Of Boston/Newtown/911, civil liberties, and near misses

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Apr 17, 2013 Of Boston/Newtown/911, civil liberties, and near misses

I have been to places that experienced murderous violence or attempted murderous violence, but not when the violence happened. I visited the beach in Netanya, Israel, in 1979, and learned that the beach was evacuated the next day when a bomb was found and defused. I worked for a year after college nearly in the shadows of the World Trade Center, which was a bombing target before being destroyed on September 11, 2001. I visited a prosecutor at the Pentagon in 1998 to get discovery, and was around ten miles from there on September 11.  In all likelihood, now-convicted snipers John Allen Mohammedand Lee Malvo were at the YMCA while I worked out there that morning, and probably numerous times before that. I grew up just around three towns from Newtown, Connecticut. I went to college outside Boson, and spent scores of times in the blocks where the recent marathon day bombings happened.

I feel deep sadness, at the very least, over all violence, not only mass violence, terroristic violence, nor violence taking place nearby me. Open today’s newspapers, and you will see a tidalwave of reports on worldwide violence, including suicide bombing, suicide murders, and mailing deadly poison to a legislator.

Before the Berlin Wall fell, terrorism inside the United States was limited. For instance, many Afghans who allied with the United States against the Soviet domination in Afghanistan are now violently hostile to the United States, no longer having a greater enemy in the Soviet Union to align against.

Terrorism within the United States has also been domestically grown. Witness Timothy McVeigh (trained in violence while in the United States military) and Terry Nichols with the Oklahoma City bombing, where a rush to judgment first had many focusing on non-Americans. Witness the sniper attacks by John Mohammed (also trained in violence while in the United States military) and Lee Malvo, where a mistaken suspicion that the terrorists were driving a white van led to numerous unconstitutional stops and investigations of white vans and their drivers,

Violence begets violence. Violence needs to be a last resort — if any resort — in trying to stop violence. It takes more time, resources and effort to get at the roots of violence, but without doing so, we will continue living in a very violent world.

I have no easy answers for reducing and stopping violence. Certainly, achieving a peaceful world will not happen before each of us achieves peace within ourselves. Violence also will be reduced significantly when more people do not feel so powerless, desperate and oppressed that they buy into violence as an answer and violence as a way to heavenly paradise.

Before September 11, the United States already was a very civil liberties-repressed national security police state, despite the beauty of the Bill of Rights and the many judges who courageously uphold it. If not, we would not need the American Civil Liberties Union, for starters. September 11 gave an excuse to pass the PATRIOT Act and to exercise other oppressive government measures that have made the United States government all the more oppressive, thus feeding into the hands of terrorists to upend American society. 

Even a man as apparently well meaning as Barack Obama perpetuates the oppressive national security and police state, through such actions as favoring warrantless monitoring of communications between people abroad and those in the United States, through pursuing detention without bond of presumed-innocent criminal defendants, and through advocating crabbed interpretations of the Bill of Rights before the Supreme Court and lower courts. I certainly appreciate Obama’s pursuing ending direct U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he continues advocating drone attacks and resorting to the secret FISA court system.

Each time we fly, we see the national security police state at work. The United States incarcerates one quarter of the world’s population and has the highest inmate population per capita, which would not be the case if drugs were heavily decriminalized.

The United States remains far from the land of the free, rather than being too much the home of the caged. Each of us, collectively, has the opportunity to reverse the police state that we live in.

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