A few weeks ago, like many of my colleagues, I signed petitions and wrote letters to congressfolk to try to prevent changes to certain pieces of legislation. The specifics of the laws in question aren’t really important at this exact moment, but one of the responses that I received really caught my attention and got me to thinking.
A congressperson who shall remain nameless sent this as the opening line to the email justifying the passage of the NDAA:
“I do not believe terrorists should be brought to the United States and granted the same rights and privileges as American criminal defendants.”
Now, maybe my Constitutional law is a little fuzzy in all these years since I was in grade school, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Here was my reply:
“Let me point something out to you:
‘I do not believe terrorists should be brought to the United States and granted the same rights and privileges as American criminal defendants.’
“You said that in your form letter to me.
“Now, let me point out something else:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…’
“That’s from the Declaration of Independence that started the process of American’s country-hood. I realize it’s probably a little unfamiliar to you, but the point is that your first statement implies that what you term as ‘terrorists’ are somehow NOT human and therefore do not deserve the same rights as ‘all men’. I strongly encourage you to re-examine your understanding of the ‘terrorist problem’. Perhaps it’s this attitude that ‘terrorists’ are somehow not human and therefore ineligible for basic human rights that creates the problem in the first place.”
I know damn well and good that the chances of Senator Nameless actually reading my response are slim, but it’s been on my mind ever since. I’m frankly still disgusted, even ten years later, that our response to the 9/11 event was the subsequent fear-mongering by the government to whittle away basic rights and liberties of not only “foreigners” but of our own people.
It is the daydream of many where we must sit and really wonder, though, what we would have done were we in the position of those in power. Really think about this. What would you do? What would you have done?
I can tell you that I wouldn’t have done what they did – and I sure as hell wouldn’t be propagating the mistake now. I have never regretted a single vote I’ve ever cast, but I’m hard-pressed right now not to.
Okay… besides this point about the current administration’s weaknesses, let’s really answer this. What would I have done?
First, the question is, what created the problem? What was done to whomever committed these acts that they felt this was their only recourse? This is grade-school stuff. Billy hit Johnny because Billy was mad. Why was Billy mad? Johnny took Billy’s toy truck without asking. Was Billy right to hit Johnny? No, but Johnny shouldn’t have taken the truck. Johnny and Billy both get a time out, Billy gets his truck back, Johnny gets an ice pack, and they both apologize to each other.
Yes, I know that international politics is more complicated than that, but the premise is the same. Really, especially on the international political level, it should start with “don’t take things that don’t belong to you” and “don’t hit”, but that’s already been done, so it’s really just a matter of cleaning up the mess from whomever sat at the desk before you.
Right after 9/11, there was a little internet game that came out. It had you in the “sniper chair”, and the goal was to spot and shoot “terrorists”. The catch was, for every terrorist you shot, two to ten more ordinary people became terrorists. This is the crux of the problem: we (they) use the word “terrorist” to dehumanize a person who has been hurt to the extent that they feel that terror (violence, bloodshed) is the only way to be heard, the only way to get things done. (This is also known as “blaming the victim”.) Except that most of the time, the person that created the hurt in the first place is a great big bully, and bullies don’t respond to “an eye for an eye” by realizing that they were being doodyheads and need to stop because we don’t live in a Hollywood-produced feel-good family movie. They poke out the victim’s other eye.
It’s very similar to an abusive relationship. Here we have an estranged ex, and the abuser keeps doing things to mess with him – being late on palimony payments, taking things from the garage when no one’s home, calling in anonymous complaints to the neighborhood association. Finally, the estranged ex has enough and screams at the abuser in public – but no one realizes all that other stuff was going on, so the ex is the one that looks like a jerk. The abuser continues the passive-aggressive behavior, and then the ex snaps to the point where he leaves a burning sack of poop died to a pack of dynamite in the abuser’s car. Oh noes, the ex is such a bad person for blowing up that car! Really?
Now, I will add a caveat at this point that suggests that the terror problem is exactly what it seems to be, that the truth has been told, and that we know everything about it. No one starts acting like a jerk for no reason – especially not against an opponent several thousand times his size and even stronger than that. Even more so, it’s especially weird when you consider that Islam is itself a wholly embracing and non-judging religion in its foundational points. (And for this, yes, I’m back to speaking directly of the particular problem.) Yes, there are sects of Islam that are extremist and violent and repressive, but there are also sects of Christianity that make those Muslims look like pacifist hippies by comparison – and in neither case do the actual numbers of those sects count more than a few thousand total.
And there are seven billion people on the planet.
You do the math.
I think my point is that to continue to use “terrorism” as an excuse to violate the rights that are allegedly being protected has always smacked of being disingenuous, but now it’s just getting ridiculous. If, by the time this post goes live, there has not been some kind of mind-blowing and cataclysmic change in the system, I may very well have to do the unthinkable and run for an elected office – racy videos, checkered past and all. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that the “clean-nosed” folks aren’t doing the job, so how about some people who didn’t go to Ivy League schools?