TOM WARD - Today's high-tech busybodies pave way for new tyranny

TOM WARD - Today's high-tech busybodies pave way for new tyranny

As we near the celebration of our country's 237th birthday next week, it seems there is more to worry about than ever. Oh, sure, our nation has been through worse. World War II killed more than 400,000 Americans, and 600,000 were killed, from our much smaller population, in the Civil War 80 years earlier. Back in those wars, as well as the Great Depression of the 1930s, everyone was touched; every family suffered in some way.

Many of us who lived through the 1960s wondered if our country would survive the assassinations, the race riots, a young counterculture and wide-open drug use, and a war which left us doubting ourselves and our intentions. But we did.

Those sad times stand in stark contrast to today. Despite a poor economy, few go hungry or lack housing. While many might not have health insurance, all get some level of health care in a hospital. Our social welfare state is enormous, and those inside the bureaucracy work to create new needs. Who, only a decade ago, would have believed our nation would be handing out free cell phones routinely and without a care to the less fortunate? Yet we do.

Things seem more unsettling today. Yes, I still believe that ours is - or was - the greatest country in history. Our Founding Fathers put themselves in great peril by declaring their independence from King George III, doing so to create a nation where people would be free of tyranny.

In our Bill of Rights' First Amendment they wrote in part:

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech," but do you believe we still have the full freedom of speech today? In a country now seemingly filled with arrogant thinkers who write "speech codes" for our colleges, or for those persons who relish being "offended" at the smallest out-of-bounds remark, do we still enjoy the freedom of speech in our Orwellian, "politically correct" land? We do not.

In the Second Amendment, we are given the right "to keep and bear Arms," which "shall not be infringed." Today, for many political leaders, guns are a curse. But consider this. In 1963, America had about 1 percent of its population in mental hospitals. A coalition including doctors, drug companies and the ACLU convinced the federal government to pass the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, which closed the hospitals over the next decade, and placed hundreds of thousands of the mentally ill on the streets and in family homes. The awful massacre of children at Sandy Hook was committed by a mentally ill young man, whose mother, his first victim, had been warning officials of his illness. Still, some politicians long to remove weapons that we might need to defend our families. But nobody talks about the severely mentally ill roaming free among us.

And then there is the Fourth Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."

But that "relic" of our Bill of Rights was written long before anyone dreamed of an internet on which we would freely and naively share our most personal information, only to have it gathered up by a government who keeps us quiet by telling us they are looking for terrorists.

And we're so "connected," and we're so enthralled by the useless bits of information our "friends" are sharing, that we have not a clue as to the risk this might pose to our future individual liberty.

I read recently that just by analyzing all of our online searches, e-mail and phone records, the government can probably identify every gay person in America. This is the kind of private information we are willingly and blindly turning over to an army of high-tech sleuths who get jobs not only for Amazon.com, but in Washington's National Security Agency.

So I'll probably still see you at the Fourth of July parade in Arnold Mills next week, but I'll be more likely cheering for the "red, white and blue" of yesteryear. What's going on today - our wholesale and voluntary loss of privacy - to giant corporations and an even more giant government, should worry every citizen.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze