Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Are We There Yet?

The cliche of the family road trip always has the family just pulling out of the driveway when the kid in the backseat says, "are we there yet?"    It's not just realistic, it tells us something about human nature--we're always looking somewhere else.  Not now--not at the present.

I'd like to take a moment today to invite you to look back and forward and then put your attention on right now.  Here we go.

Remember the morning of September 11, 2001.  The  press and government sources quickly pinned responsibility for the attacks on muslim 'extremists' and the march toward war and the ironically named Patriot Act was under way.  

We had to go to war,  first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, then in Afghanistan again (and Egypt, and Syria)  they said, to be safe.    But then, because a single crazy person could still take a bomb on an airplane, we had to forego rights, to be searched and scanned before getting on airplanes, to be safe.  And we need to catch these guys before they get to the place with the bomb or the gun--we had to have pretty much global surveillance, to be safe.   We had to be wary of all muslims because they are all warlike jihadists, and we must suspect them to be safe.   It was all a journey toward safety.

Now think about the future we're headed towards.  Our president has claimed the "legal" authority to murder an American citizen, but he says the legal reasoning that authorizes it is "classified."  Congress has passed (and the President says he will sign) a law allowing American citizens to be imprisoned, possibly for life, with no proof, no charge, no trial, whenever the president decides to accuse someone of "substantially aiding" terrorism  (you tell me, does criticizing the U.S. government "substantially aid" al-Qaeda?).  

In our future, we'll have a court ruling that the American people have no right to choose what we eat or drink. We'll have decisions saying that, without any probable cause, a government can put a GPS device on your car and track your every move.   We'll have the law that they can come into your home with a warrant they write themselves and search for God-knows-what.   And we won't be able go out in the street and protest what we don't like about our government without getting beaten, shot with tear gas canisters, and pepper sprayed because they don't like what we're saying.

In our future, we'll  get stopped at checkpoints, groped and scanned before boarding a plane, surveilled at every turn.  We have no privacy in our phone conversations, our email,  our cars, our internet habits, or even our homes.  

So now I'd like you to focus on the present.  For over ten years now, we've fought the 'evil muslims,' we've enacted all the legislation, we've been subjected to the searches, the surveillance.  We're spending over $700 billion a year on "defense" that includes offensive wars all over the place.  We have a military expenditure that is greater than all the other nations on earth combined, and more than four times as much as our next biggest competitor, ChinaWe've dropped millions of tons of ordnance on Iraq and Afghanistan, killed hundreds of thousands of people in those countries, and effectively changed the governmental regimes there.

So here's the question--are we safe yet?

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