It didn’t happen overnight. Things like this never do. It’s like the story of the frog and the pot of water that your science teacher told you. If you drop a frog into boiling water, he’ll hop out. After all no one wants to end up as some rich guys appetizer at a restaurant with a fake French name. But if you put the same would-be hors d’oeuvre in a warm pot of water and raise the temperature slowly the unlucky amphibian will sit there, and be cooked alive.
Unfortunately, the frog in question is the place I used to call home and our chef is a government which seems to have forgotten the basic rules here in America. Oliver Wendell Holmes famous adage about fists and noses still applies, unless the fist belongs to the government and the nose belongs to a suspected “terrorist.” Most people would look at you funny if you tried to explain that to them. Partially because they probably don’t know who Oliver Wendell Holmes is, but just as likely because the country doesn’t look like a totalitarian nightmare. It’s not much different than it was when I was growing up, at least on the surface.
You would have thought we’d learned our lesson. There have been a lot of mistakes in this country’s history. We had slaves, we treated women as second class citizens for the first several hundred years, we thought we could stay off of the political stage when war was raging in Europe. We learned that particular lesson twice. I guess the old adage of ‘those who forget history are doomed to repeat it’ still rings true. When I was in my twenties the United States was attacked by extremists. They reminded us we were vulnerable and perpetrated only the second attack on U.S. soil in recent history. We reacted; no one can blame us for that. They can’t blame our leaders either. They passed the Patriot Act. What a name, as if to suggest denying it was wrong. It created sweeping reforms, but that’s not the point; this isn’t a political commentary. It is, or more in hoping was, a history lesson. The policies were repealed and the country came to its’ senses. It isn’t that those particular ideas are wrong, just that decision without debate is undemocratic. No one really vetted that policy. We really thought that was an object lesson. We wouldn’t do that again. The time that followed seemed to bear that out. Discussion, deliberation, and discourse seemed to be the words of the day. We elected our next President and everything seemed normal. Then it happened, the so called game changer.
A dirty bomb. I always wondered about that term. Is there such a thing as a clean bomb, some kind of sterile explosive that would leave a spotless crater in the Earth? In case you’re unaware, a dirty bomb is a traditional explosive device with radioactive material packed around it. The goal is to disperse radiation in as wide an area as possible. The death toll wasn’t even that high, dozens, not hundreds or thousands. Most of the people died as a result of the explosion as opposed to any kind of radiation poisoning. But, in the minds of the terrorists, the fear and panic it created more than made up for the low death toll. Then history repeated itself.