Many things have changed over my long lifetime. I was borne into a time where neighbors and families felt a keen responsibility for others, a time when people shouldered the responsibility of life on a local level.
This has changed. Now we are told to wait, and we will be cared for by some “hero” who will swoop down from the heavens and take us from the fire, blizzard, or flood. We are led to believe that the hijacker is best dealt with by meeting his demands. We are led to believe that our families are best cared for by passive actions, then calling the “officials”. Reality has not been reflected in the patter, though, and, as the blizzard of 78, to Katrina, to acts of terrorism have manifested themselves, surely, we must recognize the absolute – that no police force, or organization of government can save us, that absolute security is a lie.
Alas, we are still responsible for our own well-being, our own safety, and our own butts when the sh#% really hits the fan. As was clearly indicated at Virginia Tech. when the police developed a perimeter, as the gunman walked, room to room killing students lying under desks, There is no superman. There is no Batman. There is only us – normal men and women thrown, occasionally, into events that are threatening to life.
What once would have been solved with fists, now is dealt with by calling in men in black kevlar suits, perhaps, emptying their weapons into someone’s child. Time and time again, the most extreme remedy becomes “normalized” as police don riot gear, ride to the “scene” in armored personnel carriers, and form a line across streets of cities.
I remember traveling through Europe in the early eighties with my mother, men in military garb in airports, holding uzis, watching the people. How unthinkable it all was. I remember saying “thank God that America is not like that!” Now, it is.
There is safety, and then there is the illusion of safety. Do I feel safe when a man stands with a gun and watches over me? No, I do not. I feel surveilled. I feel stripped of my freedom.
Good men offer their professional lives over to service in our police and military, To find themselves at last, guarding us from us. It is foolishness to believe that a man with a gun will be at the right place at the right time to react. It is foolishness to believe that, in the instant that an attack takes, he would be able to define a target, and execute in a crowded airport or street. Would the thought of such an action even be prudent before the event actually took place? It would not.
Such men, now are taught to believe that there are different “classes” of people. They must develop prejudice, over time to people who they feel present the greater threat. They become a part of a special class, themselves, sticking together against the “others” regardless the consequences.
Brothers, standing against the threat that you or I may pose to the whole. Watching us in the lines, as we put our things thru the x-ray. Watching us as we get a snack or listen to our music, or sleep. They are not watching terrorists. They are watching you and I, patting us down, scanning our naked skin in sophisticated machines, as we hold our hands up over our heads, and stand on the yellow footprints, dutifully following their orders, lest we be signaled out as a “problem”.
You may ask, then – “what are you saying? – Do you think we are better off with no security?” Yes. I do. There are things that planning and preparation can control. There are measures of surveillance that are just and appropriate in a free society. But, if we must develop cloistered sects of society to police the rest, I would prefer nothing. It all comes down to a balance of security and freedom. How much security have we bought with the freedoms that we so freely spent? None. How much loss of freedom is too great a cost to pay? Any.
All of the loss of life from all of the acts of terrorism is not significant in statistical evaluation, compared to the loss of freedom and, indeed the guarantees of our constitution, itself. Life holds inherent risks. Eventually we all shall lose. If we sell our freedom to travel, to learn, to speak, and evolve, to disagree and to change. The result is not a world in which I would care to live. The cost of “comfort” is too great if it must be paid for by surrendering all that we are as Americans.
I have daughters who I love deeply, as men loved sons and daughters who were murdered in these many events. Anything is worth doing to protect the innocent. We are failing, though to protect anything. We are squandering mankind’s only ray of the grand light of freedom, because of our fears. Terrorism does not work on the fearless. We were once such a society, perhaps, with reflection, and strength of character, we may be again.
We each are valuable as a person, a father, mother, sister, brother, friend, but alas each of us is more still, as a part of the whole of America, and of mankind. Patrick Henry, so long ago said; “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!..” We, the great men and women of the greatest country on this earth, bend and put the shackles upon our own feet. It is fear that drives us, and such response to fear is truly and wholly un-American.