyceum Address” of 1838: “Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason is an honored word in the constitutional lexicon. Responsibility is another.” 

With members of both the political right and left agreeing in this area, much tension would be eliminated or reduced if the Patriot Act and other laws were reviewed and possibly eliminated, thus reducing the intrusions by the government into our private lives. 

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