Friday, September 11, 2009

8 Years Later: Are We Safer?

We all remember where we were when the airplanes hit the World Trade Center and the other targets 8 years ago this morning. I was on the air with that bad-boy Sly, and his rant about the turmoil at the Dane County Humane Society suddenly became a long, live newscast as we sought to find out who attacked us.

In the past 8 years, we have gone from “a nation of laws, not men” to a nation which largely distrusts its government. Our politics have become so coarse that we now have some goober from South Carolina calling the President a liar as he addresses a joint session of congress. Many of his fellow Republicans laughed, yelled, and held up signs during the address. You’d think it was England - or North Korea.

A despicable act of terror eight years ago brought us closer, perhaps, than ever before; and now, we seem farther apart than ever.

Random searches on the streets of our nation’s cities and in our public gathering places have been declared legal, as though the Fourth Amendment never existed. In the name of the war on terror, we’ve rolled over on personal freedoms once fiercely defended. In place of the Fourth Amendment seems to be an attitude by many people - principal among them zealous law enforcement personnel - that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from a random search.

TSA has become an acronym symbolizing everything that’s wrong with government. The TSA can inspect all photos on your camera when you go through a checkpoint. If you’re coming back from a romantic vacation with your wife, it can be painfully embarrassing to have a stranger look at your intimate pictures. As Fred Reed says, “whether they’re nude pictures of my wife…or a Thai transvestite…neither is illegal, and neither is the government’s business”.

These are the same folks who confiscate shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant if it’s not in a small see-through container. They run us through scanners that can see through your clothes. They make us take off our shoes, for heaven’s sake.

My titanium hip sets off the metal detector every time, and every time I board a plane I am compelled to go through the obscene ritual of an “individual personal inspection”, conducted in full view other travelers who gawk at me, knowing full well the odds of a fat gray-haired old man being a “terrorist” are pretty slim. But the TSA is following “procedure”. Arguing is pointless and they don’t even look at the card I have from my orthopedic surgeon saying I have a prosthetic hip.

It’s said there are a million names on the no-fly list, but nobody knows for sure and you can’t find out. The late Senator Ted Kennedy found out his name was on the list when he was detained at airports on the east coast five times in one week in 2004...and it took his staff more than three weeks to get his name off the list.

Defenders of extremes like these say “well, we haven’t been attacked since 9-11”. They’re right, but I don’t think it’s because the TSA makes us take our shoes off and confiscates our shampoo. But I never believed the bull about the “government death panels”, either.

Whether it’s national security or health care reform, 8 years after 9-11 we are a nation deeply divided

1 comment:

  1. " Of all the enemies to public liberty, war, is perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it compromises and developes the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies, from these proceed debts and taxes..known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
    James Madison, 1795
    America, in this most recent epoch, has used eight years of continual warfare to justify its harmful political and economic strategies.
    Still true today, with war we are a nation divided.