Monday, November 26, 2001

Week of 11/26/2001

Forced Faith
- by David Matthews 2

"There is an accumulative cruelty in a number of men, though none in particular are ill-natured." - Lord Halifax

Ever hear of the term "co-dependency syndrome"?

You sometimes hear that term in regards to abusive spouses, abusive parents, or even abusive significant others. That’s when the victim of abuse is so conditioned to believe that he or she "deserves" the abuse they suffer that they will protect their abuser. Often when someone is concerned and want to step in, the abused victim will tell them to not get involved.

Even when the abuser is violent enough to put the person they supposedly love into the hospital, that victim will passionately defend that abuser. They will go to the grave if need be to defend that abuser. They have been thoroughly conditioned – by their parents, by their peers, by the abuser, and by themselves – to accept this abuse as their lot in life.

And I’m sure every single one of us would shake their heads and say "Well I will NEVER be like that! I would NEVER allow anyone to abuse me that way! I would stand up to them! I wouldn’t allow it to happen to me!"

And I’m sure we would all mean it too. Even the victims of abuse tell themselves that in the beginning.

Unfortunately, many of us have accepted this kind of abuse by a group of people who claim to care about us. A group of people who claim that they’re only acting in our best interests. That group is called our government.

Before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, it was believed by many people that government could do no right. People were skeptical of government, and of politicians in particular. They were self-serving little toadies who couldn’t change a streetlight without a petition and a generous "campaign contribution". They passed whatever law the special interests wanted, no matter if that group is the self-righteous God Squad or a bunch of obsessive environmentalists.

Granted, not everybody in government was inept, abusive, or self-serving. As a former firefighter myself, I can attest to the fact that there are plenty of government employees who work hard and do the job they are asked to do. Unfortunately, though, their contributions are often shadowed by the incompetence of those who abuse the system, and their job. And the very nature of government, with its bureaucracy and its kleptocracy, makes it next to impossible to weed out those inept and corrupt bad apples.

After the terrorist attacks, however, government suddenly became the body that could do no wrong. All government employees – even the bad ones – were socially canonized. You couldn’t question the government without being branded as a terrorist. The FBI even started handing out flyers that said that anyone who spoke out to defend the US Constitution should be reported as a terrorist. They were suspicious people, the FBI said.

Somewhere in the deepest bowls of Hell, the tormented soul of Senator Joseph McCarthy is laughing his ethereal ass off over this, wishing he were alive to churn the old "red scare" hysteria yet again.

And what government always wanted to have, government got after 9-11. Especially when it involved things that we once considered too intrusive. Unprecedented search-and-seizure laws? Done. Make any bank transaction over $10,000 a matter for the government? Done. Tap into your computer at any time without a warrant or notification? Done. Secret police? Done. Secret courts? Done. Big Brother’s shopping list was filled quickly and quietly without many members of Congress even being allowed to READ the bills being presented to them. Just pass them and read them afterwards, they were told.

And even though we’ve told ourselves that we won’t let the government abuse us this way, we’ve remained awfully silent over this. Many of us have simply nodded like good little co-dependants and said that it was just the price we have to pay for fighting terrorism.

So let me ask you… how has government improved to go from being inept to being unquestionable?

Are the airports any safer now that Congress and the White House enacted a law that would make security and baggage screeners government employees? Do you feel safer knowing that despite the presence of armed members of the National Guard, an airport like Atlanta’s Hartsfield International was able to be shut down for hours by some impatient passenger who forgot his camera bag?

By the way, how do you like those security lines now? If you thought flying was a hassle before, wait until you realize how much of a hassle it is now that you’re not only going to be in those lines even longer, but also that you’re paying EXTRA for it! Feel any better now?

How about your mail? Feel safer knowing that postal workers are treating your mail like nuclear waste? That they’re taking even MORE time to deliver your mail simply because of the backlog of mail that is being screened for anthrax, smallpox, and any other nifty biological threat?

Do you feel any better knowing that government is busy convincing members of Hollywood to crank out "non-propaganda" messages? Remember when the government violated their own Payola laws a few years ago to get Hollywood to crank out those "non-propaganda" messages about drugs? Look, if the writers, directors, producers, and actors want to show their support, they sure as hell don’t need the White House to encourage them to. They can do that on their own… and it makes their message a little more genuine. Now, the next time I see some studio sing the praises of the US Government, I’m going to think Payola.

Has government suddenly and magically "improved" itself after September 11th? Have all the incompetent, corrupt, and power-mad bad apples suddenly disappeared, replaced by saintly, gregarious, and understanding public servants? No, they haven’t. It’s the same government as before, only now we are seeing the generous abuser instead of the violent one.

So what can account to us clutching to government? Nothing but our own fear.

People instinctively turned to government to do what they were supposed to do in the first place… protect us from foreign invaders.

But let’s get brutally honest here… the operative word is "instinctive." We were scared. We felt threatened. We turned to government like children turn to an old teddy bear. Or like an abuse victim turns towards their abuser when threatened - for that feeling of stability.

But that didn’t stop President Bush from declaring that Americans discovered a "newfound faith" in government. His own subtle way of telling us that we once again deserve this government. That we were wrong, and government was right. After all, if government was still wrong, why did we turn to them in times of trouble?

Well, we do that for two reasons. First, because it has been practically hard-wired into our brains since childhood to respect government. We are indoctrinated to respect government in the same way parents indoctrinate religion to their children. Even if that authority is wrong, even if that authority is corrupt, and does things to hurt us, we are told to blindly respect it. Our "faith" is forced upon us by years of indoctrination by schools and parents.

The second reason is because one of the few legitimate reasons for government is to protect us from outside threats. Ask any libertarian, they’ll tell you. Do the words "provide for a common defense" ring a bell?

We didn’t turn to the government after 9-11 because of some mystical "faith" that government has improved any. We turned to government because that is their job! We expected them to go after Osama bin Laden and his pig bastard lackeys, because that is what they are there to do. And much to Da Big W’s credit, that is what is happening right now.

The sad part, though, is that if the US government DID do its job before 9-11, many of bin Laden’s lackeys would not have been in this country to carry out their terrorist attacks. Now, that same government is trying to overcorrect itself, thinking that it would make up for past sins.

And yes, some members of Congress are now claiming to be shocked and surprised at the level of government intrusion they had so blindly signed into law. But I think you’ll find that it will be mostly for show.

It will go something like this: So-called "concerned legislators" will make a big display for concern to reassure the voters that "they are on the case". Then Attorney General John Ashcroft will give a wink and a smile and utter that irreverent government line: "Trust me." And they will. Do you know why? Because he was just like them. He was once a member of Congress. He knows that this concern is just an act to impress the voters, and that deep, deep, down they really support such measures and more. He knows that like any abusive spouse, government will say all the right words to keep their victims from leaving them.

Folks, our so-called "newfound faith" in government is nothing more than an expectation that our government does the job that was spelled out to them in the US Constitution. It does not give them the authority to suspend the Constitution simply to correct their past mistakes. If they want us to have REAL faith in government, then they have to do more than just talk about the rights and freedoms they claim to cherish. They have to actually defend those rights and freedoms, not just from outside forces, but also and especially from themselves.

After all, the first thing any abuser has to learn to truly change their ways is self-restraint.

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