Neil Tambe

Husband, Father, Citizen, Professional.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Why I am a civil libertarian (and why you should be too)

I read 1984 first when I was in fifth grade. I thought it was creepy. I read it again my junior year of high school, and it persists in remaining my favorite novel. I think it's wonderful. A very excellent story with layers of plot and character development, a chilling satirrical message, and a stinging conclusion.

When I re-read the book with more experience and grasp of government a few years ago, it stung even more. The plot became more believeable and timeless. I imagined Winston's world and it didn't seem completely outlandish.

That book, literally freaked me out because of the implications that an Orwellian world presents. It's not a safe world for challenging people. I'm not a conventional person, I hold unorthodox beliefs. If I lived in Winston's world, Big Brother would have killed me long ago. I see elements of Winston in me.

[Subject Break]


I was reading Friday's Washington Post (forgive me, I know I should finish the paper on the day its released) yesterday afternoon, and I came across an op-ed piece which I didn't think I would enjoy, and I didn't. But in the long run, it did turn out to be worthwhile; I figured out why I'm such a civil libertarian.

I was reading this piece and I was pretty bored. The whole "Stay the course" --> "There is no course" banter has been overdone I think, and I'm trying to grit my teeth through op/eds that touch on this topic.

And I finally realized when I read:

Nobody's sorry, though, about secret CIA prisons or extralegal detention or interrogation by brutal "waterboarding" or an Orwellian blanket of domestic surveillance. After all, we're at "war."

The comparison of the state of civil liberties in the USA didn't seem comparable to 'Orwellian' the last time I thought about it. Until yesterday my under-the-breath jokes of
coughcough1984coughcough after discourse about wiretapping seemed like nothing more than jokes.

Now, they seem like analogies.

1. I'm not sure if my phone is being wiretapped, without the requirement of approval by a judge, presidential power. Yes, I make and recieve international calls, so I do have standing --> Fear of cameras/wiretapping/communications monitoring for Winston.
2. "If you're not for the war, you're not for our troops" --> Allegiance to the party and joining the Women's Anti-sex league "just to be safe"
3. The camera that busts Winston and Julia for having sex in the Prole apartment --> cases challenging government intervention in the bedroom (Texas sodomy law struck down Sodomy law in Lawerence v. Texas)

These are all brief comparisons that are unarticulated, but the analogies remain. National Security is great, and I don't mind getting my bags searched at the airport, or at the smithsonian, or at the stadium. But an executive branch culture that doesn't seem to show remorse about civil liberties is something I have a difficult time with.

I'm a civil libertarian because 1984 seems real to me, you should be a civil libertarian because your in the same boat as I am, whether or not you lend any weight to Orwell. At the end of the day, we all place our trust in the government, and have to let them go about their way. We're depending on the government to watch our back and protect us from dangerous entities that are foreign and domestic (nuclear war, 'terrorism', flu epidemics, severe weather, spying, and economic collapse).

As I implied, all this is going on behind our backs, I seriously doubt that we'll be able to react instantaneously to protect our rights and liberties as citizens. The government is massive.

Also, it takes much struggling to reclaim, or gain rights that we have lost. Supreme Court precedent is weighty. The right to vote took hundreds of years to fall, 'seperate but equal' remained for longer than I wish to admit to, the supreme court is now falling a little bit to the right.

You should be a Civil Libertarian because if the cost of losing a right is higher than the cost of being a socially concious citizen. If you feel comfortable conceding some of your rights that's pretty legit, I admire your trust in the system, and think I would benefit by learning from you. But...at least know about it when it's happening.

And finally, I think you should be a Civil Libertarian--out of respect. To turn a war-mongering phrase on it's head...many people have fought for our rights, I think you owe it to them to try to protect them and be stingy with them...otherwise the people that died for them would've died in vain. Right?