"[If Parliament] may take from me one shilling in the pound, what security have I for the other nineteen?" ~ Richard Henry Lee
The 2004 presidential election is almost history (thank goodness). Over the last few months, both major party candidates have insisted that they are better suited to guarantee the security of the United States and all of its citizens. Can a president or any politician guarantee or improve your security? Are these candidates or politicians really more concerned with your continued existence than you are? This surely isn't the first time politicians have used scare tactics and security in order to "secure" votes.
Starting in the 1960s, our boob tubes were inundated with pictures of unkempt youths under the influence of illicit drugs. During the 1980s, America was treated to images of Colombian Drug Lords, Cuban Cocaine Cowboys and Black Drug Pushers involved in shoot outs over drugs and money. The general populace was told that marijuana, LSD and cocaine were the scourge of society and would affect our youth in such a way that would end civilization as we knew it. Politicians quickly responded by "promising" to protect our youth from this scourge. They went to work quickly, spending millions upon millions of forcefully obtained tax dollars on creating new bureaucracies (DEA) and increasing the size of existing ones (FBI, Customs, INS). Our rulers did not stop there; their concern for the welfare of our youth was so great that they created a new cabinet position aptly named after a lineage of totalitarian Russian monarchs (Drug Czar). Are we safer from the scourge of drugs today? Will the politician we elect today make us "safer" from terror in the future?
You've probably never heard of Kevin Coleman, and you probably never will again after this article. Mr. Coleman lives in a drug-infested inner city neighborhood of a large American city. His lot in life has not been very good, due mostly in part to bad decision-making on his part. He lives in conditions unimaginable to most Americans (no, he's not homeless), in what's known as a rooming house. The space he calls home is an 8X8 room, and he shares a bathroom with six similar rooms (some inhabited by more than one person). You would think that all of those concerned politicians would be hard at work improving Mr. Coleman's situation, the facts reveal the opposite is true.
One incident alone amongst many proves that all these concerned politicians are not making Mr. Coleman's life (or anyone else's) the least bit safer; in fact, they're making it much more precarious. Drug dealers seem to find the halls of Mr. Coleman's rooming house as a "secure" (and profitable, thanks to the drug war) place from which to ply their trade. Despite endless complaints about the drug activity from residents and property owners to local police, their response has been mostly ineffective. Drug dealers who are aware that the police are just one more inefficient government bureaucracy keep the residents of America's inner cities terrorized, while dispensing all the "illegal" drugs their clients' money can buy.
Mr. Coleman decided that he had had enough of the drug dealing in the hallways of the rooming house. The drug sales were creating noise that kept him awake at night and attracted individuals willing to do anything for their next crack rock or ten dollar bag of heroin. He "took the law into his own hands" and confronted the dealer, telling him he could not sell drugs from the rooming house anymore. Once he informed the dealer of his determination to kick him out of the rooming house, he turned and proceeded to walk towards his apartment. The dealer, enraged that someone would dare challenge his authority, retrieved a baseball bat he kept in the hallway (leaning against a wall) for his "security" and proceeded to beat Mr. Coleman over the head with it. The victim fell to the ground and the attacker continued to strike him mercilessly until another tenant jumped on Mr. Coleman, shielding him from the armed assailant.
Mr. Coleman survived the attack with over 20 stitches in his head, two broken ribs and a collapsed lung. His attacker was not just violent but also fleet of foot, which made it possible for him to elude capture by the police. More than three weeks after the attempted murder, the perpetrator was still living at his apartment (five blocks from where the attack took place) and frequenting the area around the rooming house. The police had yet to apprehend him despite the viciousness of his crime and the fact that he was still lurking in the vicinity. Sound familiar? More than three years after the attacks of 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still a free man, not only roaming around the Middle East but also appearing on our boob tubes, reminding us of his existence and ability to terrorize.
The politicians' "War on Drugs" has only served to create more violent drug dealers, while at the same time making life more dangerous for the rest of us. The fact that these violent drug dealers exist makes it possible for politicians to ask you to vote for them to rid us of these beasts election after election. Once elected, the politicians increase the budgets of inefficient bureaucracies, introduce new intrusive laws like "Know Your Customer," and destroy the Constitution in the name of "security." The end result of the "War on Terror" will be the same as the ones obtained by the "War on Drugs": less freedom, less security and more of your income absconded (in the name of keeping you free and secure).
From the republican threat during the Adams administration, the secessionist of the Lincoln administration, the anarchist bombings during the McKinley years, or McCarthy's commies in every closet, fear has been used to frighten and subdue the masses. Today that trend continues at a frightening pace. Drugs, Muslims and terrorists are only the latest bogeymen being used for this purpose. Will the masses ever learn? Every election that passes only further strengthens the arguments against pluralist democracy.