Yes, I want that old thing back. The time when we weren’t being snowed by our own intelligence community. The time when we were not snowed in by the Patriot Act. Forced to be incommunicado on the subject of our own constitutionally-granted, legal, tender freedoms. The problem with the Patriot Act is not that it was legislated. The problem with the Patriot Act is that Congress failed to stamp it with the born-on-date .
I want that old thing back. When we did not have to worry the government was listening in on our calls and data mining our texts and photos, without telling us. When we would not have to fear being branded spies for having allegedly exposed some egregious violation of our constitutional rights. When the intelligence community was less focused on apprehending a single fugitive than on addressing their in house blunders. Was their such a time? I guess you can’t blame them for the bias. After all, the Patriot Act has been their cash cow. Putting our tax dollars to work, no matter how the color of our threat level is coded. Nobody wants to have their steak and potatoes pulled out from under them.
Some things were born to die! The cola in your pantry. The eggs in your fridge. And the Patriot Act. It is illegal to sell eggs and soda and food that has no born-on date stamp. Vendors will not receive produce that has not been stamped. Vendors are not supposed to sell produce whose born-on date has expired (although I could rat out a few cornerstores in west Oakland or west Chicago). The FDA (another government agency we fund with our tax dollars) is supposed to (and does) police this law. Agents go out to the manufacturers and the vendors and the retail stores, and throw out products that are missing stamps or expired. They write out code violations, etc. But the FDA cannot police the Patriot Act, because it has no born-on date at all. Yet its still on the shelves for mass consumption! The Patriot Act has turned! Yet we are still pouring it over our cornflakes, and scooping it into our mouths.
Somebody was asleep at the wheel. Inspector #9 perhaps. I haven’t found his little slips in the pockets of my clothes in a long time, though I usely shop thrift. Inspector # 9 let the big one through the filter. Inspector #9 was apparently relieved of his duties without us knowing. Or maybe things got overwhelming and he quit? Maybe he took early retirement on that big fat government pension, on advice of his lawyer. Maybe they dug a ditch for him in the desert, or had him dig his own ditch and take rest. Maybe he got paid off and looked away? Who knows? The damage is done. The Patriot Act was put out on the market for our consumption, without a born-on date stamped on its ass.
We don’t need to ask why? Just remember all the poor souls jumping out of their bodies on nine eleven, 2001. Scary. We needed her, then. Sure. But not now. Now we find ourselves in the midst of what is apparently the largest compiled electronic database of our personal conversations, located somewhere in Utah, sponsored by the NSA, mined from the behemoth telecomm industry bluechips (ATT, Sprint, Verizon, etc.), legal under a clause in the Act which loosely interpreted permits full government penetration of any businesses conducting any sort of international conversation whatsoever, and beholden to no one.
Dear Mr. President, can we please correct this? Take it off the shelf? No matter whose to blame, the Patriot Act has turned, and it stinks! The elephant is in the room and we see it. Now will someone please lead it away? So we can get back to all the wonderful things we were doing in this country? Please? Superman? If you have finished courting the network morning show circuit, would you have time to help out? On behalf of good citizens everywhere. Someone forgot to take the trash to the curb, and now we have a problem.
We just want that old thing back. I know I’m not the only one. Turn on the tv, the radio, it’s circulating everywhere. Call it what you want. Our privacy. Our birthright. Full assurance that the conversation we are having today, whether it concern our political preference or our preference in whitening brand toothpaste, is not being collected and stored in some hard drive for future use, for or against us, whether it be for some company’s marketing database or in some court of law. Even if it’s not ever used, at all, for any purpose. The Patriot Act has turned.
by Katya W. Mills 06/13