When the government stokes fear, it lays the groundwork for stochastic terror…

I just put on this blog a post by Kos about commentators whose comments can trigger “lone wolf” terrorists.  But those opinion sources often have a friend in the US government.  Janet Napolitano’s rock hard statements about dangers to the public, the TSA boss’s apparently limitless imagination for ways one might blow up an airplane, seemingly unqualified by experience or probabilities, and the President and White House willingness to support positions that arouse public fear all give the Becks, Hannitys, Limbaughs, et. al. presumably authoritative statements from “people who ought to know” from which to work.

In  particular, I want to point to the President’s saying that his first priority was “the safety of the American people.”  Nowhere in his oath of office are there words suggesting a priority to public safety.  His first obligation is to “protect and defend the constitution of the United States.” yet much of what he has done has reduced the force and power of the constitution and he has said he has done it to provide safety to the people.  The constitution provides them safety, that’s why we have the bill of rights and some colonies refused to ratify the constitution without it.  Yet we are behaving as if the safety of the people was at odds with the constitution and bill of rights.  I don’t buy that and I hope you don’t either.

Laws, read by the legislators, not just their staff members, affecting individual rights deserve thoughtful debate.  The Patriot Act was an initial reaction to 9/11 and the lack of debate can be justified only by the fear generated by the events of that terrible day.  Subsequent undebated amendments and those provisions soon to be renewed as they are or amended as proposed by some are no credit to our legislators but even more, no credit to us for our unwillingness to be brave enough to live in a free and open society.

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