Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fear Is Not An Option

Are you afraid? According to our government, you should be. You should be scared of terrorists (obviously). You should be scared of immigrants and their desire to steal every job available (even the ones you would never take). You should probably be scared of the Chinese and their plot to kill and retard our younger generations through lead poisoning.

People form societies and governments in order to protect themselves from threats. In the beginning the threats were external—your garden variety saber tooth tiger, warring clan, etc—but have since evolved. We’re still worried about the warring clans (more commonly called “evil empires”), but the tiger threat has pretty much gone away.

It’s obvious that governments need enemies to stay in business. And they use fear to keep their subjects passive. America is no exception. Before we were allies with the British, they were our oppressor and our enemy. We’ve been enemies with Native Americans, Canada, Mexico, most of Europe, Japan, all those tiny islands between Hawaii and Japan, Russia (and the countries that comprised the Soviet Union), China, the Middle East, and various well evil people with no country to call home. They’ve gone by different names: Monarchists, Savages, Communists, Fascists, Anarchists, and Terrorists, but they all have the same plot. They must end our freedom-loving way of life. And we must fear this.

What is so shocking and outrageous to me is how this current administration has abused the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Those tragic events were a wake up call to America, but Bush has used those events to keep Americans afraid and force legislation that chips away at the very thing that makes our country great: our civil liberties.

Subtle isn’t a word anyone would use to describe the President, but in one case, he has been quite subtle. I suppose it’s a matter of semantics, but Bush has done irreparable damage to the American psyche. Where “evildoers” and “Islamofascists” perpetrated the events of 9/11, the bombing the USS Cole highlighted a “serious geopolitical threat.” Similarly, the bombings in Bali, London and Madrid indicated “security concerns.” by using the language that they do, the Bush administration perpetuates the idea of a mythical, all-powerful enemy that does not present the same concerns as a typical enemy. But Bush is describing the same enemy that Clinton described after the USS Cole attacks. And those “evildoers” are the same people that create ‘security concerns” to Europe and Indonesia. What is the purpose of using such intense and horrific language? It’s used to put keep fear in Americans’ hearts.

And how does Bush keep the fear in our hearts? With the Terror Alert scale, of course. In case you have ignored it, I’ll give you a quick refresher. The scale has five levels: Green (Low), Blue (Guarded), Yellow (Elevated), Orange (High), and Red (Severe). For today, the National Treat Level is Elevated and the Flight Threat Level is High (which is why you have to buy $5 water to take on the plane). Since its inception, has it ever been below Yellow? No. In fact, it has only alternated between Elevated and High. So, the administration keeps us in fear, and as soon as we become too complacent, the threat level is raised to High. Just to keep us on our toes and under their thumb.

What is the point of all this fear? Why are we being made to fear the entire world? Because subject who are afraid are passive. Since we’ve been afraid, we’ve let the government pass some astonishing pieces of legislation. First and foremost, the PATRIOT Act of 2001, which is anything but patriotic. Of course, there is much more to the Act, but here are the highlights:
• Expands terrorism laws to include “domestic terrorism” which could subject political organizations to surveillance, wiretapping, harassment, and criminal action for political advocacy.
• Expands the ability of law enforcement to conduct secret searches, gives them wide powers of phone and Internet surveillance, and access to highly personal medical, financial, mental health, and student records with minimal judicial oversight.
• Allows FBI Agents to investigate American citizens for criminal matters without probable cause of crime if they say it is for “intelligence purposes.”
• Permits non-citizens to be jailed based on mere suspicion and to be denied re-admission to the US for engaging in free speech. Suspects convicted of no crime may be detained indefinitely in six month increments without meaningful judicial review.
And then there is the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The MCA eliminates the constitutional due process right of habeas corpus for detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere. It allows our government to continue to hold hundreds of prisoners for more than five years without charges. It also gives any president the power to declare — on his or her own — who is an enemy combatant, decide who should be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime and define what is — and what is not — torture and abuse.

Now let’s talk about what we should really be afraid of. We should be wary of a government that tries to oppress us through fear. The world is a dangerous place, but it’s not out to get us. We should be afraid of a government that tries to suppress our civil liberties in order to further its own goals. We should be afraid of an administration that does not value our Constitution or the rights we are afforded. As citizens, we have an obligation to vote out the people who support these laws and ideas. We also have an obligation to notify our congressional representatives and have these pieces of legislation repealed. It will save our country and our collective dignity.

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