Friday, August 27, 2004

Pax Suspicious

Under the current climate, we live in a world of suspicion. Some discerning citizen possibly notes our every move in their attempt to avert another 9/11. This is especially true if you are of Middle Eastern descent, and even more so if perceived as a Muslim or Islamic. It is not so much an Orwellian world of democratic totalitarianism – if there can be such a thing – as it is simply a concerned national citizenry exposed to the dangers of the world and the attempt to keep it at bay. It is unfortunate that we must live in such interesting times, as the Chinese proverb counsels, but reality makes it unavoidable. Even as the United States and its allies fight to avert the dawning of it, terrorism has wrought such a world.

The events of the past few months show the importance of our cause against terrorism. Too cowardly to meet their foe in person, terrorists hide behind video cameras shown brutalizing – and beheading – individuals both civilian and military alike. More than a lack of regard for the Geneva Convention and general military conduct, it shows a bellicose disregard for human life and civil liberties. Such evil does nothing but to bolster our cause as a just and honorable one. The problem is identifying those people as evil, and separating them from our Islamic neighbors living here in the United States. To protect ourselves, we are forced to make a judgment of suspicion – even if we do not mean to. The human mind sees through terrorist-tinted eyes to conclude such an injustice, despite all logic to the contrary. It is a combination of our own natural prejudices and an unconscious perceived threat, whether real or imagined, formed from a description that matches an image.

As a nation, we must not sacrifice what we hold most dear – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all” – for a world secured through intolerance, alarm and intimidation. Otherwise, it will become an Orwellian world indeed in which everyone is an informant, and everyone is suspect. The last century gave us a glimpse of such a future – in the form of Nazi Germany during the 1930s and ‘40s, and the era of McCarthyism in the United States during the 1950s. Under such conditions, religious groups, ethnic minorities and political affiliations came under attack, and millions of lives lost, due to an ideology that espoused prejudice, suspicion and fear. Thankfully, perseverance and righteousness saw the world through such times.

Conversely, we must not sacrifice democratic ideology and freedom because we fear a world secured through the lessening of civil liberties in the name of national defense. We are in a fight for our very existence against ideological zealots who want nothing less than our annihilation as a nation. It is not the first time we have faced such a prospect. Unfortunately, it will probably not be the last. Neither is it the first time that fear and suspicion against a particular group has run through the national psyche. Consequently, be forewarned that “Big Brother” may indeed be watching – for better or for worse – and everyone is a suspect.

©2004 Steve Sagarra

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