Fear And Loathing In The USA
I am sick to death of hearing, “the world is a different place since 9/11”. This simple little phrase is bandied about as a reason to support every un-American piece of legislation pushed by BushCo and as justification for their illegal activity. The world is not different. Perhaps we here in America think differently about our security, we no longer feel untouchable, but the world didn’t change that day. The only thing that has really changed is our irrational fear of terrorism and the incessant fear mongering from the Bush administration.
What is the reason given for Bush’s stunning re-election in 2004? 9/11. Why should we be okay with the “sneak and peek” provision of the Patriot Act that allows for law enforcement to come inside our homes without our knowledge and snoop around? 9/11. How do we reconcile enemy combatants held indefinitely without due process with our Constitutional right to a trial by our peers? 9/11. Why will President Bush most likely not be held accountable for breaking the law in authorizing spying on American citizens? 9/11. The world may not be a different place as a result of 9/11, but America sure is.
Any smart grandmother will tell you, never make big decisions when in a state of grief, a solid piece of advice often handed out after the death of a spouse. To bad America didn’t have an outspoken old grandma around that could have given us this strong warning on the day we were attacked and forced to witness suffering both personal and public. We were all in a state of grief, for the innocence we had lost and the devastation we had seen. How could we have been expected to make such monumental decisions about the Patriot Act, declarations of war and broadened Presidential powers before we even had a chance to process what had happened?
But we are more than four years down the road now, and should have our bearings back enough to see that the big decisions we made back then, were probably made in haste and deserve to be revisited. Most of them were not consented to anyway, but merely slipped by, as we stood around shell-shocked. At the time, there was something appealing about handing over the reigns to a “cowboy” who would protect and avenge us. Now that we have some distance, it’s apparent that we thought any cowboy would do. Clearly we were wrong.
Grief is meant to be temporary. We are supposed to move past it and continue on with our lives. Unfortunately for us, our grief was quickly replaced by fear, arguably a more powerful emotion. Fear too, is not sustainable as a constant state of being, but Bush and his cohorts make sure to pump it out at full force every chance they get. We are meant to fear car bombs, dirty bombs, sabotage of trains and bridges, hijacking of airplanes, anarchist protestors, any grouping of more than three Muslims, anthrax, smallpox and bird flu. So far, all of these threats put together have killed less than 6,000 Americans. Influenza and pneumonia kill more than 65,000 people a year in this country. Given that, it’s hard not to think we’re a bit irrational when it comes to terrorism. If we based our government spending on real dangers, we would spend some of the $300 billion or so we are throwing at Iraq on a nation wide program encouraging kids to wash their hands to avoid the flu.
We should by no means forget what happened on 9/11 and it certainly opened our eyes to the dangers posed by extremist ideologies, but this is as true at home as it is abroad. It’s more than a bit ironic that Bush preaches about the dangers of Muslim extremism yet relies heavily on Christian extremism in order to hold onto his power. Fundamentalism is no less dangerous when practiced in the name of God than it is in praise of Allah. They both spawn violence, the only difference is their targets, Fundamentalist Christians bomb abortion clinics and Fundamentalist Muslims bomb symbols of what they consider capitalist greed. None of it is justified and should be equally rooted out and destroyed.
The lessons of 9/11 are not “get them before they get us” and “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here”. The lessons should be that we are responsible for the things we do around the world, that we must never again assume we are untouchable and that ideologies of hate need not be tolerated. The “terrorists” don’t hate our freedom as Bush contends, they hate what we do and it’s as simple as that. Giving up our freedoms in a fight against terrorism is irrational, irresponsible and destined to fail. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” Two hundred and thirty years later, it’s as true as it ever was.