Friday, October 17, 2008

An explosive idea.

I hear often, of latemostly from the McCain camp and those who stump for itthat a president's first duty is to protect the nation, particularly in this, the Age of Terrorism. It's an argument that tends to function as a debate-stopper. Even liberals railing against the likes of the Patriot Act feel obliged to pause and nod and pay token lip service to it.

But is it necessarily true?

Suppose that tomorrow, a string of nuclear suitcase bombs set off in a dozen cities nationwide causes unthinkable devastation. The president decides that the only w
ay to absolutely guarantee security is to monitor all communication everywhere. Henceforth, there is to be no more privacy: Every single email, every single cellular transmission, every single personal conversation will be monitored by some technological means. Further, all state borders will be fortified and all interstate movements will be carefully tracked. Does protecting the nation's physical integrity justify trashing its philosophical integrityor is it the duty of a free people to endure a certain amount of tragedy in the name of that freedom? And where is the tipping point in that equation?

To put it more directly, even if freedom means that there will be more 9/11s now and then
I wonder if that's a price we're obliged to pay, if we want to keep calling ourselves America. So maybe it's the president's job to make clear to us that on March 23, 1775, when Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death," it wasn't just a nicely symmetrical string of words. After all, Patrick himself was willing to die for democracy. So were the rest of the Framers; manifestly so. Why shouldn't some of us be?

Just thinkin' out-loud.


Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as 100% security--human ingenuity will always find a way, so your President is doomed in his efforts to provide 100% security.

The executive knows this and factors in 'acceptable' losses of its citizenry already--think war efforts, hurricane damage control, cost decisions for providing medical care.
'Collateral damage' is the most vile and despicable euphemism I've ever come across.

The myth of 100% security is pap fed to a deliberately frightened and paranoid citizenry in order for the ruling executive to have a reasonable excuse to impose further controls on freedom.

Fascism begins this way.

Interestingly, the Brit government, Labour (democrat equivalent) is attempting to pass just such a bill.

It will not stop terrorism, innocents will still die on the buses and tubetrains, it will probably give rise to new groups of domestic terrorists who will be fighting and killing in the name of freedom.

Some things are worth fighting for, only the person himself/herself can make the decision of what is, to them, worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

An interesting snippet just aired on Brit Channel 4 news of the charity banquet that followed the final McCain/Obama debate.

I found the debate pretty run-of-the-mill, standard fare for such events. The banquet, though, was interesting.

Obama and McCain in white tie joked and joshed in a very friendly manner and both directed humourous jibes towards Hillary, also present and enjoying the joshing, though not in white tie.

Both candidates poked friendly fun at themselves and their supporters.

If politics is such a jovial game to the principle players, why do we take these people and their machinations so seriously? Why are some convention attendees baying for blood?

Anonymous said...

What is freedom again? I looked it up on and it actually has the most definitions I've ever seen in a dictionary. Is 'freedom' an idol? At least could we say that the dictionary is idolizing the word freedom?


RevRon's Rants said...

Die for a country? Hell... Most people here in the US wouldn't so much as pay European prices for gas, even if doing so saved global warming, the energy crisis, and the middle east tempest at the same time. Could anyone honestly expect the majority to risk their lives for the good of the country?

Truth be told, most people who join the military do so with the full expectation that they'll never see combat. Well, until the last few years, anyway...

Elizabeth said...

On an unrelated note, the unthinkable happened: The Chicago Tribune endorsed Obama, the only Democratic presidential endorsement in its 160+ -year history. I thought I'd never see the day...

Anonymous said...

'What is freedom again?'

Despite the countless definitions in the many dictionaries, I would say that freedom is essentially what you, yourself, define it to be.

My definition of freedom, should I choose to make one, will necessarily be different to yours.

The only freedom I would be prepared to fight for would be the freedom defined in a concept that I had previously examined and tested rigourously and relentlessly.

I do not accept anyone elses definition of freedom--or anything else--as valid for me.

'Could anyone honestly expect the majority to risk their lives for the good of the country?'

The short answer is 'no'.
Such expectations of the majority are pointless and doomed to failure. Politicians expect the majority to act like sheep or lemmings and are rarely disappointed.

