Can we have a real conversation about civil liberties now that the government is spying on white people too?

spying on white people

It’s quite the ideological whiplash to transition from the outrage over the Boston marathon bombing (Why didn’t the FBI do more to prevent this horrible tragedy?) to the NSA outrage (How dare you mine our private data from Google to spy on suspected terrorists? There are white people who use Google!). You can’t have a world in which Benghazis are guaranteed not to happen and have your civil liberties too. Well, unless you make the law officially racist and ban Muslim foreign students from getting visas while exempting white people from things like taking off their shoes at airports…

First of all, yes, I think it’s a problem that the NSA is spying on our emails, blog posts, and whatever else. I also think it’s a problem that 86 detainees who have been cleared of the possibility of ever having been remotely involved in terrorism nonetheless remain at Guantanamo Bay.

I also think it’s a problem when undercover agents go into mosques looking for impressionable, unemployed, disaffected young men to recruit for a fake terrorism plot that sends them to prison for the rest of their lives even if the agent actively manipulated and entrapped the wannabe terrorists.

And also when Muslim charities have their assets frozen by the federal government because the government has played the six degrees of separation game and a friend of a friend is employed in a completely non-militant capacity by Hamas, which employs most of the people living in Gaza.

And also when drones kill people in “signature strikes” because they shop at the same stores as terrorists or drive the same model of Jeep and whatever else is in the algorithm the CIA uses to determine that someone is a “combatant, unspecified” for whom there is no actual evidence of terrorist involvement.

And also when millions of undocumented immigrants who are recruited by farmers, meatpacking plants, and independent contractors to come to our country and work often for less than minimum wage while the federal government looks the other way rather than issuing enough legitimate visas for temporary workers since it’s easier to do that and “discover” that people are here illegally when they try to organize a union or when the local sheriff’s deputies take matters into their own hands and stake out the parking lots of Hispanic churches to deport people over broken tail-lights.

Brown people have been dealing with mountains of bullshit and injustice from our government for many, many years. It was a lot worse in the “good old days” when the government supposedly “respected the Constitution” (and black people stayed on their side of the tracks and women stayed in the kitchen). Ever heard of COINTELPRO? What about the Crack Importation Agency?

The CIA’s use of crack cocaine as a fundraising tool for supporting the Nicaraguan Contras is documented in an official government report which the mainstream media had the “discretion” and “decency” to completely ignore. Just because it seems as wing-nut and ridiculous as selling weapons to the Ayatollah Khomenei and Saddam Hussein at the same time and teaming up with Osama Bin Laden to create a radical Muslim mujahadeen for overthrowing the socialist government of Afghanistan doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

So now that white people are getting spied on, will we pay attention to the problems that brown people have had to deal with or will we try to reestablish our false security that our country is a perfectly fair place where people can raise themselves up by their bootstraps and nobody in law enforcement has ever treated anyone unjustly and blah blah blah? I’m not sure what the right balance of privacy and snooping for terrorism is. I do have a general sense, rooted in my faith-based naivete, that taking an enforcement-only approach to terrorism without any interest in researching and seeking to address its root sociological causes is misguided.

I wish I could say that I was hopeful that the NSA scandal will provide a wake-up call that will result in intelligent conversation about reexamining government policy. But our world is too full of people who make money off of outrage and people who are trying to opportunistically leverage it for their partisan political gain (e.g. people who were all about the PATRIOT Act when a different party was in the White House and are “outraged” now about NSA). So as much as I believe in Brian Zahnd’s call to belong to the world and resist the temptation of nihilism, I do wonder sometimes if God just needs to hit the reset button on this sucker, understanding that I have no concept of what that would look like.

16 thoughts on “Can we have a real conversation about civil liberties now that the government is spying on white people too?

  1. Pretty lame. Right up there with “there’s no such thing as black racism” and the myth of a ‘privilege’ supposedly shared by all white people.
    Morgan, don’t you know the history of the US labor movement? Many whites were hounded by the police and private security goons, many white workers and their families killed.
    How about the anti-war movement? The FBI kept no files on whites?
    A white friend of mine was shot by a police sniper in Houston, on Dowling Street, during the struggle re: People’s Party Two…and believe me, the police sniper knew who he was shooting at.

