In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville warned of the possibility of a democratic nation sliding subtly, almost imperceptibly into a state of dictatorship.
“The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives,” he wrote. “...he exists but in himself and for himself, and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.”
We live in a world where our democracy is under attack, and the attackers are the very men and women we continue to elect to protect our rights. It used to be the place of the news media to keep the government in check, but they have largely abdicated that role, and our freedoms are suffering for it.
With recent revelations about successive presidential administrations using the Patriot Act to spy on our day to day phone records, social media usage, even the books we check out of the library, only the slightest murmurs of protest have been heard. The Patriot Act has been re-authorized, and even strengthened, numerous times by politicians of both political stripes.
When legitimate opposition groups have come to the fore, the government has employed the IRS to make the going as difficult for them as possible.
The revelations about our government’s efforts to spy on its own people have come primarily from two people. The first, Bradley Manning, now sits in a military prison where he is serving a 35 year sentence, and the other, Edward Snowden, is in exile in Russia, likely for the rest of his life. Senators have publicly called for the death penalty for Snowden if he is ever tried here. Neither used an American media outlet to air their information.