Monday, January 02, 2006

Are we really better off this way?

I haven't really noticed newspapers too much in my two weeks at the monastery; today, back at the house, ours was sitting there on the kitchen table, and a sneer involuntarily appeared on my face as I saw the main headline: Bush Defends Spy Program and Denies Misleading Public (the Loovul paper carried the NY Times story). The first thought that ran through my head? "Is it a bad thing that every sentence that I see that begins with 'Bush says' or 'Bush calls' I immediately scoff at and think is a load of BS?"

But then, since I couldn't resist reading the article, I then saw the quote from Bush: They attacked us before, they'll attack us again if they can. And we're going to do everything we can to stop them.

The thought that ran through my head at reading that? Actually, it wasn't really a fully-developed thought. More of an idea, a phrase. Actually, just a word. Which made me think, if you or I were to go to such great lengths because "someone's out to get us" ... we would have been evaluated and treated for our paranoia long before now.

No, I don't deny that terrorism is a problem. No, I don't deny that there are bad guys out there. But, like I said before, you can't just do whatever you want in the name of "Homeland Security."

Yes, September 11th happened. Yes, it was a horrible, awful, terrible thing. I was teaching at a school ten minutes outside the District line when the planes hit. My mom had just begun her new job three blocks from the Capitol. My biggest "visual" of home is flying into National Airport at night, the same National Airport that was shut down for several months. My friend's father was in the Pentagon when the plane hit; another friend had to run her youth group prayer service, all the time planning what she thought would have to be her uncle's funeral because he worked in NYC and she still hadn't heard from him. I took the Metro down a week later and saw the gash in the Pentagon for myself, to make it real. Believe me, I understand just how bad it was.

But I also find it very hard to believe that it could have been averted. For every new security device the good guys can create, the bad guys are creating a better way around it. Even just to walk down the street -- it is physically and psychologically impossible to take every single precaution possible. You cannot do it. Not unless you lock yourself in your closet and never come out ... but then you'll have trouble with the stale air. You go out, you'll get cancer from the sun; you stay in, you'll get cancer from the materials used to build your house. The whole thing is to be reasonable.

Problem is, we passed "reasonable" a long time ago. Paranoia will get us nowhere. Except for the added bonus for the "other guy" because it gets him off the hook.

When I was little, I'd screw up. Of course, everyone did. But my self-confidence was lacking, and so, after enough times of being told how I screwed up, I began to have my own pre-emptive strikes. I'd tell myself how badly I had screwed up -- that way, if/when someone else told me, I could have the upper hand because "I already know that." Worked with friends, too. My counselor calls it "Reject before rejected." Pretty soon, it got to the point where no one needed to tell me anything, because I knew better than anyone else just how horrible a person I was. I wouldn't even bother to ask permission to do anything because I already "knew" all the reasons that would be given in the saying "No."

So I just stopped trying.

That's what I mean when I say paranoia gets you nowhere. That's what I mean when I say it lets the other guy off the hook. My parents were never even involved in any of my lack-of-doing in high school, because they never had to be, I never let them. I had already told myself No.

It's the same dang thing here. The terrorists don't have to do anything now except sit back and watch. We're doing all their work for them. We're constantly looking over our shoulders, walking around on eggshells. We're becoming distrustful of those around us, keeping people in prison and torturing or not torturing them for merely looking a certain way. And we're giving them an excuse to keep on killing.

Again, please understand that I'm not saying that terrorism is not an issue facing our world today. At the same time, I'm finding it easier and easier to see why the rest of the world hates us so much. I don't think that we're completely helping the situation too much. We can't leave Iraq till the insurgency settles a bit; but how much of the insurgency is because we're there?

Yes, of course, the War on Terror. But at what cost? Which war outranks the other -- the War on Terror, or the War on Hunger? What about the War on Poverty, or the War on Crime?

How many people get killed here in the U.S. in violent crimes every day, every year? How does that compare to the number killed by terrorists? How many children are abused, mistreated, neglected? Are we truly fighting the right battle to bring about peace the way we say we do?

[As an aside ... I just googled "paranoid personality disorder" and one of the first results I got listed the following summary: Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a distrust of others and a constant suspicion that people around you have sinister motives. People with this disorder tend to have excessive trust in their own knowledge and abilities and usually avoid close relationships. They search for hidden meanings in everything and read hostile intentions into the actions of others. They are quick to challenge the loyalties of friends and loved ones and often appear cold and distant. They usually shift blame to other people and tend to carry long grudges.]


Blogger the cynic librarian said...

Excellent posting. I believe that it is this kind of soul-searching that people should be doing before running around the world engineering other nations. People have gotten into the habit of being scared and scaring themselves with all this squisky talk about terrorists and a war unlike any other war...

1/02/2006 11:53 AM  
Blogger seeking_something said...

There it is again: another case of being overly obsessive with one thing. Yes he has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the U.S.A., but it shouldn't be the overriding thing.
Instead of fearing terrorism, we ought to fear offending God. But far better than fear is love. We ought spend less time fearing, more time being kind and charitable.

1/02/2006 10:35 PM  
Blogger Natty said...

Wow, aweome post Steph. Did you get your exams done in time?? ;-)

1/03/2006 10:04 PM  

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