My grandfather was an accountant. Some of my earliest memories of visiting him as a child involve his adding machine, which sat on a shelf in the dining room of the home he lived in until the day he died. I would play with that fascinating old calculator sometimes for hours, watching the spool of paper record my random numbers under my grandparents’ tolerant gaze. Among other knickknacks whose number and presence were a constant in his living room seemingly for decades, my grandfather kept a humorous gift given to him by his family: a little stuffed bureaucrat, whose balding, bespectacled form bore an eerie resemblance to my grandfather. The bureaucrat sat amidst a pile of stringy red crepe paper – “red tape,” natch – forever twiddling his thumbs with a resigned expression on his painted, plush face.
My grandfather’s house, in a small, peaceful town outside the state capital of New York, held a lot of memories. In that house, my grandfather raised three sons and a daughter. It was that same house whose walls had once sheltered my great-grandmother, a woman of whom I have only the most fleeting of memories, whose ancient sewing-kit pocketknife is among my most prized possessions. It was in that house that my grandparents, who lived through and in many ways were defined by their experiences during the Great Depression and World War II, did their best to provide a life for the family they created.
For several years of my adult life, my grandfather did my taxes. It was one of those reminders of the career he had held, from which he had retired but whose discipline he never forgot, that helped define him as a person. Twenty years ago, it was my grandfather’s influence that prompted me to get a bachelor’s degree in accounting. I don’t honestly know what he thought about the fact that I ended up a writer rather than a CPA, but I know he was proud of me. While my grandparents were blessed with a large family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I hold the distinction of being their first grandchild. I treasure the memory of who my grandparents were, and always I am aware of how hard they worked, both when I was alive and during the sometimes difficult years long before I existed.
My grandfather was other things before he was an accountant. He once ran a grocery store, for example, and some of my father’s childhood memories are of that store. One of the things my grandfather never was, however, was an employee of the United States Postal Service.
Because he was a Republican.
The tale was first told to me by my father, who remembers it bitterly to this day. The family story goes like this: My grandfather – whose stoic attitude and quiet dedication to his family were surpassed only by his capacity to work, and work hard, to support that family – took a civil-service exam in an attempt to better his financial position by taking a job with the Post Office. He scored higher than any of the other applicants, but he did not get the job. The Powers that Were, at the time, were Democrats, and my grandfather was, in my father’s words, “in the wrong political party.” The Democratic political machine was not about to grant a coveted government job to a Republican, and so it simply didn’t. I don’t remember how old I was when my father first told me that story, but I do remember how disgusted he sounded when he related it.
Last week, the news broke that the Transportation Security Administration was planning to implement a policy in which it would prevent its employees from accessing any websites containing “controversial opinions.” According to CBS News, the TSA intended, without explanation, to block any and all pages arbitrarily deemed “inappropriate for government access” as of the first of this month. No explanation for the move was offered, nor was there any description of the mechanism through which a website’s “controversial opinions” would be evaluated. The implication was clear: Any statement of opinion with which those in charge at the TSA disagreed would be deemed verboten.
Had the policy stood, we would no doubt have been treated to subsequent horror stories about the blocking of conservative news and opinion sites like WorldNetDaily and Drudge, while equivalent liberal sites would probably have escaped contraindication. Such hypocrisy is ever the stock-in-trade of Democrats, liberals and their left-wing fellow travelers, who abhor free speech and are doing everything in their power to exert control over and censor the Internet.
While an employer does have the legitimate authority to censor the Internet access it provides to employees, the TSA’s move exceeded this authority in its vague attempt to render political opinion illegitimate. The legions of Americans who reacted with strong outrage to the TSA’s transparently Orwellian policy understood what the TSA hoped they would not: When those in power are allowed to dictate the rules without regard or respect for individual rights and constitutionally protected freedoms (such as the right to free speech), tyranny results.
Realizing it had given away too much, the TSA first produced an unconvincing denial in an attempt to spin away the firestorm of opinion it had ignited. It then abruptly reversed itself. Make no mistake: the “further review” of its thought policing was prompted only by the outrage the clearly inappropriate move generated. The TSA now hopes you’ll forget what it tried to do as it quickly and quietly tries to make this misstep go away.
Democrats’ approach to power has not changed. Decades ago, the petty tyrannies resulting from Democrats holding political power denied my grandfather a good job despite his ability to do it – because his opinions were, in eyes of those who held the reins of power, “controversial.” Today, Democrats still wish to dictate what opinions you may and may not hold, see and express.