Expectations of the minority of one, however-- namely myself-- are well within the bounds of possibility and in truth the only area where I can have any realistic expectation of change and control.

I'd say: let's try to think for ourselves and disappoint a few politicians.

I am proud to call myself a narcissist on those terms.

RevRon's Rants said...

"I do not accept anyone elses definition of freedom--or anything else--as valid for me."

First of all, you should be grateful - or, at the very least, aware - that you have the freedom to publicly refuse another's definitions only because of the sacrifices of countless others.

Listening to people pontificate on how they would handle situations that are completely foreign to their experience reminds me of a joke:
Two men were driving through West Texas when they got pulled over by a State Trooper. The cop walked up and tapped on the window with his nightstick.
The driver rolled down the window and WHACK, the cop smacked him in he head with his nightstick.
"What the hell was that for?" the driver asked.
"You're in West Texas, son," the trooper answered. "When we pull you over, you better have your license ready by the time we get to your car."
The trooper runs a check on the guy's license - he's clean - and gives the guy his license back.
The trooper then walks around to the passenger side and taps on the window.
The passenger rolls down the window and "WHACK", the trooper smacks him on the head with the nightstick.
"What'd you do that for?" the passenger demands.
"Just making your wish come true," replied the trooper.
"Making WHAT wish come true?" the passenger asked.
"Because I know your type." the trooper says, "Two miles down the road you're gonna turn to your buddy and say, 'I wish that SOB would've tried that s**t with me."

Anonymous said...

The trouble with total security is that it is just like total purity--both are unattainable. How much is enough?

Steve wrote

"To put it more directly, even if freedom means that there will be more 9/11s now and then—I wonder if that's a price we're obliged to pay, if we want to keep calling ourselves America."

The 9-11 terrorists destroyed property and killed a lot of people.

But we are the ones who wrecked our own laws and institutions, in a way no terrorist could ever do.

I never thought I would live to see the day when the President of the United States would authorize torture--of anyone.

Or argue that waterboarding is not torture.

Jacobo Timmerman, was tortured in prison during the Argentine military dictatorship and later forced into exile.

Timmerman was distressed that so many were still suffering in prison, and that the dictatorship had US supprot. He offered to be tortured live on television, to show people what torture really was.

As an Argentine exile said, "Maybe the people of the US dont think anything is real unless they see it on TV."

I fear that we have turned into a self satisfied bunch who care only for our convenience and our comforts. As long as something doesnt interfere with our getting a can of beer and being allowed to watch our favorite TV shows, we will put up with anything else.

The Romans called it bread and circuses.

For us its chips, beer and ESPN.

M said...

There is not one single person who can protect any nation.

Such a silly concept.

In Australia, where guns are rare and the hoops one must jump through in order to own one are intimidating, lots of people are murdered with knives and big ones too - machetes! Ouch!

When there is anger and mental illness one finds a way.

I told my Aussie hub, hey if we ever get over run by whomever (the Japanese came awfully close in WWII) it will be kitchen knives and sharpened pool cues! I make sure I have both - just in case...

The only person who can assure your safety is YOU, and maybe someone close-by who loves you enough. Perhaps a husband, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter just fill in the blank. Hand-to-hand is predictable.

In the case of a monumental event, there is no assurance about anything. If people actually believe that a figurehead can protect them, they are sorely deluded. That said, ignorance can be bliss but the outcome is the same - death.

And then we go to the question: does death end it all? Low and behold! a big ole can of worms is released!

I think the message should be that we all must get right with our loved ones. Put aside the petty squabbles and differences. Let all that junk just go.

Because you never know when it is time to go, and in that split second that may seem like a lifetime, you want to be right with your world.

Dimension Skipper said...

I know this doesn't really fit here, but I didn't know of any better recent post to put it under. It almost sort'a/kind'a fits here in a "general wellbeing of a nation's population" kind of way...

World's largest health system rejects free market

I just thought some folks around here might find it interesting. I did.

Anonymous said...

Someone suggested that after 9-11 the airlines were safer, not because of all the extra security checkpoints, but because people on planes will now beat the living crap out of anyone who tries to disrupt a flight.

What stopped the Shoe Man Reid was collective action from the passengers who were determined not to go down in flames and dogpiled him.