    Why is it always about race with you? It seems the chip on your shoulder is as big as a Volkswagon.

    How about the anti-war movement in the ’60’s? The FBI had no

    movement? Along with people of color many whites were hounded by

  2. Well…I’m not really sure what got me going. I guess it was more just the white people comment. I don’t think race has anything to do with it. It’s politics. They are mad because it’s the democrats doing it. It was okay when republicans did it.

    Other than that I realize now that I pretty much agree with you on most points. I’m ignorant on a few of the topics specifically the Guantanamo Bay and Terrorist Plot scheme. I’m especially interested in reading about that scheme. That just seems dumb on so many levels. I don’t see what is accomplishes.

    Anyhow,
    I’m still reading your blog so obviously I do enjoy the discussion. Sorry if I get defensive or emotional.

    • Don’t apologize. With the white people thing, I was being overly snarky. I think I got too gleeful about an opportunity to use sarcastic Willy Wonka for a meme that would piss people off. But I really do think there’s some subtle race stuff that goes on with some of the Obama hate, though I have also seen the race card being used abusively to shut down any legitimate criticism of him. Anyway, never hesitate to speak up and push back. I need you to! The readers that I have who aren’t a rubber stamp amen chorus are the most valuable discussion partners I have.

  3. If you want to have a real conversation you will need to lose the insults and labels and listen to what other people are saying. We can have differing viewpoints and both be well-meaning Christians at the same time.

    I agree the government has long abused its power. The corruption comes from both sides. We just only seem to notice it when the leader is the political party we don’t like. I am guilty as charged. I’m not a fan of Obama but I need to do my best to not judge him more harshly as I would of someone that aligns more with my views.

    • I’m listening. I know that I have a tendency to be a smart-aleck. Is there a particular label or insult that was alienating to you in this post? I appreciate your engaging me. I know that I have many blind spots and I often forgot who I am and who I represent.

  4. “You can’t have a world in which Benghazis are guaranteed not to happen and have your civil liberties too” If by that you mean the only “truth” the American people know about “other Benghazi’s” and those people who currently serve the American government abroad comes from watching TV or the newspapers, or the lack of main media reporting, then I can understand where you are coming from. As long as I have known of you and about your blog, Morgan, you come from a place of loving and defending God’s disenfranchised in the word, but your discernment is somewhat skewed here.
    Speaking of Benghazi, my friend Chris Stevens was murdered because “someone(s)” literally ignored his plea, and those of many others, to provide competent basic security during a vicious attack. Chris, who also worked with the disenfranchised as well as diplomats in Benghazi was massacred, and his death has unfortunately become reduced to a political “talking point” and wide-spread cover-up. Please, in your ignorance do not further diminish him or the circumstances unreported about his demise by linking current civil liberties violations to his avoidable death caused by criminal acts of a few narcissistic government officials.
    While a component of brown against white bigotry and crime can be extrapolated from almost any action (with multiple, documented examples of abuses in the past), using racism and politics in this instance to highlight inequality between peoples or genders is purely opportunistic and incendiary. Crimes reported/committed by the NSA, CIA, IRS and the rest of the alphabet soup in Washington cannot be effectively portrayed as a “tit for tat” without opening up a whole can of worms, giving those in possession of un/half-truths license to do exactly the same. Wait a minute, isn’t that being done already by Republicans and Democrats to further their own agendas?
    “All kinds and colors” of people have been, and are currently dealing with mountains of bullshit and injustice from our government for many years…white, red, yellow, brown, black, etc…with equal veracity. The world is full of people who join (or are elected) to those agencies that perform actions, presumably on our behalf, because individually we cannot or do not want to do the jobs ourselves.
    You know I love you, Morgan, but your faith-based naivete cannot be your excuse or mine, even if there is a vein of truth from the past in the argument. Godless people do Godless things like serving many “Masters” operating under different rules than we do, just like thousand of murders are committed in the name of God or Allah every single day. We live in a time where there is no “right balance” of privacy violations to protect the greater population. The world is not, nor has ever been a safe or fair place for all since the dark angel fell. Our kingdom is not of this earth, but it doesn’t mean we stop trying to make it a better place to co-exist.
    My fervent prayer mirrors your own, that the NSA scandal will provide a wake-up call that will result in across the board intelligent conversations and specific sharing of real truth—not child-like name calling, or ridiculous labels from the past that cause more harm (hurt) than invite good. God Bless.

