Friday, June 07, 2013

Better Safe...AND Sorry?

Cue continued outrage from left and right on American phone and internet transactions being spook monitored. This hoo-ha is disingenuous and decades late. The mice that are Americans long ago gave it up.

As a baby boomer, I was wee when Sen. Joseph McCarthy terrified my parents' generation. He ran the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, as well as inspiring similar lunacy at the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the Subversive Activities Control Board, and even linked to the Hollywood (really all entertainment industry) blacklisting. He couldn't have destroyed so many lives, lied so many lies and instituted the mechanisms without lots of help, such as Ronald Reagan, then head of the Screen Actor's Guild, and a McCarthy's good buddy and fellow Senator Richard Nixon.

Art note: The period Soviet poster exhorts young builders of communism to educate and convert.

Until 9/11, the craziness of that era seemed far away and unreproducible. Lists of covert communists insinuated in the State Department? Actors living to subvert us with their performances? Professors converting innocent students to Soviet control? Clear crap, we might have thought...until recently.

Now our irrational nation fear is not of Russians nor their contemporary Yellow Peril as the WWII generation dubbed the rising Chinese. Rather, terrorists in the form of the various al-Qaeda incarnations, the Taliban, and any person or group who kill Americans, particularly in the United States are, well, terrorizing us.

Granny Says

Maybe your grandmother used the folksy, "Better safe than sorry," as mine did. That was an analog of the Boy Scouts' "Be prepared." Sure, there irrefutable simple-mindedness there, but little else.

I eventually learned that such verbal tics are merely I-told-you-so placeholders. It's like hearing either, "It's only commonsense," or "Let's not reinvent the wheel." The message behind those wheezes is, "I have nothing, not reasoning or proof. I'm about to make bald assertions that I don't want challenged."

Back in the post-WWII Red-Scare times and now again in post-9/11, those with little or no regard for this nation's famous, hard-won, clearly defined freedoms do their worst. Yes, it was McCarthy, Nixon and Reagan before and after their presidencies, the Bushes both spook and the lesser, and now President Obama.

Time to Reverse

There is cause for outrage, for extreme wariness, for remedies.

Again, as a boomer, I grew up with the idea and ideals that we were exceptional as a nation. It wasn't the unjustifiable manifest-destiny thing. Rather, from  the Colonial era, through our revolution, into our states' and federal constitution and its add-ons, we set the world tone for liberty. We guaranteed a free press, free church, and even forbade the English occupation evils such as no-due-process for searches, trials or punishments.

Wow, we goofed up big time again and for the past 12 years in particular.

We've sent uncharged vaguely defined enemies off for torture and almost certainly did the same here. We run a concentration camp in Cuba where hundreds of uncharged suspects despair. We allow civilian-on-civilian gun murder on the skimpiest of excuses of feeling our lives or even property just might be somehow, someway threatened.

Now again we find that covertly and with or without Fourth Amendment safeguards, our very words and movements are captured, stored and analyzed. The oppressive policies we decry in China, Indonesia and elsewhere seem to too many to be OK here, as in better safe than sorry.

The pathetic corollary to such unjustifiable intrusion is a pattern of individual brutality. In the Red-Scare era, people (as in Americans) were denied their livelihoods, accused of and brought to trial for treason, hounded from their homes and professions, and beaten down even into suicide.

Let's forget the slippery-slope argument. Instead, this should be binary. What if one of more security agencies or some level of cop decide your internet activities or phone calls "prove" you are a terrorist or otherwise threat to the nation or one its politicians? Our legal system's background aside, that seems more like Gitmo than innocent until proven guilty.

If it's, "See right here. This known terrorist's number called yours four times." Ta da!

Sorry, guys. This reeks and cannot stand.

For once, I have to agree with the squawking class. We've backslid during stressful times, but as a nation, we've given up too much and worked too hard for freedoms unimaginable in the rest of the world. We can't join them in cowed acceptance in the name of better safe than sorry.

Tell your President. Tell your members of Congress.

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