Monday, December 17, 2012

Domestic vs. International Terror

On "Meet The Press" this past Sunday, David Gregory cited one post he'd seen on Twitter which pointed out how, when one shoe-bomber fails on board one plane, we all must remove our footwear forever, but when gunmen repeatedly open fire in crowded places, nothing happens in response.

How very interesting! I can see why that particular post caught Gregory's eye. But I'd like to take this a step further by highlighting not only how there's a disconnect between our attitudes toward organized vs. random acts of terror, but also the disconnect between domestic vs. international terrorism.

When a government tries to take away a citizens' assault rifle, it is argued that the rifle is needed to defend himself against a government becoming overly oppressive. Yet when the DHS wire-taps that same person just because it's Tuesday and they feel like the next Al Quaeda cell happens to have a phone number ending in "7," no argument about overly oppressive government is made. When sales are made at gun shows, it is argued that criminal background checks are unnecessary, yet if one wants to board an airplane, not only do our backgrounds get checked but all our luggage is x-rayed and some total stranger gets to see what we look like in our skivvies. When someone suggests a database be kept of gun-owners, as well as people who should not own a gun, privacy rights are argued, yet nobody whines about the NSA's no-fly list, nor did many of the same people object to Joseph McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover compiling lists of suspected communists two generations ago. When gun registration and licensing is argued, gun-rights advocates scream "Big Brother," yet keep totally silent about things like criminal databases, driver license databases, the social security system which reduces each of us down to a number, or even social media outlets like Facebook, where nobody seems to care if Big Brother is watching or not.

Why the fuck is there this disconnect?

I think the ultimate answer to this can be discerned with the question of who is directly threatened. A domestic crackpot who enters a mall and starts firing a gun, that's one thing. But a terrorist who flies a plane into the Pentagon? That's not tolerable! People toting guns can get as far into the seat of the government as the White House fence, but will be shot on sight if seen trying to hop that fence, whether armed or not. So the gun-toters end up nowhere near government, and everywhere among the general populace. Unless, that is, that crazy person boards a plane and is able to fly it into a government building! Then, suddenly, the government gets a taste of what inner city black people have to put up with every day! And so, every airplane passenger is carefully screened, prodded, poked, and processed, just to make certain that the government doesn't ever get threatened.

There's also a religious bias, here. When domestic terrorists struck, nobody talked of throwing away our rights so that the government could "protect us." When Timothy McVeigh blew up a truck full of explosives in front of a federal building, people didn't seriously talk about having federal agents creating a massive database to hunt such people down in advance. When David Koresh led a religious movement into stockpiling weapons for an outright war against the United States itself, few people had their calls for stricter gun laws taken seriously. Yet when some Muslims flew planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, people suddenly were willing to sacrifice freedom for security. Part of that is due to the mass carnage of 9/11, but part of it is also the fact that we, as a nation, are simply more comfortable with a Christian terrorist over a Muslim one. Maybe he's a bat-shit crazy asshole, but he's OUR bat-shit crazy asshole!

I'm not arguing that we need security checks in every walk of life, nor am I arguing that citizens shouldn't be armed or have their privacy rights protected. I'm certainly not saying that I have all the answers. But if we're willing to accept the occasional mass shooting as the kind of collateral damage necessary to maintain our individual liberties when it comes to owning firearms...

...shouldn't we at least be able to finally do away with having to remove our shoes before boarding the airplane?



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