How the Patriot Act affects my small business and makes me racist

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For almost the past five years, I've been running my little software company.  Sometimes employing people, sometimes sending along work to independent contractors, working to build wealth with software, and feeding my kids and paying my mortgage with the skills that I've acquired.

In short, I'm a small business, and a productive member of the economy of the United States.

I've realized though that there's something terribly wrong.

I'm worried that the government is listening in on my phone calls, reading my emails, and looking into my bank accounts.


A few weeks back I was contacted by another small business person who wanted a website built for their company.  They found me via my ad on Sortfolio, and they were looking to get the first version of a website built.

Perfect.  It's one of the things I do.

The only thing different about this client from a host of others is that they're based out of the United Arab Emirates.  We do live in a global economy now, and it's wonderful that someone in the UAE can have me, in Chicago, build a website for them.

So what's the problem?

The problem is that according to US law, since I've now been having Skype phone calls with someone outside our borders, and I've been sent money via PayPal, (from the Middle East no less) the government can basically look, listen, and investigate anything they want without any warrant or oversight.

This, of course, is horse shit.

And I bring it up and write about it because everyone seems to think that the Patriot Act is some far off - "doesn't really affect me" kind of thing.  But it's not.  It affects you, your friends, and people you work with.

And maybe your kids.

And the kicker is, that this is happening all while Obama is supposedly trying to "reset" the relationships that Americans have with Arabs.  So essentially, Americans are being told to remember that not everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist, that we have a lot of shared values, etc.

Oh, but if you talk to any of them, we're going listen to your phone calls.  And if you do business with them, we're going to look into your bank accounts.

This is exactly the kind of behavior that is exhibited in abusive relationships.

And so what happens is we start asking ourselves, "do I want to do business with this person because they live in xyz part of the world?" or because their name is unfamiliar, or because they have an accent.

And that behavior; of judging someone before you know them, questioning whether they're safe to do business with for no reason other than their name, or the part of the world they live in, or the color of their skin - that's racist.

And so that's what the Patriot Act really does.  It increases paranoia, makes people afraid, and promotes racism.

The stark reality is that we live in a country where a small business person has to worry about the government listening in on their phone calls, and digging into their finances for doing nothing more than making a website.

Osama Bin Laden may be buried at sea somewhere, but if the American government can listen to my phone calls simply because I made a website for someone.....

Then guess what?

He won.