“But we are at war,” I said. “It seems reasonable to give up some of our privacy during an emergency.”
“We always say that,” Mr. Magundi replied. “We say that, because of the current emergency, we can’t have the privacy or the rights or the freedoms that we ordinarily enjoy. But there is never not a current emergency. There is never an ordinary time, when things are just normal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s terrorists, or drug gangs, or threat of nuclear war, or race riots, or Communist conspiracies, or Hitler and Tojo, or a Great Depression—there is always a current emergency. And so we must make a conscious choice: do our rights and freedoms exist during the current emergency, which is to say while there is still evil in the world, or are they only potentials, which can never be actualized until we all take up residence in the new Jerusalem?
“Much could be said on either side. Tyranny is very good at getting things done, which might make it a good choice for the current emergency. On the other hand, we Americans might want to remember that our own Constitution, whose principles we are so easily tempted to set aside during the current emergency, was formulated specifically to address a current emergency perhaps more pressing than anything we face today: the imminent dissolution of the national government. Perhaps the representatives who put it together, and who added the first ten amendments while the ink was still wet on the original, knew something about current emergencies from experience.”