complacency

I went to the City yesterday. The BART ride was fairly uneventful as mid-afternoon BART rides usually are. But once we got out of the trans-bay tube and were headed into West Oakland Station, the train operator made a rather cryptic announcement about someone finding a “suspicious” suitcase back at Embarcadero. A couple guys sitting next to me chuckled and made some joke. And everyone sort of went about their business. I did, too, and didn’t really think anything of it.

This morning, though, I got to thinking. And I think this may be one of the worst legacies of the Bush Administration (global warming, the rape of the Constitution, and the torture of fifteen-year-old enemy combatants not included of course). That is, our collective lapse into pre-9/11 complacency.

Remember September 10, 2001? Remember how full of ourselves we were and how little we cared about the rising threat of terrorism abroad because, in short, nothing really bad had happened here? Then remember September 12, 2001? Remember how the world seemed a bit smaller and the idea of “remaining vigilant” and caring about the rest of the world seemed like not such a bad idea after all?

After six years of everyone in the Bush Administration throwing out the phrase “9/11” like it was going out of style, after six years of them telling us to be “vigilant,” after four years of fighting not the actual terrorists who might do some real damage to the U.S. but insurgents in Iraq, after so many years of not catching and brining to justice the actual perpetrators of 9/11, I find myself thinking about terrorism much in the same way that I did back in the summer of 2001.

That is, I find myself feeling complacent about my relative safety and cynical every time I hear someone in the Bush Administration talk about terrorism as if they’re making things up and we all have nothing to fear.

But that’s not actually true, is it? And let me be clear: I know full well that the chances of me being killed by terrorists are far worse than the chances of me being killed in an auto accident or struck by lightening. So I know that there is a fair amount of fear mongering and propaganda and trumped up accounts of “Islamic extremism” (or whatever they’re calling it this week) which does not line up with reality. But it is also true that there really are terrorists out there of both the Islamic and non-Islamic kind (remember Oklahoma City? the Atlanta Olympics?), and it is the federal government’s job to do something about it.

So what bothers me, what I’m calling another failing of this administration, is that they’re not actually talking about it. They’re talking around the issues of terrorism and saber rattling and not actually explaining to the American people what’s happening in the world. In short, they’re treating us like morons.

Case in point: Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone. That was a mistake. A drastic, tragic mistake. But now we’re there. What are going to do about it? Bush Co’s “stay the course” rhetoric doesn’t really mean anything. And, for that matter, the “cut our losses and get out” rhetoric of the left doesn’t really mean anything either. The situation in Iraq is considerably more complicated. If we choose Bush Co’s extreme choice, thousands more die and nothing’s accomplished. If we choose the left’s extreme choice, the country falls into ruin and chances are there will be a rise in extremism throughout the region and thousands will die. From the two extremes, there’s no way to win.

So the real solution is someplace in between. The real solution has to take into account all the waring factions, diplomatic measures in Iran, Syria, and other Middle East players, economic incentives, etc., etc., etc. In short, I don’t know what the solution is. It’s not my area of expertise. But if someone in power would calmly explain the solutions, then I might be able to get behind one of them, even if it didn’t sit well with my no-one-should-kill-people moral imperative.

The American people may be willing to sacrifice a great deal if they know why they’re sacrificing it. All the powers that be need to do is tell us. And right now, no one knows a goddamn thing apart from the two-second sound-byte.

And the same is true with the “war on terror.”

But since no one’s told us anything of any real substance or value, let alone truth, since 9/11, I can’t take it seriously.

If we really are in a war, what’s worse than letting your guard down?

Is it 2009 yet?

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