Benjamin Franklin’s Warning and John Lennon’s Vision
Wherever truth lies or prudent paths lead, billions of taxpayer dollars have not bought us a more secure world in the decade since 9/11. Instead of working for peace and understanding, we have opted for racial profiling, punitive border crossings, military funerals and tens of thousands of civilian deaths. Rather than addressing the root causes of terrorism’s seduction for youth, we have dramatically increased the gap between rich and poor. While I am not claiming those responses cause terrorism, I have no doubt there is a correlation. Hopelessness breeds social unrest.
The threat of terror is real, but our response is too often like that of a fear-biting dog. We mistrust immigrants, look askance at people of color and demand thousands of law-abiding citizens to submit to degrading treatment at borders in the vain hope that we can avoid being hurt again.
A young waiter in a hotel near Inle Lake in Myanmar (Burma) spoke with me just after the attacks. “I am afraid,” he said, “the U.S. will respond with military power instead of compassion. And if they do, the terrorists will have won.”
As the cost of security measures mounts and as we allow increasing intrusions into private life, we might want to ponder Benjamin Franklin’s reply to the Governor of the Pennsylvania Assembly: ”Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
On the other hand, we might do better to turn our creativity and compassion to envisioning the world John Lennon described in his 1971 song, “Imagine”:
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
Take my hand and join us
And the world will live as one”
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