A Nation of Sheep
by David Gordon
by David Gordon
A Nation of Sheep. By Andrew P. Napolitano. Thomas Nelson, 2007. Xiii + 240 pages.
Judge Napolitano has organized his excellent book around a central metaphor. He contrasts sheep, who follow their shepherd with unquestioning devotion, and wolves, who are alert to protect themselves:
There are two kinds of people who stand out in the United States today: sheep and wolves. Sheep stay in their herd and follow their shepherd without questioning where he is leading them. Sheep trust that the shepherd looks out for their safety Wolves, on the other hand, do not aimlessly follow a shepherd Wolves question the shepherd and act in a way that forces the shepherd also to question his decisions. Wolves challenge government regulations, reject government assistance, and demand that the government recognize and protect their natural rights. They are rugged individualists (p. 10).
America, Napolitano thinks, consists largely of sheep: we acquiesce in gross violations of our civil liberties, including but by no means confined to, those inflicted on us by the Bush administration, in the course of its "War on Terror." Too often, even those concerned about the current violations of civil liberties will think in this way.
True enough, the Patriot Act gives the government the power to pry into our correspondence, telephone calls, and personal records; and if I were unfortunate enough to be suspected of being an "enemy combatant," I might suffer a dire fate indeed. Why, though, should I care about that? The Administration is concerned only with blocking terrorists. There is only the remotest chance any of these civil liberties violations will have any direct effect on me.
Napolitano makes clear that this is an unduly narrow way to view matters, and not only because of the familiar argument that a government that targets one group may later target others as well. ("First they came for the , etc.") Quite, the contrary, violations of rights affect the ordinary person as well.
As a prime example, commuters who enter the New York subway must submit to random searches of their bags.
The New York Police Department, along with many other police departments across the country, now conducts random bag searches in the subway, without suspicion or warrant, in order to prevent terrorist attacks. These random searches clearly violate the Fourth Amendment, which is meant to protect all persons from warrantless searches and seizures. If you are unlucky enough to be selected "randomly," the officers will stop you as you hurry to catch your morning train. As the doors slide closed on the platform below and your train departs, you stand helplessly as the bored cops search your bag. (p. 14)
A federal appeals judge ruled that these searches were constitutional.
October 3, 2008
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