It’s a shame that Alex Jones and his jittery cuckoo’s nest of schizophrenic dittoheads are so tightly wedged up their own asses. Their paranoid self-fulfilling prophecies of nefarious “false flag” government conspiracies involving the mass murder of its own people entirely discredits their otherwise valid concerns about civil liberties and violations of constitutionally-protected privacy — especially in the wake of terrorist attacks here.
It might not seem like it, especially this week, but, in a global sense, Americans are fortunate. For the most part, we’ve avoided the more frequent terrorist attacks that have plagued other parts of the world. So when we’re hit, our amplified fear leads to both bellicose vengeance, scored with Lee Greenwood anthems, and a frantic hunger for increased security.
The news media fuels our most kneejerk tendencies in the name of attaining higher ratings and profit, and our elected leaders exploit it as a means of going to war and rolling back our basic rights and values. By the way, I’m not referring to the right to own an arsenal of military-style manhunting weapons the likes of which the framers of the Bill of Rights never could’ve imagined. By basic rights, I mean, among other things, remaining secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, to paraphrase the too-often overlooked Fourth Amendment — to not have our phone calls and emails horked by spying government agencies; to not transform our schools and public spaces into police states; or to not have our junk groped at the airport and our toothpaste confiscated because there’s a one in 10 million chance it could be used to blow up an airplane.
We’re in a very familiar place right now in the aftermath of Boston.
Having lived through the last 12 years, it doesn’t require much of an imagination to predict what’s next. More surveillance cameras, more metal detectors at sporting events, more security measures, more armed men wrapped in Kevlar scanning you up and down to make sure you don’t appear too suspicious or, gasp, too brown. Scores of otherwise good people will not only acquiesce to these measures but zealously demand them with the familiar refrains of “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” or “you can’t have a Bill of Rights if you’re dead” — the impotent rationalizations of the shocked and frightened. Before long, the illusion of safety and the illusion of freedom will criss-cross as security increases and freedom dissipates. Yet we’ll go on merrily capitulating to each new layer of so-called protection against the evildoers, as long as we feel safer than we did on Monday.
Rep. Pete King (R-NY), as you’re probably aware, is cable news’ favorite terrorism fire-eater whenever the topic comes up. Yesterday, Andrea Mitchell asked King whether we should have more surveillance cameras on our streets and King replied:
I do think we need more cameras. We have to stay ahead of the terrorists and I do know in New York, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, which is based on cameras, the outstanding work that results from that. So yes, I do favor more cameras. They’re a great law enforcement method and device. And again, it keeps us ahead of the terrorists, who are constantly trying to kill us.
I hope also that members of Congress, both parties, including my own, will realize that the war against terror is not over.
So the fear-mongering continues. Naturally this raises all kinds of issues, but, primarily, King’s use of the scary phrase “constantly trying to kill us” reminds us that we’re engaged in an endless, constant war against terrorism — among the most reckless, dangerous American ideas of the 21st Century. This so-called terror war has infected nearly every facet of American life and government, including our current president who, as I’ve written before, is in a position to end the war and relinquish his war on terrorism powers. The “war” aspect of this issue is the biggest concern and needs to be bottled as soon as possible in lieu of returning our counter-terrorism efforts to the realms of law enforcement and intelligence-gathering. A “war” on something that will always exist, terrorism, directly implies that the war against it will always exist, accompanied by extraordinary war powers retained by our political leaders. It’s a concept that ought to be unacceptable to even the most vocal war hawk. But every time King (or Dick Cheney or Rudy Giuliani) opens his yapper about terrorists who are “constantly trying to kill us,” it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve that goal, especially as time wears on and we grow accustomed to it.
Living in a constitutionally free society means that we’re always going to be vulnerable to those who might exploit our freedom to prey upon our darkest nightmares. And when we’re scared, we’ll do and allow anything. If you want to honor the victims of Boston and other similar attacks, here’s a simple way to do it: don’t be afraid. If you want to honor the flag and express your pride in being an American, don’t be afraid. The athletes who participated in the Boston Marathon overcame their fears by challenging body-and-spirit to accomplish a colossal feat of endurance. We can do the same by not being afraid.
This October, just like last October, and in spite of the terrorists who attacked the Boston Marathon, I fully intend to stand in the crowd at the finish line of the Kona Ironman to cheer another group of athletes who inspire us to rise above our fears and our limitations. Hopefully, I won’t be forced to remove my belt, shoes, personal dignity and American values in order to do so.