Terrorists in our Midst

October 20, 2008

I’ve been listening to campaign speeches recently and learned that Obama is friendly with terrorists, that we don’t really know who he is and that he is affiliated with a group that is trying to undermine our democracy though voter fraud. You can’t help but admire McCain’s high mindedness when he said that Obama is a decent family man despite these shortcomings.

With Colin Powell endorsing Obama, you have to wonder whether he is in on this too. Come to think of it, this is an area in which the State Department is supposed to be active and Condoleeza Rice has been strangely quiet about this terrorist issue.

The last time that I recall that we had terrorism creeping into the system was 1988, the year Jesse Jackson jumped into the primaries and caused a lot of confusion. As I recall he was taken very seriously until he lost the California primary, although I guess Bill Clinton does not remember it that way. (Jackson’s associations helped us sort that one out too.) Anyway George H.W. Bush was able to defeat Dukakis at least in part by creating an association between Dukakis with the domestic terrorist Willie Horton.

There of course have been other campaigns before McCain in which we have been alerted to domestic terrorist threats. Goldwater, when he seemed to be losing, circulated literature in the South that called attention to the terror some were feeling in connection with the civil rights movement. Mostly though until Obama’s nefarious past came to light, the allusions have been mostly the oblique use of code words.

This age-worn tactic does not seem to be keeping people away from Obama speeches. Here are some amazing pictures of recent Obama rallies.


Walls

July 16, 2008

I just read that a group out of the University of Texas recently petitioned the Organizatin of American States to condemn the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It of course has already been condemned by Mexico and most of Latin America. While the wall can’t help but deter immigration, it’s overall utility is debatable. No one believes that the petition to the OAS will affect the building of the wall. Human rights considerations, and international law and opinion have not played a significant role in determining U.S. policy recently.

Our wall is to be 2000 miles long, as long as the low estimates of the length of the Great Wall of China. (Some estimate the other wall to be three times this length.)

Whatever your position is with respect to the wall, people agree that it is certainly symbolic of our era. It is a metaphor, a symbol, which for many replaces the Statue of Liberty. The welcoming beacon of freedom is replaced in the minds of many people with the blank expanse of the wall, like an extended palm signaling “halt.” For many people outside the United States our country is seen, not as a sanctuary, and champion, for the oppressed, but as a garrison, walled like a Medieval city-state.

Looking back, Bill Clinton’s euphoric descriptions of globalization (one of his favorite terms) seem naive and distant. The purpose of bridging cultures and identifying common interest has been replaced by phrases like “If you are not for us, you are against us,” “bring ’em on,” “we are on a crusade,” and the like. We have turned a blind eye to international opinion, like the balnk stare of the wall.

We have not just invested in walling our country, but in creating a honeycomb of walls within it. Political forces have converted the world’s melting pot into a fragmented society in which cultural identity is preserved in part for defensive purposes. We are becoming a society of gated communities which look out at others with distrust and fear.

Our government has a growing list of citizens identified a suspected terrorists. The number of people on the list has apparently passed one million. That’s about 5 for each thousand adults. If you go to BellSquare on a busy day, there should be maybe ten or twenty “suspected terrorists” among your fellow shoppers. We have built walls around airports, public buildings and public gathering places, access permitted by guards only after inspection.

These walls of course are not just metaphorical. We have by far the biggest prison population in the world. More people are in prison than there are in Phoenix, Arizona. A staggering number of our fellow citizens have been through the criminal justice system in one way or another.  Prison construction and management has been privatized to a large degree and has become a booming industry. It could become a college major in some schools like hotel and motel management.

These are the costs of security, as we see it. The cry of “security!” seems to be in the ascendancy. It’s good though to keep it in context.