Author - Speaker - teacher
March 15, 2002
Two friends write to me regularly about President George W. Bush. One comes at politics from the far left; the other from the far right and they share at least three points of view and one serious mental condition.
They both see President Bush as the personification of Adolph Hitler (please stay with me). They believe that his presidency is about consolidating power for the benefit of the rich and powerful at the expense of the powerless—the rest of us. (Rest easy. I do not agree.)
They both claim not to be left or right, but champions of clear rational thought. One holds to a libertarian position about government. The other is a socialist. But both believe Internationalist Business and Big Government are ravaging liberty.
They both see the hated media as warping the political debate against their stated positions.
The left-winger sees the recent emergence of Fox News and, more specifically, Rupert Murdoch and the corporate interests he represents as a threat to freedom. He believes Fox has a hard right bias.
The right-winger sees the emergence of CNN and, more specifically, Ted Turner and the corporate interests he represents as a threat to freedom—he would certainly include ABC, CBS and NBC as participants in a left-wing media conspiracy. Come to think of it, he thinks Fox News is liberally biased, too. Nothing pleases him.
These two men have made me feel like a centrist. But my politics lay directly in the same middle-as-the-road as those of the founding fathers (Peter Jennings would label me far right). In comparison to my two friends, I have found myself defending institutions and individuals that often fall victim of my critical pen.
Though I support George Bush today, during the 2000 election I did not.
My most vital concern about President Bush then and now centers on his support for and complicity in federalizing the government schools (oops, I should use the more politically correct term, public schools). His “No Child Left Behind” program should be relabeled as “No Child is Left to be Free,” but I will save this wider discussion for another day.
I have relished defending President Bush’s handling of the struggle against the tyranny of terrorism. My friends have labeled the president’s actions since 9-11 as an attempt to grab off more power for the federal government for the express purpose of destroying what remains of our liberty. Both have suggested, in fact, that President Bush may have purposely staged the attack.
They fear that President Bush is using this crisis for the evil ulterior motive of subjugating us all to his own brand of totalitarianism—perhaps carrying out his father’s proclamation that we have entered a New World Order.
How did either of them, and the millions of Americans they represent, ever get into such a frame of mind? How did they become so paranoid?
I debated with them the constitutional mandate given by We the People to the federal government for the express purposes of providing for the common defense and insuring domestic tranquility. The argument fell on ears deafened by paranoia.
Skepticism about government is essential to a free people. Our founding fathers warned us that eternal vigilance is necessary to maintain freedom and good government. But skepticism must be healthy and rational, based on well-founded documentation and scholarship.
That criterion rests on the US Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence that informs it. I am critically jealous of all federal government encroachments that threaten my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I know it is the purpose of government to protect inalienable rights. Over the years, as I applied these criterion to modern governance I, too, have often become paranoid.
I have seen evidence that Big Government is closing in on us, and I resent it. Ronald Reagan saw it, too, when he said, “government is the problem.”
Sometimes paranoia is well informed. When a President stands before the nation—and his wife—and lies about sexual fidelity, I do not trust him. I know the parable that “he who is unfaithful in the least cannot be trusted with true riches.”
Ruby Ridge, Waco and the investigation of the Oklahoma City Bombing incidents certainly fueled my paranoia about Big Government. So does the IRS.
But in the process of being paranoid, I too often have condemned the institutions of government that serve to buffer us from the worst intentions of despots. These institutions all have the power to keep each other in check, even an evil president intent on selling our freedom to the highest Chinese bidder.
The balance of power between We the People, various branches and levels of government, partisanship and a hostile media constantly police each other. I favor more partisanship, not less. There is great value in messy, time-consuming debates, not in rubber stamp reactionary bipartisanship. Making laws should more resemble making a new tasty sausage than an automobile assembly line.
It does not bother me when the partisan pundit Maureen Dowd attacks George Bush; or when Rush Limbaugh attacks Tom Daschle. In the one case I can fight back and in the other, cheer.
Lately, I have found myself quite sanguine about the media because of the explosion of news and information sources available to all of us. No matter how far left or right a person is, there is a news source to reinforce their belief. Of course, the wisest of people should listen to me.
And that brings me back to “us.” We the People, the all-powerful fourth branch of government, must be informed, vigilant and somewhat skeptical. It is our responsibility.
Have no delusions about this: President Bush’s highest priority is the protection of American life, liberty and property. He needs every constitutional asset possible to fulfill this obligation. And we need to remain rationally skeptical about how he does it. This is not paranoia; it is vigilance, and it is an intelligent approach to self-government.
In so exercising our responsibility to be vigilant and to a great extent skeptical, let us not so damage the institutions of freedom that the despots win by default. Let us keep healthy skepticism from becoming irrational paranoia and draw our well-honed swords of vigilance whenever liberty is threatened.
Left meets right at the Bush,
Or is paranoia another word for vigilance?