Leonard Pitts Jr., in the Daily Star editorial, observes "Sadly, there are dozens of junctures in American history from which that shameful quote might spring." And Pitts lists several examples dating back to the very founding of the United States. Here are some examples.
It could date as far back as 1798, when President Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, making it illegal to criticize the U.S. government.
It could have been said in the 1940s, when Americans put Americans in concentration camps, or in the 1950s, when Joe McCarthy saw red everywhere he looked, or in the 1960s, when J. Edgar Hoover sat listening to Martin Luther King’s phone calls, or, also in the ’60s, when the Supreme Court gave police the power to stop and frisk (and harass and intimidate) without warrants or probable cause.
But the quote is contemporaneous. It was said by a former New York police officer in a Fox News program.
A Dr. Gina Loudon, identified as a "psychology expert," claimed "80 percent" of the mosques in America advocate violence. Coincidentally, about the same percentage of facts spewed by Fox "experts" turn out to be pure equine excreta.
Hannity, meantime, worried that a Syrian refugee might go into a crowded theater and start shooting people at random. Right. Like we need Syrian refugees for that.
But it was left to Bo Dietl, a former New York City cop, to cross the line from the simply stupid to the downright chilling, as he called for mass surveillance of mosques. Unconstitutional, you say? "Let’s stop worrying about people’s rights," he said.
Pitts wraps it up this way.
We supposedly hold sacred the values inscribed in this nation’s founding documents. Yet every time the world says "Boo!" some of us are pathetically eager to toss those values aside as if they were suddenly a burden too heavy to bear. But if the things that make America America are so easily sloughed off — if they are that unimportant — then what, exactly, is it we’re fighting to defend?
Why does "America" even matter?
Sept. 11 damaged and destroyed iconic buildings and took thousands of lives. But it also shredded the Constitution and made America unrecognizable to itself. The government tortured. It disappeared people. It snooped through innocent lives.
It created a secret "no-fly list" of supposed terrorists that included many people with zero connection to terrorism, at least one of them a U. S. senator; you could never find out how you got on the list and there was no effective procedure for getting off. It also gave the president unilateral power to execute American citizens suspected of terrorism without trial or even judicial oversight.
And after all that, here comes Bo Dietl. "Let’s stop worrying about people’s rights," he says.
Here’s a better idea. Let’s start.
Following posts are about two of those candidates for public office who have already stopped "worrying about people’s rights."