Government Isn’t You — It’s a Witch

“Government is just all of us working together.” “We are the government.” I frequently read such statements by liberals who react with alarm to the very notion that someone might fear the government.

If we are the government, we certainly do a lot of stuff to ourselves that isn’t very nice. Here, in no particular order, are some examples from the past week or two:

Under U.S. law, it’s a crime to provide “material support” to any group designated as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the U.S. government. And the Justice Department has interpreted such support to include speaking engagements that are coordinated with the terrorist organization and serve to benefit it. Even filing an amicus brief on behalf of the organization or publicly challenging its “terrorist” designation can itself be construed as “material support.”

Funny — telling me what I can and can’t say in public isn’t behavior I normally attribute to people who are working for me. And I’m not in the habit of “working together” with other people to formulate policies about what I’m allowed to say. Telling me what I’m allowed to say is behavior I normally associate with people who think they’re my bosses.

In yet another SWAT drug raid on the wrong house, as reported by Radley Balko (“Another Isolated Incident,” Reason, Jan. 13),  the uniformed thugs pulled the father (David McKay) outside in his underwear, pointed a gun at the 13-year-old daughter and — standard operating procedure for cops in such raids — threatened to shoot the family poodle.  When it became apparent the armed invaders had kicked in the wrong door and they moved on to their intended target, the McKays asked them what was happening and why they were there. “They wouldn’t say,” he recalled. “All they would say was ‘You’ll read about it in the paper tomorrow.'”

Um, yeah — that’s just the kind of thing I’d expect “us” to do to “ourselves.”

Oh — it’s also a prospective 15-year sentence for recording cops on the job in Illinois. Because there’s nothing “we” hate like having “us” record “ourselves” doing our job.

And we’ve done all sorts of other unkind things to “ourselves,” like throwing ourselves in prison for publicly opposing WWI and detaining ourselves without charge for being of Japanese descent during WWII.

Jeez, talk about being our own worst enemies!

If the government is really just me, I need to stop being so rough on myself. It reminds me of that old Tom Cheney cartoon in the National Lampoon, where police take a report from a disheveled man standing in a ransacked apartment: “I burst through the door. I didn’t really get a good look at myself. There was a brief struggle …”

Seriously, the government is not “us.” Brutalizing people and barking orders at them like they’re dirt, telling them what they’re allowed to talk about, who they’re allowed to express sympathy for, and forbidding them to expose your actions to public scrutiny are not the actions of someone who’s serving others. They’re the actions of a master, the actions of an owner.

Government functionaries may call themselves “public servants,” but actions speak louder than words.

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