Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy To Be An American?

Yes!  Proud to be an American? Hm-m-m-m, let me think about that one.

I am grateful as can be to my not-so-distant ancestors who emigrated from the bogs of Ireland and the beet fields of Mittel-Europa when they did, arriving in the US where they made good, enabling me to live a life of privilege and prosperity.  Mostly, I love America. I can do without the Kardashians, but they are undeniably an All-American success story. 

I won't go on and on about all there is to love about the United States, from the Constitution and the BIll of Rights  to ice cream, apple pie and hotdogs for all, from sea to shining sea, although the rockets' red glare gives me a headache.

I especially like the First Amendment even though it means hearing some mighty stupid political remarks from time to time.

But back to the question of  whether or not I am proud to be an American. Today, the answer is "not so much." Bad enough that our phone calls and emails are being spied upon continually by the paranoid and sneaky gnomes of the NSA.  Bad enough that the weasels of Washington try to convince us that all this prying is a for our own good, as though we are a bunch of pre-schoolers who don't know enough to run out and play in the traffic. But the vomit icing on the garbage cake has got to be the monitoring of the mail.  

Under the Mail Isolation and Control Tracking program the exterior of every piece of mail processed, all 160 million pieces of it, is photographed.  In addition, the Mail Covers program allows any law enforcement official to request that postal workers record all information from the outside of envelopes and parcels before it is delivered. 

All this surveillance might explain why it takes so long for a birthday card to get from Boston to Philly, and perhaps why a Priority Mail parcel sent to me on June 14 has yet to arrive, but there is something offensive about monitoring that doesn't require any oversight whatsoever.  Yes, practically speaking, I could give a rat's ass if the government records the fact that I subscribe to the New Yorker or receive too many catalogs for old-age products, but why should there be a record of what banks I patronize, what charities I contribute to, or who sends me a Christmas card?

I knew that privacy is a thing of the past, a quaint little something that we could once take for granted, but there is a difference between being generally characterized by the zip code where you live and being specifically identified by drones whose job it is to spy on its own citizens for the United States government. 

That doesn't make me proud at all, it just makes me sick.

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