In Harold Ramis' classic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is forced to live the same day over and over again until he not only gains some insight into his life but changes his priorities. Similarly, as I illustrate in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we in the emerging American police state find ourselves reliving the same set of circumstances over and over again -- egregious surveillance, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, etc. -- although with far fewer moments of comic hilarity.
What remains to be seen is whether 2014 will bring more of the same or whether "we the people" will wake up from our somnambulant states. Indeed, when it comes to civil liberties and freedom, 2013 was far from a banner year. The following is just a sampling of what we can look forward to repeating if we don't find some way to push back against the menace of an overreaching, aggressive, invasive, militarized government and restore our freedoms.
Government spying. It's hard to understand how anyone could be surprised by the news that the National Security Agency has been systematically collecting information on all telephone calls placed in the United States, and yet the news media have treated it as a complete revelation. Nevertheless, such outlandish government spying been going on domestically since the 1970s, when Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA's breaches, warned the public against allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Recent reports indicate that the NSA, in conjunction with the CIA and FBI, has actually gone so far as to intercept laptop computers ordered online in order to install spyware on them.
Militarized police. With almost 13,000 agencies in all 50 states and four U.S. territories participating in a military "recycling" program, community police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware -- tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield -- in droves. Keep in mind that once acquired, this military equipment, which is beyond the budget and scope of most communities, finds itself put to all manner of uses by local law enforcement agencies under the rationale that "if we have it, we might as well use it."
Police shootings of unarmed citizens. Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve. Sadly, it is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar.
The erosion of private property. If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat or what you smoke, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home. If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you're no longer the owner of your property. If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own--they are the property of the state. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure--it belongs to the government. Likewise, if police can forcefully draw your blood, strip search you, and probe you intimately, your body is no longer your own, either. This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like.
Strip searches and the loss of bodily integrity. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect the citizenry from being subjected to "unreasonable searches and seizures" by government agents. While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity. Unfortunately, court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, strip search us, and probe us intimately.
Invasion of the drones. As corporations and government agencies alike prepare for their part in the coming drone invasion--it is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, ushering in a $30 billion per year industry--it won't be long before Americans discover first-hand that drones--unmanned aerial vehicles--come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to middle-sized copter drones that can deliver pizzas to massive "hunter/killer" Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high.
Criminalizing childish behavior. It wouldn't be a week in America without another slew of children being punished for childish behavior under the regime of zero tolerance which plagues our nation's schools. Some of the most egregious: the 9-year-old boy suspended for allegedly pointing a toy at a classmate and saying "bang, bang"; two 6-year-old students in Maryland suspended for using their fingers as imaginary guns in a schoolyard game of cops and robbers; the ten-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for shooting an imaginary "arrow" at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination.
Common Core. When viewed in light of the government's ongoing attempts to amass power at great cost to Americans--in terms of free speech rights, privacy, due process, etc.--the debate over Common Core State Standards, which would transform and nationalize school curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, becomes that much more critical. These standards, which were developed through a partnership between big government and corporations and are being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, will create a generation of test-takers capable of little else, molded and shaped by the federal government and its corporate allies into what it considers to be ideal citizens.
If you're in the business of making New Year's resolutions, why not resolve that 2014 will be the year we break the cycle of tyranny and get back on the road to freedom. As I've said before, it's time for a second American revolution.