Notes: Written with the Thanksgiving weekend in mind, this strip makes the point that often to be thankful for something, we have to first lose it or be threatened with its loss. My memory may be wrong about this, but I'm pretty certain that I wasn't concerned about a real loss of substantial freedoms in America during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s. But, now I am.

It's governments nature to push as far as the citizenry will let it go in controlling us. A compliant population makes all kinds of things possible for rulers, even looting the treasury -- here I'm talking about more than pork barrel politics. Moreover, citizens have to be vigilant against intrusions by the law enforcement likes of Attorney General John Ashcroft who try to scare us into giving up our rights.

It's core to our character as a democratic country that we fight to keep our civil liberties and not allow the government to erode our freedoms. There often tends to be insidious incrementalism in government's trying to take more and more of them away from us. The F.B.I.'s spying on protesters is an example, and one anyone my age saw such spying abused during the 1960s and early 1970s. We don't need a return to Hooverism.

Fortunately, we have Congressmen from both parties willing to speak out -- although often belatedly -- again the erosion of our freedoms. Patriot Act II met enough resistance in Congress that the Bush administration has begun to try to get it passed piecemeal by placing parts of it into other bills.

Anyone who has been audited by the I.R.S. -- and I have been -- and anyone who has been sued by the state -- and I have been -- learns the power of the government's prosecutorial resources. I acknowledge government's positive role in our live
s, and like the superior infrastructure that we have in America. Still, as citizens of a democracy, we don't work for the government, the government works for us. The government didn't grant us freedoms, we kept them for ourselves when we formed the United States. I like our government but with a condition: that we citizens keep it on a choke chain. 11.30.03