Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Remembering Waco

The message that Americans are sending the government today is “You know best. We trust you. Do whatever you deem necessary.” Remember the argument in the lead-up to the Iraq War? “We must trust the administration; it knows more facts than we do.” As it turns out, all these assumptions were wrong. Too many Americans treat the government as if it were populated with Homo superiorus, people endowed with superior wisdom and benevolence. Military Commissions Act? No problem. NSA domestic spying? They’re only listening to the bad guys. Destroy habeas corpus? That only applies to terrorists. Eliminate posse comitatus? They’d never use the military against us. Yet if everybody in government is so wonderful and trustworthy, how do we explain Waco?

The lesson that we should have learned from Waco is that we have a right, indeed a duty, to be suspicious and distrustful of our government. For generations, this suspicion was a uniquely American quality. However, during World War II and then the Cold War, Americans began to trust their government. As with totalitarian regimes, American politicians recognized the benefits of having foreign enemies, even imaginary ones. People band behind their government, seeking protection from the enemy. We now live with that legacy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:15 AM  

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