It's a Hollow Feeling This Fourth of July

America. Land of the free, home of the brave. I used to enjoy the 4th of July, with all its connotations to freedom and democracy. This year it rings hollow.

We may still be the home of the brave -- witness the troops risking their lives in Iraq and Afganistan -- but we are no longer the land of the free, and now I feel sad when I see pictures of the Liberty Bell accompanied by the slogan, "Let Freedom Ring."

I blame President Bush and his administration of fear-mongers, willing to strike fear of terror in the heart of every American to fulfill his bid for unbridled executive power, for the demise of our civil liberties. We had an attack on 9/11 and yes, many people died. But that did not warrant taking away the very constitutional rights that made us the beacon of liberty in the free world. I also blame the radical right henchman in Congress, like James Sensenbrenner and Tom Tancredo, as well as xenophobic Americans, who would put a "closed" sign on the Statue of Liberty.

I look to where we are headed. Records of our telephone calls and financial records will be logged into a secret data-mining program. The cop who stops you for a traffic ticket will punch a few keys on his dash-mounted computer and pull up everything from your credit record to your lawsuit against your neighbor. Our e-mails and Google searches will be scrutinized for inappropriate content. "Sneak and peek" search warrants will be used to enter our homes without leaving so much as a piece of paper to let us know law enforcement was there. Maybe they won't take anything and will just turn on your computer and make a copy of your hard drive. Maybe they will leave an unseen device that will record a copy of every keystroke you type.

I never used to be a paranoid person. But our Supreme Court is close to being stacked with right-wing ideologues and Congress keeps stripping judges of their power to serve as a check and balance on a runaway executive branch that operates in unprecedented secrecy and a Congress that wants to treat the Constitution as a rough draft by passing unnecessary and misguided amendments. Today is a day we should be reveling in the greatness of our nation, but instead I fear for the health of our democracy.

(Jeralyn Merritt blogs daily at TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime)