"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." He wrote this in a letter to William Smith, dated 13 November 1787. I am mindful of this today, nearly two and a quarter centuries later, on a day when it has been revealed that forces within our government are moving even now to extinguish whatever public liberty we have remaining, using the color of law to do so: What is coming to be known as the PATRIOT II Act, constructed by the staff under Attorney General John Ashcroft, will be the most sweeping destruction of personal liberties, privacy, and the "right to know" that citizens of our country have ever faced. In the wildest fantasies of the Red-Scared 50's, Americans never imagined that our own government would seek to enact legislation that would make of us a police state that rivals anything seen in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia under Stalin. But here we are, staring such legislation in the face. I direct you to the Center for Public Integrity, which is where the story broke: here.
I fear for our country, but it is not at the hands of foreign terrorists that I feel our destruction is threatened. The terrorists are the ones who sow terror in our hearts every day, rattling the sabers, and releasing "orange alerts", all designed to keep us off balance and afraid. For fearful people will do whatever is commanded of them.
I will leave you with these words, also from the Jefferson letter I mentioned above. They bear repeating, as it is clear that this Founding Father knew much about the nature of men and of the governments that they create:
- "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion [as the one in Massachusets]. The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty."
- "What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them."