Thursday, 31 May 2007

Not every bad guy is a terrorist...creating an environment of fear

On my desk, there is a jar of contaminated peanut butter. I know it's contaminated because the numbers match the recall that was on TV and radio a few weeks back. I just found it in the back of my pantry, and I am taking it back to the store today.

To me, it's a sign that the company that makes Peter Pan peanut butter has a problem with cleanliness in their factory. Or someone has a pet turtle and forgot to wash their hands before handling the peanuts or the jars. Or maybe even a disgruntled employee caught between rising costs of living and flat earnings decided to take his/her anger out but adding a little extra something to a batch or two.

To one of the women in my office, it's terrorism. Everything is terrorism these days. Someone goes postal and shoots up a Philadelphia office building or Salt Lake City mall, and they are terrorists. Someone builds a pipe bomb to get back at a business or love rival and they are a terrorist. And now, someone may have forgotten to wash their hands and they too are a terrorist.

The definition is retroactive, too. Remember the Tylenol poisoning years ago. The crazies who engineered that stunt are no longer criminals...they too were terrorists. I know because I heard it last night on the news. Basically anyone who does anything that scares us or harms someone is, by definition, a terrorist. (Are you listening George W. Bush? That means you!)

I am not denying that there are some weird people out there who commit some pretty horrifying acts...but what happened to terms like psychopath or criminal?

By using the term "terrorist" so easily and so quickly we do two things. We elevate the common criminal and run-of-the-mill wack job to the level of a participant in an international enemy group out to destroy all we stand for as Americans or Brits, thus handing them far more status than they deserve.

But even more frightening, we hand those in power the tools they need to pass ever more draconian laws to "protect" us, and strip us of freedom after freedom. As Americans cringe under their virtual desks from these make-believe terrors and cry out to be protected from the risks that are and have always been a part of life, we become like children.

But too many of us forget that the "Mommies" and "Daddies" to whom we are handing over our freedom and personal power are NOT benevolent parents. They are the very people the Comstitution was created to protect us FROM! Our founding fathers and mothers knew that the greatest enemy of the people was the government! Our own government. But sadly, we have forgotten that lesson and the price they paid to try a create a system to reign in the power of government.

Every time we buy into the government hype and media frenzy for fear, quietly throwing away our water bottles and shampoo and eyebrow tweezers as we enter the airport because someone in power says it will make us safer, we take a step further from freedom. And freedom lost is almost never regained.

What if everyone stood up and said no, we will not surrender our water bottles and hand lotion just because you said so? And if that means we give up a vacation flight to stand up for freedom, so be it. It is a small price to pay for our freedom. Within one week, the silly rules would go away.

And can't we just go back to calling criminals criminals, and crazies crazies? And save the hyperbole for the movie screen?

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