All the talk last week about Big Brother snooping in the lives of Bright Futures families. It got me thinking: Have people stopped caring about government intrusion in their private lives?
Its a fair question.
George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four, ranked 13th on Modern Librarys list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, is no longer a must-read in any high school curriculum in America.
It's not hip anymore, I guess. There isn't a wizard or a vampire in it.
Retired Dartmouth literature professor Delmon Prziewski told Sunshine State News, "Young people today know what 'Big Brother' means -- roughly -- but they were never scared out of their wits by a world where the individual is always subordinated by the state. You know why? Because they never read the book."
And this is why I worry.
My generation grew up afraid of two things: The Bomb and Big Brother.
As a veteran of umpteen duck-and-cover drills in elementary school during the 1950s, I declared the A-Bomb too-silly-to-worry-about in the fourth grade. But Big Brother? That was another matter.
I read "Nineteen Eighty-Four" for the first time when I was 12 years old. I could identify with protagonist Winston Smith, the civil servant at the Ministry of Truth responsible for perpetuating the Party's propaganda. He did that by revising historical records to make the Party -- and there was only one -- always look omniscient, always perfectly correct.
Sound familiar? It scared the pants off me.
The year 1984 came and went and it still scared me. The reason is that government at every level and elected officials in both major parties have been curbing our freedoms for a very long time.
Organizations that monitor the Fourth Amendment claim there were more than 300,000 known government wiretaps before 9/11. After the terrorist attacks, more than 2.3 million.
Cottage industries of government-contracted intrusionists have sprung up all across the country.
While it's true, Americans enjoy freedoms that many others do not, it's also a dead-cert fact that decades of laws, rules, regulations, mandates, red tape and poorly reasoned court decisions have taken their toll on the liberties our Founding Fathers entrusted us to keep.
Look at some of the larger realities:
We aren't necessarily free to work in the occupation we want. Because of the manner in which government regulates scores of professions, sometimes it enforces licensing rules that have little to do with a person's competence to enter a particular field.
We women arent free to choose abortion, even though with Roe v. Wade, choice is the law of the land. In Florida and Texas, for example, we are first required to get an ultrasound and listen to a fetus beating heart.
Our private property rights as guaranteed in the United States Constitution apparently are rights no longer. If government deems it necessary to take your land for virtually any reason, it can roll in and seize every square inch.
As employers, we arent free to pay whatever wage an employee might be willing to work for. We aren't free, as employees, to accept any wage we might find satisfactory.
We aren't even free to choose our cable television provider. Most municipalities have granted monopolies in exchange for franchise fees.
Who did this to us?
We did. Americans who have grown less than watchful, who have allowed themselves to get swept up in the "Nineteen Eighty-Four" "doublespeak," who certainly are prepared to put their life on the line for the First or Second Amendment to the Constitution, but the Fourth Amendment? We fell asleep at the switch. We are the ones who elected careless officials, the damage-doers, to Congress and the state Legislature.
We are the ones who elected Big Brother.
And the courts ... let's not forget how much the courts that create laws rather than interpret them have limited our freedoms.
America just celebrated its 235th birthday. What a fitting time to quote from "With No Apologies," a book of prickly reminders of the document the Founding Fathers entrusted to us. Its author, Barry Goldwater, a George Orwell fan, is my kind of conservative.
"The root of the problem," writes Goldwater, "lies in the Congress of the United States -- 535 men and women who have been taught to believe that they are competent to control every aspect of our complicated, inventive society. Congress assumes it knows more about banking than bankers and has written millions of words of regulation. Congress believes it is competent to run every service station, barbershop, library, bus company, construction crew, airline, manufacturing plant, extractive operation, pharmaceutical house, dairy and dog kennel. Common sense condemns this assumption as ludicrous, yet we do nothing about it."
This is an opinion column by Nancy Smith. Reach Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (850) 727-0859.