“There's kind of a generation change here. Young Americans don't trust this government,” remarked Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) during a Fox News Sunday segment about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“There’s a young generation who believes he’s some kind of Jason Bourne,” continued the senator.
He’s right — and I’m quite glad that this “generation change” is occurring. In fact, this generation seems to be returning to the very foundation of American distrust of those in power. We’re waking up.
We have every reason to be skeptical about our political elites in Washington. Suspicion of those in power is not a view that is exclusively held by Democrats or Republicans — it is a foundational belief of the United States of America. After all, this lack of trust is what brought about our revolutionary American system of government to begin with. Power is divided, checks and balances are installed, and representatives are elected, all methods to ensure that those with power do not abuse it.
Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning would never have needed to ruin their own lives by doing what they did if our government had acted in the interests of our civil liberties. As Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has pointed out, Congress was deliberately lied to about the scope and details of NSA surveillance. In other words, without whistleblowers, we legitimately never would have heard about these vast, Big-Brother-like measures.
So Senator McCain, I respectfully ask that you stop downplaying the worry that millennials and other young people possess. This concern is certainly not generational — it is American, as we as Americans value our freedom and liberty.
James Madison wrote in The Federalist, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
This view is not just a distant ideology, it is seen in the beliefs of the American people. For the past five decades, the University of Michigan has tracked our nation’s trust of government, and during that time, we have seen an increase in mistrust. In fact, for the first time since 9/11, July’s Pew Poll has shown that Americans view the government’s anti-terrorism tactics as more of a concern than terrorism itself.
I would hardly minimize these concerns by chalking up to “a generation change.” Rather, I would call it a revival of American ideals. So pack your bags, big-government politicians: Americans do not trust you anymore. Jason Bourne is fictional and we don’t idolize him — we have real-life heroes like Edward Snowden, whose exposure of your abuses has likely just begun.