“Terrorism!” Ever since 9/11, it’s a word that has come to instill fear in American people, myself included. However, as I watch our civil liberties disappear in the name of “terrorism,” I’ve become significantly more afraid of the word being used for political gain than actual terrorist attacks.
The NSA and Prism scandals are just the most recent occasions we’ve heard “because terrorism!” used as an excuse to compromise our Constitutionally protected rights. Apparently, it’s a winning argument, too: the majority of Americans polled say they are okay with being spied on if it’s an effort to prevent terrorism.
Prior to the recent wiretapping revelations, the government has used “terrorism” as a way to rationalize a lot of shady actions: instituting invasive security checks at airports, racially profiling Muslims, going to war with Iraq (a country that, might I remind you, did not commit a terrorist attack against us), reading citizens’ emails without warrants, holding Guantanamo Bay prisoners for years without trial, and adding an NDAA provision that permits the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens as well. Critics of any of these measures are often shot down for not taking the threat of terrorism seriously enough.
The Declaration of Independence grants Americans inalienable rights: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Life does not supersede liberty – the two go hand in hand. Disassembling one purportedly in favor of the other is not the American way. Sadly, our leaders’ use of “terrorism” has become a form of terror on its own. It is now a political tool to justify actions that Americans would otherwise not stand for.
I’m all for keeping American citizens safe, I just question whether so-called “National Security” is actually attempting to do that. Last year, 17 Americans died in terrorist attacks (mainly abroad), whereas 30,000 Americans died from gun violence. If the politicians are so concerned with safety, why are they unwilling to pass even the slightest gun control measures?
It goes deeper than guns, though: 45,000 people die of a lack of affordable health care annually, yet we still debate that issue endlessly. Those are exponentially more lives that could more easily be saved. Statistics also show that you are 8 times more likely to be killed by the police than terrorists, yet the government does little to tackle the growing problem of police brutality. You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than terrorists, yet the government is still minimally addressing global warming. You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than a terrorist incident, yet the National Cancer Institute operates on a budget of about $5 billion annually… an amount that pales in comparison to the $636 billion spent on the “war on terror” in Afghanistan.
Just two days after the Boston marathon bombing, an explosion in West, Texas killed five times as many people. The accident was the result of gross workplace negligence. The fertilizer plant in question not only had over 1,000 times the legal limit of explosives on site, but also failed to implement sprinklers or fire safety precautions. Moreover, the government hadn’t performed inspections on the plant for six years; during its last inspection, it slapped it with a laughable $2,300 fine for not having proper safety procedures in place.
While the Boston bombing is still a topic of national discussion, the West, Texas explosion was quickly forgotten. Rather than addressing the 4,500+ preventable workplace fatalities each year, the government overlooks a corporation that cut corners to maximize profits and destroyed a whole community. Even afterwards, the government insists it does not have the money necessary to conduct additional safety inspections, even though there’s been no shortage of funding for chasing potential terrorists with drones abroad.
Meanwhile, the Boston bombings are utilized as a reason to continue secret programs like NSA surveillance. After all, government agencies were tracking the Boston bombers… even though they stopped short of preventing the terrorist attack. Instead, it seems, officials focused its surveillance capabilities on members of Occupy Boston instead.
Ultimately, I don’t feel any more secure knowing that fascist policies are being instituted in the name of my “safety.” The private interest corruption that is likely to follow could be more damaging to the American way of life than any weapon. It’s time we put national threats in perspective and not blindly excuse everything that is said to prevent terrorism.