by Robert C. Koehler
Let's all work together to stop terrorism!
If it seems suspicious, call -- because, I guess, if everyone is vigilant ("Hello, I want to report two young men carrying backpacks") and we work with the authorities, America will be safe as pie in no time.
This program is called Community Partners Against Terrorism, though I'm tempted to call it know-nothing security, the kind based on zero knowledge of the inner motivations of people, the kind based on stereotypes, unexamined fears, self-righteousness, external projections and an us-vs.-them social organization. Terrorists are bad people with inscrutable motives. All we need to know is that they're out to get us. This is the message of the terrorism "experts," who leverage their authority from their ability to keep us scared and vigilant.
Security is a real need, of course, but know-nothing security flouts that need, often enough both ignoring and aggravating the real dangers we face while, at the same time, inflicting massive inconvenience on people innocently caught in its web, i.e., those on the wrong side of our society's color and ethnicity divide.
For instance, when I read about the CPAT initiative, I thought about an incident 11 years ago that garnered its 15 minutes of national attention and neatly encapsulated all the problems with know-nothing security.
The young med students were American citizens, but they were also Muslims. She called the police.
The three were detained, their car and motel room searched; a 20-mile stretch of local highway was shut down for an entire day -- and, well, nothing incriminating was found. They were medical students, after all. They were released, they did some interviews and life went back to normal. Except it didn't.
What happened next was no more than an ironic footnote to the initial news spasm. As
Can somebody please tell me where the terrorist threat is in this story?
America's know-nothing security team -- community and police in partnership against terrorism -- succeeded in thwarting the non-threat of three Muslim students driving through
The essence of know-nothing security is absolute indifference to, and ignorance of, the inner life of "them" -- the terrorists, criminals and bad people we fear and watch out for. The entirety of the strategy is to spot and interrupt unlawful activity in progress, hopefully before the bomb goes off. To get there ahead of the blast, it's necessary to engage in widespread racial profiling and harassment: to stalk "them" on a routine basis, no matter the mayhem it inflicts on their lives.
A young, African-American friend who lives in my
We invest multi-billions of dollars in know-nothing security and, in the process, foment anger, hatred and, occasionally, counter-violence. If true security were the point, we'd invest far more effort and money in real violence-prevention programs, such as CeaseFire and the growing restorative justice movement, not to mention job-creation.
Instead, we create enemies and wage perpetual war against them. This is an absolute mindset, exemplified by the U.S. military's standard operating procedure for dealing with the hunger strike at Guantanamo, as recently revealed by Al Jazeera. Common Dreams reports that "the military's guidelines were especially troubling because doctors and nurses are reminded that they are 'adjuncts of the security apparatus' and not authorized to 'act independently' in their duties as health professionals."
Security rules, and no one is safe.