Essay by Charles Goyette, April 9, 2012:
Perhaps it’s like shouting an alarm, unheard above the engine noise of two trains on a collision course. Or, screaming helplessly as a car slips its brakes and rolls toward a toddler playing at the bottom of the driveway.
It is gruesome imagery and I apologize for invoking it. But if anything, it may be inadequate to the prospect before us.
One only has to ask, “What is heading our way?”
The Department Of Homeland Security Is Buying 450 Million New Bullets
And don’t kid yourself; they’re not for target practice. It’s .40 caliber ammunition, hollow point rounds that promise “optimum penetration for terminal performance.” The department also has a bid out for up to 175 million rounds of .223 caliber ammunition.
This isn’t the flipping army, you know. This is an internal national police force, a department that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.
Supreme Court OKs Strip Searches for Minor Offenses
It’s okay with the Supreme Court if you are detained and subjected to a demeaning strip-search for such serious offenses against the State as violating a leash law or having a headlight out.
Really, is being strip-searched and perhaps even forced to take a delousing shower for riding your bicycle without an audible bell reasonable? Of course not. So much for the 4th Amendment.
Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool
Even in the absence of judicial authorization, cell phone tracking has become widespread. An ACLU report covering more than 200 police departments finds that nearly all engage in the practice, but only a few bother with a warrant.
Would you be shocked to discover that some police departments are trying to keep their activities secret because of the legal implications? Officers have even been warned to keep their cell phone tracking out of police reports. Now what was that oath about upholding the law?
The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)
The crown jewel of Federal spying is a new $2 billion, high tech center in Utah, a million square feet devoted to data gathering and storage. “NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the U.S. and its citizens,” reports an account of the program.
The facility will help manage information from 10 to 20 domestic telecom “listening posts.” “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” says William Binney, a former senior NSA crypto-mathematician.
What Is heading Our Way?
These are only a few recent headlines. But the police state is growing much faster than even these stories suggest. There is the developing proliferation of domestic spy drones; a variety of so-called cyber-security bills – internet kill switches – are working their way through Congress; and, of course, there are executive power grabs like the presidential power to target American citizens for assassination found in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Some Germans, although not all, were willing to ask what wicked thing was headed their way in the 1930s. Sebastian Haffner was a young law student and aspiring court clerk at the time. After his death at the age of 91 in 1999, his son found Haffner’s account of the era stuffed away in a drawer.
Haffner’s manuscript, which he had left unfinished in 1939, was published as Defying Hitler,” and became an immediate bestseller. The book is graced by fine writing, shown in a New York Times review citing Haffner’s description of Hitler: ”… personal appearance was thoroughly repellent – the pimp’s forelock, the hoodlum’s elegance . . . the interminable speechifying, the epileptic behavior with its wild gesticulations and foaming at the mouth.”
But it is the candid search for self-knowledge, his honest inquiry of “what became of the Germans,” that makes the work a place to begin answering how “it” could have happened. Haffner writes that nobody saw what was to come with any clarity in the early days of the fascist transformation of the land in 1933, but that he “had a sense of what was in the air. I felt distinctly that what had happened so far was merely disgusting and no more. But what was in the offing had something apocalyptic about it.”
Haffner suggests that Germans saw in Hitler a “do-over,” a chance to transform the defeat of World War I into victory. The martial mood he invoked, like that of the war, “provided far more excitement and emotional satisfaction than anything peace could offer.”
A 9/11 Do-Over?
Is it possible that Americans are squandering their birthright of liberty in nostalgia for post-World War II triumphalism, a golden age myth of good wars and greatest generations? It is a myth that exaggerates our might and insists on our universal benevolence.
But it is a myth that was shattered on 9/11, when we discovered ourselves to be both vulnerable and unloved.
Like the Germans, determined to prove that history got it wrong with the Allies’ victory in November 1918, is ours an attempt to cling to an illusion about America that made us hold absurd beliefs about democratizing the Mideast and being “welcomed as liberators”?
Are Americans spending themselves into warfare-state ruin now to reenact the myth (for it is a myth) of the universally admired and invulnerable hero?
Like a middle-aged man squandering his savings on face lifts and hair plugs, on expensive sports cars, and absurdly inappropriate clothing, night clubbing with girls half his age, trying to relive a youth that was never anything like his imagination, are Americans trying to recapture a period that was nothing at all like the myth of their belief?
Is it the lingering myth of invulnerability, an unspoken promise for the storied omnipotence of skies darkened with aircraft and seas blackened with ships that has Americans spending almost as much as the rest of the world combined on warfare, and digging themselves deeper into ruin?
But we never were what the myth says we were. It is only our failure to confront who we really are and what we have been party to that makes us subject to the compulsion of myth, so that we act in unconscious and destructive ways.
We were never invulnerable before September 11, 2001.
Just ask public school children who were drilled to “duck and cover” under their desks when the sirens went off during the Cold War.
And we were never the global “Good American.”
At least, the 20 million – 30 million human beings whose deaths the U.S. is responsible for since World War II would not have seen us that way. To them, we would more readily have been recognized as mighty brutes. But since we know nothing of their perception of our brutishness, and since we don’t hold ourselves morally accountable for any of the slaughter, we have combined ignorance with our brutality.
In this unawakened state, Americans stand by silently as the national security state becomes more powerful by the day. Just as only the complete totalist state could allow Hitler to assert what was to be Germany’s ultimate victory, only the unchecked might of such a state seems equal to the task of forcing reality to match the myth under which Americans labor.
The headlines tell the story … “Something wicked this way comes.”
The line is from Macbeth. It is, of course, a tragedy about power and death.