It’s quite the ideological whiplash to transition from the outrage over the Boston marathon bombing (Why didn’t the FBI do more to prevent this horrible tragedy?) to the NSA outrage (How dare you mine our private data from Google to spy on suspected terrorists? There are white people who use Google!). You can’t have a world in which Benghazis are guaranteed not to happen and have your civil liberties too. Well, unless you make the law officially racist and ban Muslim foreign students from getting visas while exempting white people from things like taking off their shoes at airports…
First of all, yes, I think it’s a problem that the NSA is spying on our emails, blog posts, and whatever else. I also think it’s a problem that 86 detainees who have been cleared of the possibility of ever having been remotely involved in terrorism nonetheless remain at Guantanamo Bay.
I also think it’s a problem when undercover agents go into mosques looking for impressionable, unemployed, disaffected young men to recruit for a fake terrorism plot that sends them to prison for the rest of their lives even if the agent actively manipulated and entrapped the wannabe terrorists.
And also when Muslim charities have their assets frozen by the federal government because the government has played the six degrees of separation game and a friend of a friend is employed in a completely non-militant capacity by Hamas, which employs most of the people living in Gaza.
And also when drones kill people in “signature strikes” because they shop at the same stores as terrorists or drive the same model of Jeep and whatever else is in the algorithm the CIA uses to determine that someone is a “combatant, unspecified” for whom there is no actual evidence of terrorist involvement.
And also when millions of undocumented immigrants who are recruited by farmers, meatpacking plants, and independent contractors to come to our country and work often for less than minimum wage while the federal government looks the other way rather than issuing enough legitimate visas for temporary workers since it’s easier to do that and “discover” that people are here illegally when they try to organize a union or when the local sheriff’s deputies take matters into their own hands and stake out the parking lots of Hispanic churches to deport people over broken tail-lights.
Brown people have been dealing with mountains of bullshit and injustice from our government for many, many years. It was a lot worse in the “good old days” when the government supposedly “respected the Constitution” (and black people stayed on their side of the tracks and women stayed in the kitchen). Ever heard of COINTELPRO? What about the Crack Importation Agency?
The CIA’s use of crack cocaine as a fundraising tool for supporting the Nicaraguan Contras is documented in an official government report which the mainstream media had the “discretion” and “decency” to completely ignore. Just because it seems as wing-nut and ridiculous as selling weapons to the Ayatollah Khomenei and Saddam Hussein at the same time and teaming up with Osama Bin Laden to create a radical Muslim mujahadeen for overthrowing the socialist government of Afghanistan doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
So now that white people are getting spied on, will we pay attention to the problems that brown people have had to deal with or will we try to reestablish our false security that our country is a perfectly fair place where people can raise themselves up by their bootstraps and nobody in law enforcement has ever treated anyone unjustly and blah blah blah? I’m not sure what the right balance of privacy and snooping for terrorism is. I do have a general sense, rooted in my faith-based naivete, that taking an enforcement-only approach to terrorism without any interest in researching and seeking to address its root sociological causes is misguided.
I wish I could say that I was hopeful that the NSA scandal will provide a wake-up call that will result in intelligent conversation about reexamining government policy. But our world is too full of people who make money off of outrage and people who are trying to opportunistically leverage it for their partisan political gain (e.g. people who were all about the PATRIOT Act when a different party was in the White House and are “outraged” now about NSA). So as much as I believe in Brian Zahnd’s call to belong to the world and resist the temptation of nihilism, I do wonder sometimes if God just needs to hit the reset button on this sucker, understanding that I have no concept of what that would look like.