Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Threat to America

Security is a relative concept. We can never be absolutely safe. The greatest cause of death is birth. Once that happens, its unavoidable.

We can choose to live in a secure society. Perhaps we'd choose a totalitarian society where neighbour watches neighbour for the state. Or maybe you'd be more comfortable with a cleric, watching to ensure that you and everybody else stays on the right path.

In societies like this we don't have to worry about our partners infidelity or our neighbour stealing our grocery money. The price is too high. Conventional crime is rare and the state's response to it is severe.

But then there's America. America means (or has meant) more than just the name of a country. It touted itself as 'the' bastion of freedom. And in a free society we can't arrest the criminal before he commits the crime. We have to wait for the act. And in a free society you can say what you want, support and speak to whomever you wish whether they be branded terrorists or Nazis. In a free society we must suffer the paedophile on the street until he actually does something. We must live with a measure of insecurity if we are free. A free society is a messy society, the trains don't run on time, and there are strikes.

Of course America has touted itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy but the genesis of and realization of these principles date back to the Magna Carta and beyond. But we get the idea. We are free.

Not anymore.

Things look more or less the same in everyday life but history books will show that the Bush era has fundamentally changed the nature of the modern state once the owl of Minerva flies off. The tyrants have not started to bust down the doors of leftists and radicals but if you are Muslim, you are suspect. The fascification of America is being achieved through incremental changes and the vast majority don't seem to notice.

The Bush era has seen to it the freedoms we had taken for granted are no longer taken for granted. And this has occurred not only in the USA but in the UK, Canada, Australia and many other free societies.

For generations Americans (and the rest of us) have fought and died for freedom and the basic principles that have evolved from rational arguments in courts, in universities, and in parliaments. This was the holy grail that Americans learned to be proud of. They even sport gung-ho license plates that whack us with 'Live Free or Die'.

The important point being that we live with and under rational principles that are the bedrock of our real security. As long as we live with these principles we can rest easy knowing the state or anyone else can't abuse us and get away with it. Life is unpredictable yes but predictable where it counts. We know we won't be jailed for political deviance and we know when we see injustice, we can fight back.

Not anymore.

Obama is keeping the Bushite template of state tyranny in place after portraying Bush and the Bush era as a period of dangerously uncontrolled folly into the realm where tin-pot dictators and large scale fascists do as they wish; unfettered. Obama is flirting with the idea of allowing preventive detention in the United States as a security measure to make up for the closure of Gitmo. As horrible as Guantanmo Bay is in terms of slamming a hard blow to the principles of freedom, crossing the line further into allowing the state to jail people domestically who are perceived to be a threat would be a fatal blow. Once that happens the pretence is over. We have already swallowed the kool-aid.

So then, where do we see change once we avert our collective gaze from the decor of the oval office and the charisma of Obama?

Much has been said and much has been done to mitigate the threat to America since 9-11. Ironically, the greatest threat to America is Americans; the Americans that cower under their beds waiting for the terrorists to strike providing tacit support for draconian laws and murderous aggression by the state. These 'Americans' are not only Bush and Obama and Cheney and they are not only Americans. The greatest threat to America is you and me and our collective cowardice.

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