As the culture wars rage on in the land of the free and the home of brave, it seems to me there are a few things that conservatives, moderates and liberals alike could agree on, if we just thought about it for a few minutes. So let’s think.
Can we at least agree on the following?
1. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizen United was wrong. Allowing corporations, unions and PACs to pump unlimited amounts of money into American elections disenfranchises the average American citizen. There should be bipartisan public support for campaign finance reform that would get corporate, union and PAC money out of politics altogether and set reasonable limits on what individuals (and only individuals) can contribute.
2. The Internal Revenue Service was wrong to target conservative “tea party” groups for audits, and the Justice Department was wrong to obtain the phone records of journalists looking for the source of leaks. The government should never be allowed to use the IRS, FBI, CIA, NSA, Justice Department or any other agency to spy on or harass its political opponents.
3. We lose the war on terror to the degree that we give up our rights and freedoms out of fear. As difficult as it is to criticize the handling of the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing, having the citizens of a major American city ordered to stay in their homes while authorities searched for a single teenager is troubling on many levels.
4. Here in Maine, in a related police-state matter, the Attorney General’s office has been monitoring cell-phone GPS information without warrants as part of criminal investigations. We should all want the government to have to show probable cause before it spies on us.
5. The recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision that police have the right to take DNA cheek swabs from people they arrest is wrong. Talk about an unreasonable search! What next, a stool sample? Once the government has your DNA, they can own you and clone you. The three liberals and the most conservative justice understood that, but five knuckleheads couldn’t distinguish between fingerprints and the fabric of your being.
6. The ubiquitous cyber-practice of monitoring every online search and key stroke we make on our computers in the name of online behavioral advertising should be banned. Not only is it outrageous that companies are allowed to secretly monitor our online habits, it is also a total invasion of privacy for Internet service providers to store all of our e-mail and records of all of our searches, even those we have deleted.
7. Speaking of which, Google nerds must be twittering merrily about the $7 million slap on the wrist they got for sweeping up all the e-mails and personal data of private citizens they could glean from Wi-Fi while cruising around America, scanning the streets to create Google Street View. We thought Big Brother was a shadowy government agency. Turns out he’s a popular for-profit corporation.
8. Drone strikes are unethical, immoral and counterproductive. It took the brave warriors of SEAL Team Six to storm a compound and take out America’s No. 1 enemy, but it just takes a pimply-faced kid with a joystick to “fly” an unmanned aircraft into a country and take out suspected enemies (along with innocent civilians) with no risk to himself, in the process alienating civilian populations and creating more enemies for America.
9. The epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military must stop. When an officer charged with combating sexual harassment is charged with sexual harassment himself, you know there is something sick at the heart of the military. And it’s not just women; men are also being subjected to this criminal behavior.
10. Finally, all Americans should be able agree that our government needs to be far more circumspect about placing U.S. troops in harm’s way. When 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicides among both active duty military and veterans hit all-time highs, something is terribly wrong. We owe it to the brave men and women of the military to figure what that is and fix it. My suspicion? There hasn’t been a winnable war since World War II, and there may never be one again.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.