As we take time today to reflect on the 13th anniversary of September 11, we now have enough distance to look back on not just this heinous event but also our response to it. Hunter S. Thompson wrote an interesting piece the day after 9/11 which sums up the national mood and accurately predicts certain sad truths – namely unending war and a great expansion of the federal government. When the Patriot Act was rushed through Congress as the towers still smoldered at Ground Zero, it eroded many rights Americans have enjoyed and helped kill some of the last vestiges of Federalism in the United States. The past 13 years have shown just how dangerous it can be when a scared, angry people react without reason.
Expansion of the Federal Government at the Expense of Federalism
We have seen just how insidious the overreaches of government can be. When the Patriot Act was passed, it was to be used to investigate terrorism and potential terrorists in the United States. As we’ve seen, however, the government has continued to expand its applicability and now routinely listens in on average citizens phone calls, reads their emails, and essentially spies on the populace.
This isn’t the end of it. With the rise of drones, it may soon be possible for our government to spy on us at all times. And President Obama has not ruled out using drones to conduct air strikes on American citizens (although he said there would be due process on such individuals, who knows what sort of definition of “due process” he has in mind). Federalism in the United States is effectively killed as each president widens the scope of what is allowable for the federal government under the law.
We still have prisoners in Guantanamo Bay who will never be tried, released, or given any semblance of due process. Our government routinely spies on us. Trust has completely eroded in public institutions as both parties have engaged in power grabs when they’ve had their turn to lead. We stand yet again on the precipice of war in the Middle East with a faceless enemy and nebulous “allies” who could be tomorrow’s enemies.
19 terrorists killed almost 3,000 people one day in September 13 years ago. Unfortunately, we have continued to kill Federalism and many American freedoms every day since.