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McCaleb: Why 2013 seems a lot like 1984

Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

The following obituary crossed my desk late last week.

I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I thought I might as well share it here.

U.S. Privacy

Born: July 4, 1776

Died: Somewhere between 2006 and 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ulysses “U.S” Privacy, about 230 years old, originally from Philadelphia, Pa., died in seclusion at some point over the past seven years of a debilitating disease known as Orwellianoceania Voterapathasia.

Born at the dawn of the American era to several Founding Fathers and a humble yet beautiful mother named Lady Liberty, U.S. Privacy was an heir to the estate of his wealthy and articulate uncle, Bill O’Rights, and the protector of his uncle’s precious Fourth Amendment.

So proud of his Uncle Bill and honored to be selected to watch over this Fourth Amendment, Mr. Privacy dedicated his entire life to preserving its motto:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

For two centuries, Mr. Privacy fulfilled his life’s purpose admirably, if not perfectly. The citizenry who the Amendment was written to protect went about its collective life as intended, without the unnecessary intrusion of Big Brother monitoring its every action.

But beginning about Sept. 11, 2001, when the unholy scourge known as International Terrorism struck Mr. Privacy’s homeland, his fortitude began to weaken.

Worried that International Terrorism might spread like a disease across the land, the descendants of the Founding Fathers developed two antidotes – Patriot Actosia and, simply, FISA – that they said would help keep the scourge at bay.

As payment for the antidotes, however, the citizenry unwittingly agreed to take its own medicine. This medicine was introduced into our homes, and our computers, and our cellphones.

Not to worry, though, the prescribing doctor said. The citizenry wouldn’t even notice, and the technicians, who worked for an agency called the NSA, wouldn’t do anything untoward with the data. The NSA isn’t the IRS, after all.

The important thing is that the citizenry would be safe.

That’s all that mattered.

But as the medicine seemed to be doing its job fighting the spread of International Terrorism inside the homeland’s borders, it had the opposite effect on Mr. Privacy. His strength began to deteriorate, and he eventually disappeared from the public eye.

Satisfied with their affluence and content that International Terrorism was all but beaten at home, the citizenry quickly forgot about Mr. Privacy.

It wasn’t until a report last week from across the pond, from a media outlet from Mother England, did the electorate realize that Mr. Privacy had long since passed. Passing with him was part of his Uncle Bill’s long-lost estate – the Fourth Amendment.

And as the citizenry tapped away on its keyboards, and jabbered away on its cellphones, and avoided its polling places like the plague, it remained content that it was safe.

Mr. Privacy has since faded from memory. The only reminder of his legacy is a tombstone, on which are enscribed these words:

“Privacy is dead, the victim of a complacent citizenry.

But the populace is safe, so all must be well.”

• • •

OK, all kidding aside, what the #%&#????

We’re supposed to trust that our federal government is using the data it collects from sweeping our phone calls and Internet visits only if it thinks national security is at risk?

And we’re also supposed to trust that politics doesn’t guide the IRS when it decides whether a tax audit is warranted?

President Obama, Congress, and anyone else who’s monitoring as I type this on my computer, stay out of my business!

If the federal government can play so fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment, maybe we should be worrying about the First, the Second and the entirety of the Bill of Rights.

George Orwell’s prescience is amazing. He was just about 30 years off.

• Dan is McCaleb of Crystal Lake is group editor for Shaw Media’s suburban publications, which includes the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.

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