When I was elected to Congress in 2004, I never imagined that our government would conduct surveillance activities against journalists exercising their First Amendment rights and duties, and threaten them with imprisonment to censure their activities. That's what happens in places like Russia, not in America.
I wouldn't have believed the government would target millions of innocent American citizens' cellphone records, and monitor their emails, Internet usage and other activities. After all, this isn't some Hollywood futuristic thriller. This is America.
And yet, nine years later, here are we are.
Over that time we've had a Republican and a Democrat President. We've had both Democrat and Republican majorities in the House of Representatives.
Under this bi-partisan watch America has been drastically altered. It's not a transformation that has made us stronger. It has been a determined orchestration of the most fundamental realignment of the relationship between the people and their government since our founding. We are weaker for it.
Washington has imposed its will on our lives in ways few of us could have ever envisioned or approved of. President Bush gave us the Patriot Act. President Obama made it worse.
If the extent of what the government was doing stopped with these actions, it would be bad enough. But, from nationalizing health care to bailing out banks and car companies, to incessant borrowing, spending and taxing, Washington has systematically accumulated ever more power at the expense of our rights.
In the eight years I served in Congress I did all I could to promote and defend freedom while working against the continued growth of government's reach.
My positions made me less then popular with the Republican Party's leadership in Washington. I was assailed by my opponents and pilloried in the media.
The Washington Post even named me a member of what they dubbed the "Apocalypse Caucus."
I'm proud that I was only one of 20 Congressmen singled out by the Post. We were right.
And so too were the countless Americans who rose up and spoke out against Washington's march against freedom, whether they were involved in the Tea Party or merely exercising their precious right to speak freely.
Our American government of today resembles little, if anything, like the government we learned about in high school civics classes, let alone the type of nation our founders envisioned, or that the greatest generation sacrificed so much to protect.
Nearly 12 years after 9/11, the portrait of America is no longer the idealistic images so vividly put to canvas by the likes of Norman Rockwell, but rather, the Orwellian images of a government that uses intimidation and manipulation to confiscate its citizens' rights and freedoms under the pretense of protecting the people from our enemies and ourselves.
Ronald Reagan said, "Either you will control your government, or government will control you." The enormity of President Reagan's words ring even more true today than he could have possibly imagined.
We are blessed with the free will and determination to make a difference. We can preserve our way of life and protect our Constitution. We can demand better of our leaders and elect new ones who will never waiver in their defense of freedom. After all, we are Americans.
Connie Mack IV is the former U.S. Representative for Florida's 14th Congressional District, serving from 2005 to 2013.