Uncommon Sense

August 22, 2013

Keeping Us Safe?

Throughout most of my life, basically covering the time period from the end of World War II to the present, the arc of American politics was toward greater participation, greater freedom from oppression, and a general expansion of our lives to be expressed without government intervention.

As a youth, I remember that women who had been divorced (gasp!) were talked about with lowered voices. If anyone in your family had a mental illness they were just not brought up. If your white daughter wanted to marry a black man, well the world all of a sudden got very, very strange. And I grew up in California (you know The Granola State, those who weren’t fruits and nuts were flakes).

But in the 1960’s we had major advances in civil rights. People took to the streets to oppose unjust wars. The Women’s Movement fought for and won rights for all women. I remember in the 1970’s that my wife and I were trying to build up her credit rating and we applied for a credit card in her name, without me as a co-signer and the card came back with my name on it with a “Mrs.” in front. Ordinary people couldn’t even own stock back then.

Even children were getting more rights, children got the right to sue their own parents, where before they were chattel, and they and everything they might earn were possessions of their parents.

It is easy to forget all of this or to not know of this because we all get used to the “new normal” very quickly.

But now, voting is being hindered, even suppressed when in my entire life all of the efforts were to get more people out to vote. Now, the Republicans are making up phony voter fraud cases as a justification. Then, each political party contested with the other to see who could do a better job of getting more people out to vote. Now, the contest is for one party (the Republicans, surprise, surprise) to see how many of the other party’s voters they can prevent from voting. Local police forces which used to wear blue uniforms and funky policeman’s caps now wear camouflage (camo in downtown Chicago?), wear combat helmets, carry assault rifles, and ride around in urban assault vehicles. Tac Squads are going out on zoning ordinance violations.

In New York and Philadelphia, if you are black or brown you can be shoved up against a wall and frisked for “walking while black” or “driving while brown” or “talking on your cell phone while black.” Even though the statistics show that 98% of these “Stop and Frisk” episodes results in no arrest or seizure of anything illegal, these thousands upon thousands of violations of due process are said to be keeping the residents of those cities “safe.” Finally a federal judge has called “bullshit” on those laws.

The Federal Government is collecting so much data on U.S. citizens that it is building one of the world’s largest server farms (those are big computers with vast amounts of storage attached) to hold all of the data they are “harvesting,” often illegally. The obscenely named Patriot Act (obscene because anyone opposing the Patriot Act is automatically not being patriotic) allows U.S. citizens to be incarcerated without writ, to be whisked off to foreign countries for interrogation, or to be assassinated without trial or court order. Oh, we can kill foreigners by the tens of thousands, too, apparently of the crime of “standing around while foreign.” Drone missiles aren’t quite the surgical instruments the military contractors said they were, but what the heck, they don’t even cost a million dollars a piece.

Why has their been this reversal of a historical trend of Americans being recognized as having more and more rights?

The answer is the events of 9-11-2001. All of these things have happened “to keep us safe” from terrorists or the boogyman. (I am reminded of the man here in Chicago selling Elephant Repellent. A potential customer scoffed and said “There are no elephants in Chicago,” to which the sallesman said, “See, it is working.”)

Think of the billions upon billions of dollars spent frisking black men in N.Y. City. Think of the billions spent turning each town’s police force into a domestic army. Think of the money spent spying on completely innocent people. And all of these are justified by “we are keeping you safe” and some rather feeble hand waving.

They are not keeping us safe; in fact they are doing just the opposite. They are exposing us to grave risk because they are undermining the very principles that make us a free country. If those billions had been spent on educating our people? If some of those billions had been spent on fixing our infrastructure. If some of those billions had been spend on making a world class electricity grid that terrorists couldn’t attack with a teaspoon? If people were to be allowed to vote their conscious freely and have a decent job that would pay their bills, we would be a much stronger country and far safer.

“They” are not “keeping us safe.” Rich opportunists are just using whatever fear they can drum up (thank you Fox (sic) News) to create a state with passive citizens who suffer from outrage fatigue and do as they are told and if we do not we will get slapped around until we do. Wages are so low that most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. What is keeping wages down? Anticompetitive practices by the 1%. They have bribed our officials to make the rules so that they are favored: that you can’t declare bankruptcy but they can, that you can’t be represented by a union, but they can, that you can’t sue as part of a class action, but they can.

In case you don’t remember approximately 25% of the Bush Tax Cut dollars that were not collected as taxes went to the 1%. In case you don’t remember, hedge fund managers, who create nothing real and little of value, got a law passed that has them taxed at 15% maximum when you are taxed at 15% minimum, and a dozen or so of them make a billion dollars a year. In case you don’t remember, one of the first acts of the Bush administration was to set aside new EPA regulations limited arsenic in your drinking water. You know the Bushies, strong science types who just knew that the entire science community and the World Health Organization were full of shit. Damn, a little arsenic can’t hurt you, well other than arsenic in drinking water causes cancer of the skin, lungs, bladder and prostate in humans and is also linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anemia, and disorders of the immune, nervous and reproductive systems. You do know it has been used as rat poison, right? You did see “Arsenic and Old Lace” didn’t you? In case you can’t remember.

It is time to take to the streets and fight for our rights again. But watch out for the Tac Squads of your friendly, neighborhood police department.


  1. An Occupy 2.0 is most definitely required. It needs leadership, though.


    Comment by john zande — August 23, 2013 @ 7:47 am | Reply

    • Yeah, doesn’t need much but continuity only seems to happen with it. Funny thing leadership. The problem is we are being lead around like sheep by the monied interests and we’re looking for a new shepherd instead of throwing off our sheep’s clothes and assuming our wolf personas.


      Comment by stephenpruis — August 23, 2013 @ 8:00 am | Reply

      • Life is tooooo easy to get most people off their asses, but its going to have to happen. I like Obama, but his presidency has proven just how entrenched the plutocracy is.


        Comment by john zande — August 23, 2013 @ 8:05 am | Reply

        • Absolutely. My view on Obama is that his presidency is a mixed-bag. Refusing to even consider prosecuting bankers is one bad example, along with extending Afghanistan, the NSA stuff, etc. The more I learn about his Education Secreatry and his policies, the less I like it. What he would have done or could have done with a functional Congress is a mystery.


          Comment by stephenpruis — August 23, 2013 @ 8:24 am | Reply

          • Fair point. The House Circus must be weighed in any appraisal.


            Comment by john zande — August 23, 2013 @ 8:33 am | Reply

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