Fear Plus Stupidity Gave Us The Patriot Act

My friend Mike Spinney made an interesting statement on Twitter: “If only we’d been as outspoken against the #PatriotAct as we are against #SOPA.”

Mood music:

I feel the same way, but the cause and effect is less of a mystery to me:

The Patriot Act passed at the height of our hysteria over 9-11. At the time, a lot of us thought we were seeing terrorists holding vials of smallpox and suitcase nukes at every street corner. We were so freaked out over the next potential attack that we gave government the keys to do anything it wanted if they would just keep us safe.

We get stupid when fear drives us. I can testify to that because back then I was one of the fear-laden souls who wanted the government to do whatever it took to prevent more attacks.

Fear made me refuse to get on a plane to Arizona to attend a cousin’s wedding a couple weeks after 9-11. When I finally had to get on a plane to Chicago for work in 2004, I was terrified.

Under the spell of fear, anxiety and depression, I was afraid of my own shadow. I chose staying indoors over living. I had a mental illness that was undiagnosed and out of control. But you didn’t have to have a mental illness to be in a stupor during that period of American history.

I eventually found treatment and lost the fear and anxiety. Since then I’ve been in overdrive doing the things I was too scared to do back then.

Of course, one person overcoming his demons isn’t the same as a nation undoing a bad law passed in a moment of national fear. Also, once you give any government emergency powers, it doesn’t like to give it back.

For me, given my own history, that’s probably one of the reasons I’m speaking out so loudly against SOPA and PIPA. I’m not willing to cower in the corner while Congress gives the government even more power to violate our freedom. Not again.

In fact, if we allow the current bills to become law as written, it will be worse than the circumstances that gave birth to the Patriot Act.

Back then, such a law was possible because people were in fear and wanted security.

If SOPA-PIPA passes, it will have been made possible because corporate money was more of an influence than common sense.

You tell me which motivation is worse.


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