Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Home of the Brave?

I'm visiting Washington, D.C.

The last time I was here was waaaay back in 1988. I remember walking up the Capitol steps and looking out toward the Washington Monument.

Today there are ugly metal crowd barriers blocking the steps. And a security person perched up on top of the steps, looking down at you. Watching for suicide bombers, I suppose.

What happened to the Land of the Free? The Home of the Brave?

When did we become the Land of the Secure? The Home of the Wary? Security tightened after the Oklahoma City bombing, and then again after 9/11. It seems to me our reaction to terrorists should be "walk softly and carry a big stick." Big, visible changes like cancelling white house tours, blocking off roads, and security bollards everywhere must give would-be terrorists a warm-fuzzy feeling: "look what we accomplished!"

Of course, it's easy for me to say the politicians should suck it up and be brave in the face of potential terrorism; I don't live or work in a famous place that's a big potential target for terrorist attack. But I'd bet the risk of a Senator dying from a suicide bomb attack on the Capitol, even if there was just 1970's style security, is a lot less than the risk they'll die in a car accident travelling to or from D.C.


Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, and all around DC there are monuments to the men and women who died to keep us free. The epic Iwo Jima flag raising, the haunting Korean War platoon on patrol and the most recent grand WW11 memorial.

But they all remember sacrifices that happened somewhere other than HERE.

Oklahoma changed the way we think; 9/11 changed the way we LIVE.

Anonymous said...

The most courageous American I've seen this year has been someone that I don't agree with on much: libertarian Republican Ron Paul. He said something in a Republican debate and, then after demands to take it back from that fear-mongerer Rudy Guliani, he bravely said it again: (I'm paraphrasing) If we got all our stuff out of the MidEast, the threat of terrorism would be reduced considerably. We have treated the MidEast like an American colony, and we need to stop.

We can live with the fear, and watch politicians exploit the fear, or we can try to chart a different course. We need a strategy for energy independence and we need it now. And some of the technologies are available right now, but are being suppressed.

My Amherst College classmate, Sherry Boschert, was on CSPAN2 last Saturday talking about one of those technologies within our grasp, if only we as consumers will demand it. She says that we must begin saying to our auto companies and dealers: "I will not buy another vehicle from you without a plug" The future is now with plug-in hybrid cars (125 mpg).

Check out the recent documentary, available on DVD, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Remember air bags and how long it took to get them in cars? The inexcusable stalling is happening again with battery-powered cars.

I don't know what Larry Kelley means when he says that "9/11 changed the way we LIVE" but my response is "not yet". Something more has to happen. To use a typically bombastic Kelleyesque formulation, if we don't respond to terrorism in a constructive way, that is, by getting our energy house in order, those people who died in the towers and in those planes will have done so in vain.

Gavin Andresen said...

RE: Ron Paul

I agree completely.

RE: energy independence:

I think we'd be much better off if we'd stop shooting ourselves in our feet and doing stupid things like encouraging the use of cars (and, therefore, gasoline) by spending lots of tax money on roads and bridges and all the other public infrastructure that makes it possible for people to live miles away from where they work.

And by imposing regulations on developers requiring that they provide X number of parking spots for every housing unit they build. Or by preventing them from building high-density housing close to city/town centers, or zoning so that we can't live near to where we work...

Or, in other words: I think our government should do LESS to encourage MORE energy independence. Take a close look at the economics of ethanol for a good example of why we shouldn't trust politicians to decide what's the best energy policy.