Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reflections On Boston

In the aftermath of the tragic and bizarre happenings throughout last week in Boston, it's time to engage in that time-honored American tradition of second-guessing.

I'm not going to venture into the morass of whether or not DHS and the FBI should have known about and taken action to prevent the bombings. Too many unknowns, too much political maneuvering and covering up.

Nor will I get into the implications for immigration reform. If we are honest with ourselves, that can of worms is primarily concerned with people from Mexico, Central, and South America. Granted, the entire system needs massive reform, but the bombers came here as kids, were legitimate legal immigrants, and in the case of the younger one actually became a U.S. citizen.

Rather, I will focus on the implications and consequences of the bombing for our civil liberties. Days after the bombing, obama thumped his chest and proclaimed "We don't cower in fear." Less than 24 hours later, a major American metropolitan area was in lockdown, and its residents were told to "shelter in place." If that's not cowering in fear it's the closest thing to it.
What does it say if Americans further cut back on basic freedoms in response to last week's bombings? And do any of us seriously think we won't?

Of course we will. We've been surrendering liberty in the hope of keeping ourselves safe for the past decade. The marathon bombings will hasten our surrender of freedom from the watchful eye of law enforcement. The Boston Globe is already clamoring for additional surveillance cameras, which are sure to be installed to the applause of a great many Bostonians. You can rationalize increased surveillance as a necessary or reasonable intrusion on liberty, but you can't deny its intrusiveness, or inevitable abuses.
The threat of the U.S. becoming a surveillance state is just the beginning.

There are similar worries related to the door-to-door warrantless searches conducted by heavily armed -- in fact, militarized -- police (go here for a relatively calm discussion and defense of them, and here for a more opinionated condemnation).

Police or the military? hard to tell the difference.

American citizen rousted from his home at gunpoint. No warrant required.

Another topic is the lack of a Miranda warning given to the surviving suspect. I had no idea that there are exceptions to Mirandizing suspects -- I guess I've watched too many Law & Order episodes -- but apparently there are.

What really concerns me about all these issues is the cumulative effect they have on our basic freedoms. Pick your metaphor -- slippery slope; camel's nose under the tent; the drip, drip, drip of steady erosion -- but taken as a whole there can be little doubt they are diminishing our liberty.

I was a Boy Scout in my youth. I learned many things as a scout, but the one that made the greatest impression on me was the dictum to always leave things when we left better than they were when we arrived. If we had a troop meeting in a room or building we would clean it before we left. If we went camping we would always make some improvement to the area before packing up and heading for home. I've tried to apply that at all times in my personal life, and to instill that spirit in my kids. I like to think I've had some degree of success on both fronts.

But I fear I'm failing on the larger scale. I honestly do not think I will be able to go to my grave saying I've left my country in better shape than when I was born. And it's not for lack of trying.

That saddens me...

1 comment:

jeff said...

I feel your pain Tim. But on a lighter note, BSA will have a butt load of clean freaks shortly, pun intended.