Don't You Ever Think, It Can't Happen Here, Because It Has
by James Glaser
People never want to think that in America, the rights of the citizens could be taken away. We have all of these safe guards here and then there is the Constitution. Other countries can abuse the rights of their citizens, but that is what sets us apart from those other countries.
I used to think that too, but that TIPS program that George Bush and John Ashcroft want so much, got me checking. Their program, to have thousands of citizens spying on the rest of us, is nothing new and has been used and over used in just about every state in the nation.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has had their own "TIP Program" for years. It is Turn In Poachers. Neighbors turning in neighbors has really hurt some communities when an overzealous person starts to like that small reward for "snitching off" the people down the road. Later on when there is a real community project proposed, people find that the communities cohesiveness has been destroyed for a few bucks or just a distorted idea of what is right or wrong.
I think Minnesota's German background brought us this program, over in Germany it was TIJ, Turn In Jews. Minnesota as well as most states have a history of using citizen to spy. In 1917 the Minnesota Public Safety Commission was established.
"This dictatorial police organization violated just about every one of the Bill of Rights." This comes from the files of Ray Marshall, Historian of the ethnic populations of Northern Minnesota. This Minnesota Public Safety Commission used Lincoln's suspension of many rights during the civil war as their precedent, for the powers they took on.
"To carry out their aims, 10 battalions of Home Guards and 10 more of a Motor Corps were created and 600 agents were employed and given arrest powers to enforce the dictates of the Commission. Forty Pinkerton detectives were employed to serve as spies and snitches."
This Safety Commission banned speaking out against the war, banned labor rallies, outlawed actions by the Non-Partisan League, a farmer based organization that was the start of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party. Today it is called the DFL Party. Democratic Farmer Labor Party and is one of the two major parties in the state.
Also banned were aliens, from working in schools, suspect books, they outlawed teaching foreign language, and even set up methods to pressure people to buy Liberty Bonds to help finance the war.
During World War 1 there was another organization started called The American Protective League. With 250,000 volunteers the APL worked for the Justice Department, looking for "subversives." This was the largest company of detectives the world has ever seen and without training or pay, these volunteers did their best to find those that they thought were disloyal.
One Duluth Minnesota paper wrote, "reports are out that cards are to be printed in Duluth and that every resident of Duluth will be approached with these cards and demanded to fill out if they fail to purchase Liberty Bonds." D.A. Craig, The Buhl Advertiser.
The true role of the APL was enforcing patriotism and seeking out draft dodgers. August 18, 1917 "A mob, which included 100 members of the Minnesota National Guard, in a fit of patriotic fervor and anti-socialist zealotry destroyed the headquarters of the IWW in Duluth."
February 25, 1918 Alien Registration Day. The Minnesota Commission on Public Safety requires all non-citizens to register and declare the names of their relatives participating on either side in the War, their draft status, citizenship status, value, and location of real personal property and safety deposit boxes.
April 1918 Monster rally in Fairmont, Minnesota, calling for the confiscation of all property of disloyal residents. Orders issued prohibiting the employment of disloyal people in schools, public and private.
September 1918 All residents of Minnesota were assigned a quota of bonds to purchase to finance the War effort A Finnish resident was hanged near Duluth by the "Knights of Liberty" for refusing the draft
Now George Bush can try and whip up American patriotism to a fever pitch, but one can see that can get out of hand. The Bush Administration's new TIPS program was probably thought of as a good idea, but the hindsight of history tells us that even "good ideas" can be taken to the extreme and hurt more people that they help.
Thousands of Americans, spying and snitching off their neighbors will destroy the very fabric of what it is to be an American. All community cooperation will fall by the wayside. Trust in our fellow citizen should be the number one goal of our government. Dividing America into small groups that are afraid to say what they believe, may be the dream that George Bush has always had, but America will lose this "War on Terrorism" if that happens.
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