Brian Konkol and President Rebecca Bergman kicked off the 37th annual MayDay! Conference on Wednesday morning. Before introducing the keynote speaker of the conference, Bergman quoted an excerpt from the new Strategic ACTS Plan tying it to the topic of the conference.
“Gustavus equips students to lead purposeful lives and to act on the great challenges of our time. Through an innovative liberal arts education of recognized excellence. MayDay! Calls the attention of our community to one of the great challenges of our time. This year’s topic is focused on mass surveillance and the role of both citizens and government in times of peace and in times of war,” Bergman said.
While The MayDay! Conference has traditionally been a forum for peace discussion, it also provides a source of inspiration for attendees to begin their own journey towards creating harmony in the world.
“The message is rather grim, well, we’ve assembled at this time and place. Our country, we the people, are engaged in 9 known unconstitutional, un-winnable wars that are turning children into orphans, wives into widows, having fathers bury sons instead of sons burying fathers. It’s destruction on an industrial scale. That is our country. We can’t blame it on the government because we, the people, still govern,” keynote speaker Bruce Fein opened the conference with.
“The surveillance issue is a derivative- or better yet- a child of the warfare state.” – Bruce Fein
Fein, a constitutional lawyer in Washington D.C. and former assistant deputy attorney under the Reagan administration, made sure to emphasize that it is the people that inevitably has the power to change its country’s actions.
“We now live in a country where the President is endowed with authority that would make King George III envious. The authority to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to kill anyone on the planet, including citizens that he decrees based upon secret evidence – the same kind of evidence that found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – is an imminent danger. There is no reveal of the President’s decision, there is no congressional review, there is no judicial review, it is final. That is the power to kill anyone at will, which is the very definition of tyranny. When Thomas Paine wrote that ‘in the USA common law is King and that the King is law’ we fought a revolution and now we’ve turned our heads. When I say we, that’s us. This is who we voted for. We tolerate and accept it,” Fein said.
The Conference continued with an afternoon panel discussion focusing on mass surveillance featuring Coleen Rowley, Jane Kirtley and Thomas Drake. Fein touched on the subject of mass surveillance in his keynote address, noting that the rationality of surveillance and warfare are not too different.
“The surveillance issue is an derivative – or better yet – a child of the warfare state. The warfare state is built on the psychology that we need to live in a risk-free world. Everyone in this room should know that it is more likely to know that you are more likely to die from a vending machine falling on top of you than in a terrorist attack. The surveillance society is a natural response. We can’t take any risks. This is why we declare wars on everything that moves, no matter how insignificant,” Fein concluded.