|Marriage is love.|
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)
You know, it used to be only right-wingnuts with guns and bomb shelters who went around saying things like "I love my country, but fear my government." Those words are sounding a lot less crazy these days, I'm very sorry to have to say!
With the passage of the mis-named USA PATRIOT Act, the FBI gained unprecedented (and unwarranted) power to search libraries and book-buying records without probable cause of any crime or intent to commit a crime. Furthermore, librarians and others who are required to turn over records are barred from informing anyone that the search has occurred or that records were given to the government. This means that the privacy of average Americans could be violated wholesale without either justification or proper judicial oversight.
Among other things, I am a writer, an editor, a librarian, an historian, and a graduate student. I've had an incurable addiction to the printed word since I learned how to read at the age of four and a half years (and that was more than a quarter of a century ago). Books are one of my drugs of choice.
Hell, yes, I want our government to take steps to protect us from terrorists. But is it too much to ask that the steps they take be rationally connected to actually preventing terrorist attacks? There is no clear connection between what someone may be reading and terrorist actions. What makes you think that a terrorist is going to tip his or her hand by trying to check out the Anarchist's Cookbook, or the collected works of Osama bin Laden (assuming there are any)? In fact, wouldn't it seem intuitively obvious that anyone with enough of a brain to plan a terrorist action would go out of his or her way to AVOID checking out such materials, knowing full well it might lead to unwanted attention?
And how are we to know that someone who is checking out materials on Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot is not, like myself, a graduate student in history doing research for a class on genocide in the 20th century (a course I happen to be taking this summer)? It's a sad day when I have to worry that my name might be turning up on someone's watch list because I'm checking out lots of books on war, mass genocide, witchcraft, heresy, and the like. (Assuming, of course, that I'm not already under surveillance for daring to say things like this in a public forum.)
We must protect the right of every citizen to read, learn, and purchase books without undue government interference. The FBI has been aggressively using its new powers without providing Congress with explanations about its activities. A University of Illinois survey shows libraries were targeted at least 175 times in the year after the World Trade Center bombings--yet the FBI refuses to explain how or why. I guess we're just supposed to trust them.
I'm from the government, and I'm here to keep you safe. Yeah, right! As the French would say, Eh bé mon cochon!