In a knee-jerk reaction to the events of 9/11 Congress enacted the Patriot Act which President George Bush signed into law on October 26, 2001. Federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional and some provisions were set to sunset four years later.
In the spring of 2005, about the time my Marine son was completing his second tour in Iraq, these provisions did not sunset but were instead made permanent and subsections of the Patriot Act are the basis for which the NSA now claims it may legally spy on Americans.
Last night I participated in a town hall meeting discussing the constitutional violations contained in sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2012/13 National Defense Authorization Act. Details of the meeting will be posted here when the video becomes available but one of the goals of the meeting is to put pressure on John Sweet and Melissa Cribbins to support a county resolution opposing the offending subsections of the Act and use it to empower the state legislature to enact a similar resolution and ultimately apply sufficient pressure upon Congress to repeal these sections. This is how all major change occurs. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 first began with local town halls and demonstrations and vigorous public debate. Neither Sweet nor Cribbins understand they are elected to be the voice of the people and it’s the people that set federal policy. Both commissioners are refusing to defend our inalienable civil rights or represent their constituents in the false belief they have no influence in Congress.
A hand painted sign on the gate post of my son’s forward operating base in Ramadi cautioned each convoy that exited the base. “Complacency Kills,” it warned and in Ramadi this was literally true. Though my son was fighting in Iraq at the request of his Commander in Chief and therefore the American people, he returned to find that Americans had been complacent and allowed Congress to chip away at the very things for which he thought he was risking his life. He came home to find his civil liberties usurped and to discover his own government was spying on him because too many complacent Americans like John Sweet and Melissa Cribbins weren’t paying attention. While our military is fighting for them over there, they aren’t fighting over here and are refusing to fight for us now.
Dozens of people have commented into the public record and submitted emails insisting the board pass a resolution opposing sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA. During today’s BOC meeting Sweet acknowledged he has heard no public testimony nor received any requests asking the board NOT to support such a resolution. When I suggested that he is therefore not representing the will of the people but instead representing his own personal preferences he got angry. “Mary, you can ask all the questions you want in the time you have left,” he fumed. “But I am not going to answer them.” Before leaving the podium I told him that he in fact had answered the question. John Sweet is representing himself and only himself in this matter.
Later at lunch, Sweet and I continued the discussion and he then told me people on the street had told him they didn’t think this was a matter of county of business. When I asked him whether he gave more weight to the opinions of “people on the street” than the testimony of citizens who took the time to become a part of the public record he rigorously assured me neither had any influence on in his decision. “I am voting my conscience,” he declared firmly. This isn’t going to play out well for him and I told him so.
It is hard to say what conscience has to do with this issue. John Sweet’s conscience will not allow him to let the people decide what qualifies as county business? Is that what he is saying? Perhaps his conscience will not abide him giving up his complacency to defend our civil liberties. More probably his conscience or his ego won’t allow him to acknowledge that it is the people who elected him who get to set the rules.
Sweet, on the one hand is acting as if he is omnipotent. He alone is the decider, indifferent to public influence and he will vote his conscience regardless what the people want. On the other hand, he declares he is impotent, powerless to do anything about our concerns. Working to change federal policy is too high a bar and beyond the narrow limits he has set for himself and for which he expects the rest of us to settle.
Fight for your rights and mine and call, email or visit your elected officials including the county commissioners and tell them you value your inalienable rights and you expect them to be protected. Take time off and appear at the next county commission meeting, July 30 at 9:30AM and help fill the room and make Sweet and Cribbin’s complacency and indifference as uncomfortable for them as their inaction is disappointing and frustrating for the rest of us. Let’s flood the meeting with so many public comments that the commissioners are ‘indefinitely detained’ well past the lunch hour.