The illusion of security

On 11 September 2001, fanatics drove three of four passenger jets into office buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C. Our government’s response was bilateral: It began a war in Afghanistan, which is now America’s longest military conflict; it established the Department of Homeland Security ,which is (predictably) being used to quell political opposition; it created the TSA, which conducts warrantless searches of Americans at airports. Etc. etc.

All with no proven increase in actual safety.

In January, a new virus, discovered in Wuhan, China, quickly spread around the world. Our government responded by restricting Americans’ rights to assemble peacefully and to travel; by restricting Americans’ rights to practice their religion (including weddings and funerals); and by making once-normal business practices criminal.

Many will argue that these measures were needed to save lives. They said that 19 years ago.

Pondering on these events, I reach several saddening conclusions.

• Given the government’s dismantling of civil liberties by the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations during and following the 2001 “Black Swan” event (ref: Nicholas Taleb), no one can seriously believe that the government will ever, willingly restore liberties suspended during the current Black Swan crisis.

• That individuals — across the country and political spectrum — voicing complaints about their own rights being curtailed but silent when the victim is someone else, are not concerned with civil liberties (civil liberties don’t exist to protect us; they exist to protect the people we despise).

• The government will use the continuing crisis to deflect attention from its wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa. So long as we have boutique coffee, free WiFi and streaming television, opposition to the wars will remain tepid.

Our national anthem calls America “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” If so, why are we so willing to sacrifice our natural freedom for an illusion of security?

Douglas Peckham