Thursday, June 20, 2013
Terrorists, Commies and the Boogeyman
Monsters University opens tomorrow – the long awaited Pixar sequel to its hit Monsters, Inc. Can’t wait to see it! I spend a huge amount of my non-working time consuming television or movie entertainment. The vast majority of that time is following a who-dunnit or a procedural or some good versus bad variation. I don’t go much for the AMC shows where watching is not all that different from watching paint dry. Even the soapy shows that are a guilty pleasure have people whom the viewer roots for and those who you don’t. American foreign and domestic policy is based on the exact same principal.
Good versus evil goes back to the dawn of time, and has been part of story-telling as long as there have been stories. In political terms any major event in American (or world) history will find the same narrative. The trick is that one person’s Freedom Fighter is another person’s Rebel and traitor. In the 1930’s Hitler was the bad guy. Then it was the communists. Today its terrorists.
Whoever is being vilified might have also been a hero. The two most recent and dramatic examples are Osama bin Laden whom the U.S. funded and supported in the 1980’s when Russia invaded Afghanistan. After 9/11 he (obviously and necessarily) became the enemy. Sadam Hussain was funded and his entire regime was propped up for decades by U.S. taxpayers until the Iraq war in 1991 when after he invaded Kuwait he became part of what President Bush (43) later described as the “axis of evil.”
Having a villain is a convenient way to tell a story in 43 minutes on television, or 2 hours at the movies. For some policy it’s helpful. The implications of a policy are far better to be understood with reason and analysis than colored by human emotion.
Of course everybody wants to be safe. It’s part of our survival instinct as human beings. At what cost, though? The Constitution and the Bill of Rights – two predominant documents that guide how Americans live and are governed make no mention of being individually safe. But when something happens, politicians respond.
1) America is attacked and an entire group of people are quarantined as a precaution and a nation goes to war militarily. (Japanese internment after WWII – and post 9/11 actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the use of Guantanamo.)
2) America could be attached at any time by an “enemy state” or a “terrorist” – so anybody who believes that the role of government is to take money from one group of people and reallocate it to another must be investigated and their patriotism questions. (McCarthyism in the 1950’s – and the Patriot Act today.)
3) America is attacked and to safeguard any future attack citizen’s purchases are evaluated, the books borrowed from the library are tracked and private communications are gathered for potential monitoring. (The Patriot Act and the NSA tracking of American communications.)
The people who legislate and support these type of responses aren’t bad people, aren’t unpatriotic and aren’t deliberately trying to undermine democracy. I just happen to believe that transparency begets freedom and freedom begets more freedom. There are scary people out there, scary things out there. But nothing is more scary than pulling down the blinds and shielding us from the truth. The creatures in Monsters University are scary enough!