What Are We Doing?
- Benjamin Franklin
I came across this quote from Benjamin Franklin and it immediately started me thinking about what has been happening since September 11th, 2001 in this world...
I have a digital watch, and about six digital clocks around the house and in the cars... twice a day, I see 9:11... in the morning and the evening. Once I tried to cut the exposure, and changed my watch to military time so I only had one 9:11... but none of the clocks in the house could be changed, and when ever I saw 21:11 my mind translated it to 9:11, so burned in is the date/time relationship. For seven years I have been seeing it... since driving back to Colorado from Washington, DC where I was that fateful morning when the planes hit the Pentagon and the Twin Towers... the first time I took note of it was on my rent-a-car's dash.
How often do you think about 9:11, consciously or unconsciously? When it happened, did you think there would ever be a day pass, when you didn't think about the attacks. So many things in the news today flow from that date, that we really can't get away from it. Should we?
Probably, we relate directly to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly the over 5,000 American, Canadian, British and other NATO troops who have died in these wars serve as reminders! While we don't hear much about the wounded (over 25,000 of them), we will have them to remind us for 80 more years as we nurse and care for them, their wounds their mental state, as well as their families. And certainly the money we have piled into the wars from the countries is nothing to sneeze at for any of us... but since it is counting toward a $trillion, we might all catch a cold from it, yet!
But there are so many other things that 9:11 has done to the western world, and therefore to the planet that are important to consider. When I read the passage attributed to Ben Franklin, I started to noodle some things that we might miss in our need for short term safety. I often wonder what Osama bin Ladin must think about when he sees the lasting impact of the planes hitting the western world that September day. Could he ever have imagined the cascade of individual freedoms that we have allowed to be stomped on? I doubt it... I also doubt that he is the cause of the way we reacted to the attack.
So, we can think about the Ben Franklin quote... "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety". The first thing that comes to my mind is the situation with the airlines... since 9/11 we have been lining up, having our person searched, showing extra ID and listening to loudspeaker messages telling us about the risk levels. A few months after 9/11 another freedom was added to the lost list... we couldn't walk through US airport security systems with our shoes on, and we couldn't take our Purell or our water bottles... go figure! I also think about the liberty some friends and many others who have the wrong name and find themselves on the "no fly list". And about the profiling of non-white people... are these the type of things Franklin was pointing to when he wrote about "a little temporary safety"?
I wondered about this, and decided to investigate the question of personal security and safety a little as it is reflected in the USA. I have always felt secure in North America, even after 9/11. I have not really understood this seven year fear, when it didn't appear to be in the public psyche before the attack. Surely one incident sh/couldn't impact the American culture... unless it is over reaction on the part of a ruling class... could it?
In my wo/andering I came across an incredibly powerful comment made by a man with the following credentials...
James Francis Byrnes (May 2, 1879 – April 9, 1972) was an American statesman from the state of South Carolina. During his career, Byrnes served as a member of the House of Representatives (1911–1925), as a Senator (1931–1941), as Justice of the Supreme Court (1941–1942), as Secretary of State (1945–1947), and as Governor of South Carolina (1951–1955). He therefore became one of very few politicians to be active in all three branches of the federal government while also being active in state government. He was also a confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was one of the most powerful men in American domestic and foreign policy in the mid-1940s
Along the way James Byrnes wrote the following words that I think fit in with Benjamin Franklin's comment: "Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death". Wow... when we consider the cost of the reaction to the 9/11 attack and put it into perspective, could it be that we are way over the moon. Let's see... we have spent the trillion on the wars; we have oil over $125 per barrel; the USA is now almost $10 trillion in debt; and two of the three branches of government are not working together in a time of war and tribulation. These are just a few examples of the safety and security issue.
There is an argument made by the leadership that without limiting our freedoms, without all the actions that are causal to the situation we find ourselves in today, there would have been more acts like 9/11. Frankly, I doubt it. It was a series of gaffs that allowed the bombers to be successful... the laws, and processes were in place for many years that sh/could have stopped the planes from hitting their targets. The USA, Canada, Europe, Israel, Japan and so on have been stifling such attacks for a century. It is more likely that the fear engendered by the fear mongers in to our collective awareness is intended to keep us off balance and voting for the new status quo.
We should be thinking about this when we are voting in Canada and the USA in the future... the leadership of both countries would have us believe...