    • I’m always grateful when you take the time to address places where I’ve spoken in ignorance. I will try to be more sensitive about not using Benghazi as shorthand that oversimplifies policy questions into binaries. Thanks as always for your help!

  5. I was a member of the Socialist Workers Party many years ago and I was an object of COINTELPRO, and I remember an FBI agent named Ed Heisler who worked in a factory with me and tried to get us to make bombs to blow up an Army Recruiting Station back in 1973. Of course that was a dead giveaway, and we kicked him out of the party the first time he mentioned such.

    The object lesson I drew, and I think it still suffices today, is that you can’t keep the government from its main job, which is protecting wealth. You have to assume that’s what it does and explain it with patience and courage. If you let it demoralize you or depress you it lasts a bit longer. If you continue to speak calmly and honestly it won’t last as long.

    That’s how I think of Jesus saw it, the anti-imperialist peasant who walked the walk and talked the talk. Witness the Roman Centurion, saying “Truly, this man was heir to God.” How ironic that most of the apostles were hiding in a locked room when one of Christ’s henchmen realized that truth.

    What if Jesus would have said, “I’m getting demoralized! This is going to take thousands of years! I don’t have the patience for this.”

    I know you will never stop telling the truth as you see it and helping people as the opportunity arises. I believe more people know more truth today than ever. I believe that tomorrow more people will know more truth than do today. And I am confident of that.

    Remember also that Paul was one of the evil-doers. Paul would have used drones on the early apostles if he had them. Point here is our enemies will be transformed.

    After all, did you ever think we would live to see an African-American president? I didn’t.

    I’m not saying Obama is any kind of radical, but he does represent a change. I got a t-shirt that says, “Obama is not a dark-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free health care. You’re thinking of Jesus.” We are so lucky to be alive when saying that is meaningful!

    Christ is working with us every day to change the world. And that process is the road to paradise itself, so rejoice and take another step. He is writing the script, and He has allowed us us to be actors in His revolutionary drama. Thanks be to God!

  6. But, but.. Morgan.. anyone who isn’t white is up to no good and out to obliterate Americans!

    Seriously, good word.

  7. As a member of the Socialist Workers Party many years ago I was an object of COINTELPRO, and I remember an FBI agent named Ed Heisler who worked in a factory with me and tried to get us to make bombs to blow up an Army Recruiting Station back in 1973. Of course that was a dead giveaway, and we kicked him out of the party the first time he mentioned such.

    The object lesson I drew, and I think it still suffices today, is that you can’t keep the government from its main job, which is protecting wealth. You have to assume that’s what it does and explain it with patience and courage. If you let it demoralize you or depress you it lasts a bit longer. If you continue to speak calmly and honestly it won’t last as long.

    That’s how I think of Jesus saw it, the anti-imperialist peasant who walked the walk and talked the talk. Witness the Roman Centurion, saying “Truly, this man was heir to God.” How ironic that most of the apostles were hiding in a locked room when one of Christ’s henchmen realized that truth.

    What if Jesus would have said, “I’m getting demoralized! This is going to take thousands of years! I don’t have the patience for this.”

    Never stop telling the truth as you see it and help people as the opportunity arises. I believe more people know more truth today than ever. I believe that tomorrow more people will know more truth than do today. And I am confident of that.

    Remember also that Paul was one of the evil-doers. Paul would have used drones on the early apostles if he had them. Our enemies will be transformed.

    After all, did you ever think we would live to see an African-American president? I didn’t.

    I’m not saying Obama is any kind of radical, but he does represent a change. I got a t-shirt that says, “Obama is not a dark-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free health care. You’re thinking of Jesus.” We are so lucky to be alive when saying that is meaningful!

    Christ is working with us every day to change the world. And that process is the road to paradise itself, so rejoice and take another step. He is writing the script, and He has allowed us us to be actors in His revolutionary drama. Thanks be to God!

  8. I think most americans have no idea about the injustices done to others based on race and culture. I have never had to deal with it before having a boyfriend of another culture/race. It’s abhorrent.

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