My wife and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Hawaii. I'm not sure if it is the hypnotic trance of inconceivably blue waves rushing to shore or the laid back lifestyle exhibited by Hawaiians that snares you. Perhaps it is the relative isolation or the intense beauty of the place that prompts a momentary forgetfulness and tempts a devil-may-care attitude toward the problems we face in our world.
In this island paradise, sporting stores openly selling hemp products and packed with people who moved there precisely because the mainland has become too controlled, too inhibiting, one could easily dismiss threats to our liberty. One more Mahalo" or hang loose sign and I might have been convinced. I might have been persuaded to retire to this haven, forget about the Constitution, and tune out our Machiavellian leaders who view that Constitution as an unhappy anachronism hindering their dreams of control and empire.
And then, all at once, it hit me. Not even in this island Nirvana are we safe from these megalomaniacal control freaks, and world improvers who lead our empire and force us to live this way. They work 24/7 to tax, regulate, and control every square inch of our country and every breath we take. They will not be satisfied until every transaction between two consenting adults is codified. They will not be satisfied until every last liberty is expunged to "keep us safe" from shadow terror organizations and our own misguided instincts.
This splash of cold water jolted me back to reality one evening as we boarded our cruise ship after a lovely evening at a luau. As I passed through security at the boat terminal, I turned just in time to see an elderly woman being "wanded" by security guards. This woman, mind you, was probably in her late seventies or early eighties and needed a walker to stand or walk. Her bags had already been searched and she had passed successfully through the metal detector. However, that was not sufficient.
As she leaned on her walker, security guards passed the wand over her body repeatedly. She had done nothing suspicious. There was no probable cause that she was a threat to the boat or a closet member of Al-Qaeda. She was simply the random American selected to have her rights and her dignity assaulted "to keep us safe".
Perhaps it is not so much this one incident or circumstance that troubles me. What troubles me is that it happens every day, all day, everywhere in the American Homeland. Scenes like this one are becoming part of the fabric of what it means to be American.
It is the cost or alleged cost we must pay for our prosperity (empire). We turn a blind eye to slave labor so that we can get bargains at Wal-Mart. We manufacture bogus wars to confiscate the natural resources of others. We scheme to overthrow democratically elected leaders who challenge the empire. We use mob-like tactics to impose our economic will on other nations and force them to conduct business in our worthless fiat currency that has all the value of Monopoly money. We convince ourselves that we have only the highest of motives for these hypocrisies. Most of all, we ostracize as unpatriotic or conspiratorial those among us who question the motives or the actions of the emperor.
The empire is a good thing for most Americans. Though, we are easily offended by the use of that term. We bask in its bounty as though God himself divined that it belongs to us. Rather than admit that our free republic has been swallowed by a hungry, greedy empire that thrives on the misfortune of others around the world, we find it expedient to subject ourselves to being "wanded" to protect us from the anger generated by those policies.
That elderly woman cannot conceive why someone would wish to do her harm; nor should she. She never voted for the empire or its security necessities. Instead, she simply allowed herself (as we all have) to believe the subtle delusions--one at a time. Each compromise seeming logical in the way it whittled away at the Constitution and the republic until it is barely recognizable--until we are barely recognizable.
"Yes," said Thomas Jefferson, "We did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path to destruction."
There is nothing wrong with our abundance, but where is our character and what of our freedom? We would rather be searched and watched and tracked than awakened. We would rather send our children to die in pointless wars than treat the other human beings on this planet as equal heirs to its bounty. We would rather blindly follow nefarious leaders than do the work of citizenship to expose them and hold them accountable. We would rather believe our own myth--that who we are is who we were. We would rather be safe than free.
So, paradise was shattered. Even in the midst of beauty and isolation, the tentacles of the empire squeeze. I was left to wonder how long it will be before Americans are ready to choose liberty and the Constitution over Wal-Mart and the wand.