Some decades back, I remember witnessing the Nixon debacle as if it were a slow motion version of a train wreck. But I also remember being nauseated rather than terrified. After all, I was watching the train wreck, not involved in it.
You grimace and wince and make squinty eyes, but it's not you who's about to be squashed. It's some sweaty President on TV telling you he's not a crook when you know in your gut that he is.
And you feel (at least I felt) that in the end, everyone would get what was coming to them and the country would be okay, and therefore you would be okay, too. I also distinctly remember the feeling of satisfaction when he resigned before they could fire him. I felt that way because my perception was that the system had worked. I wasn't smug because I had known that everything would work out; I was relieved. Even after all these years, I'm not sure if I was right about everything working out, or merely naive.
But the thing that I remember most of all was the news breaking of some new part of the scandal on what seemed like a daily basis. You needed a freaking program to remember all the players. (Yes, I know there were no programs yet for the common man.) They all seemed to run together into one giant stinking pile of liars and their lies.
In the end it was all about the cover-up. At least that's what the press tried to tell us, and most of us chose to believe it because it was the easier choice.
Which brings us to today, and the sickening realization that deja vu is more than a concept. But this endless stream of scandals is different. Much different. This stuff is not as sickening as it is frightening. I'm not grimacing and wincing this time. I'm contemplating the future, and my eyes probably show a frightened bewilderment instead of the squint I wore back then. Age and experience may do that to you. I'm not sure.
So pick your scandal. Is it Benghazi that scares you? Or does it just sicken you that your government could leave our people to die for whatever reason and then try to cover it up with a preposterous story about anti-Islam Internet films?
Is it more frightening that your government and the IRS are more than just incompetent morons who do not understand the tax code well enough to administer it? Or that they are now the enforcement squad for whatever party is in control at the time? Anyone who has dealt with those thugs knows what terror really is.
Does the realization that the government is tracking the phone records of Fox News and AP reporters looking for "leaks" scare you? It sure scares the news organizations. Even the liberal ones.
Or does the newest blockbuster scandal concerning the spy agencies gathering "information" about who is talking to whom on the telephone, and for how long, scare you? Over one billion communications have been monitored according to recent reports. And they are the conversations of everyone, we are told, not just of the "suspicious" people in other countries who call "suspicious" people in this country. If you can monitor lots of people with a software program, why limit the scope? The people with the programs are the same people in charge of limiting its use.
Now that it has come to light that ordinary people like you and I are being watched by massive computer programs, it starts to look more than a little like East Germany just a few decades ago. And those programs are being made more capable every day. It's a Hitlerian wet dream.
From my perspective, all this is very frightening. But the most frightening thing of all is where it will lead. If this all just gets to be old news and passes away while we move on with our lives, it will take its natural course. The authorities will be emboldened, and history will repeat. A quick peek at what happened only about eighty years ago should convince even an intellectual ostrich that it's a sure thing that governments always do what they can get away with.
For anyone who doesn't yet understand what the spy agencies are already capable of, here is some of what the "whistle blower" Edward Snowden said in the blockbuster interview being featured on the Drudge Report and elsewhere. ( Snowden is the "source for the Guardian's NSA files on why he carried out the biggest intelligence leak in a generation.")
Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?
A: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.
"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."
To find out more about Edward Snowden and see the interview, click here. I warn you though, it's not for the faint of heart to contemplate what might happen to this man now that he has spilled the beans on the spooks.
Did I miss a scandal or two? Certainly. They have been flowing like water for a long time. Unfortunately, many people are more interested in blaming past administrations, or the current one, in a game of political grab ass than concentrating on what actually is happening.
So which scandal has you more frightened than the others? Or are you one of the few left who think it's all much ado about nothing?
My answer is: what the future has in store for us if the various agencies and executives get away with these crimes against our rights is past frightening, it's terrifying. But then again, I was terrified of Obamacare and the bailouts and they have worked out fine, so maybe I scare too easily.
This article was originally published at WhatWeThinkandWhy on 6/9/13