In the aftermath of the bombings in Boston, the networks have been filled with stories of courage and kindness. Strangers helping strangers...people running to the bomb site to assist the injured...police and firefighters rushing to save as many lives as possible...and talk about courageous Bostonians who will not allow this tragedy to take over their lives and how they refuse to be afraid. There was the obvious references to New York after September 11th, and how Americans all over this nation always come together at times of tragedy to help others. Bostonians were described as defiant and resourceful and determined to get on with their lives. I just wish this were true for America.
Already, a congressman from New York is calling for legislation to increase the number of cameras on the streets of America so no matter where you go, someone is watching you. How many cameras is enough? Should there be a camera outside everyone's home so the authorities can see what you leave your house with every morning? In 1984, the TV was something you watched and also something that watched you. This is just the beginning of the parade of politicians and security experts who will suggest ratcheting up security in this nation and increasing the ability of government to spy on its citizens all in the name of protection and, by and large, most Americans will go along with just about anything which is proposed. It is time once again to remind you of Ben Franklin's quote about, "...those who sacrifice liberty for security, get neither."
America is not a resourceful or resilient nation. Americans are easy to spook and scare and once scared they will listen to anyone who promises to protect them and keep them from harm. Concerns about civil liberties and privacy and the fourth amendment will be portrayed as cowardly, unpatriotic and naive. After September 11th, Americans were eager to embrace the Patriot Act...a proposal over 1,000 pages long, which few read and even fewer understood how dramatically it would dilute and water down the Constitution. Americans were told the government needed to be able to spy on them, listen to their phone calls, monitor their email and internet activities, all in the name of fighting terrorism. We found out the government broke law after law in their zealous power grab and then watched as Congress gave them immunity from their actions. American corporations cooperated and gladly facilitated these actions at the expense of their own customers and they too were granted immunity. We now know the government can come into your home, search it, invade your computer, leave bugs, and never inform you of their actions or presence. They can go to your employer, branch library, Netflix, Google, and all other search engines, and demand any information on your activities and inquiries. They can do this with a national security letter which prohibits the recipient from revealing any of these searches under penalty of prison. At no time do they need to get a warrant or need to show a judge probable cause for these invasions of your person and papers (required by the 4th amendment), and all of this was approved of by the majority of Americans.
President Bush, along with Cheney, Wolfowitz et. al., knew the way to get Americans to support a disastrous war in Iraq was to scare them. The steady drumbeat of weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein, Al Qaida and terrorism stampeded defiant and resilient Americans, and a spineless Congress, into accepting an invasion which never should have happened. Almost 5,000 dead Americans, hundreds of thousands of wounded, 1,000,000 Iraqi victims and $1 trillion later we see the results of how that worked out. Fear overruled common sense once again.
Now we sit and watch. We already have a congressman, King from New York, calling for more invasive cameras all over the nation. Soon you will hear no one can gather at the end of a marathon to greet runners as they finish. Instead, the race organizers will designate official cheerleaders to rousingly welcome while family and friends are gathered in pens miles away. There will be proposals to search us more...watch us more...surveil our activities online more...electronically monitor our cars more and obtain copies of anything we purchase which could be "suspect". Police and federal agents will infiltrate groups whose politics are not mainstream enough or whose religion is "other" than what is acceptable and all of this will be couched in terms of keeping us safe. Unfortunately, the defiant, resilient and courageous American populace will embrace each new restriction enthusiastically because it will all make them feel more secure.
A new bi-partisan report has been issued stating without a doubt America has engaged in torturing prisoners in violation of both American and international law. The report concludes knowledge and approval of torture reached the highest levels of our government. (yes, they knew) The report states unequivocally that torture did not result in eliciting any significant intelligence nor result in stopping any plots. It says the use of torture undermined America's credibility with the international community and made it more dangerous for American agents in the field. Despite these revelations and conclusions, Americans will not be embarrassed or ashamed of what their government did in their name because the end, keeping us "safe", justified the means.
I have no doubt there were acts of courage and kindness and extraordinary resilience exhibited in the minutes and hours after the bombs exploded. The deaths of innocent people, including an 8 year old boy, are indefensible and horrific as is the wounding and scarring of hundreds or others and an entire city. However, Americans as a whole are not defiant or resilient nor are they courageous. They are easily stampeded into accepting a larger and larger police state ironically imposed to protect their "freedom". In the next days and weeks stay vigilant. Where you see this happening again, raise your voice...show courage...and oppose an any more attacks on your civil liberties in the name of security. Ben Franklin will be proud of you.