The recent trial of Bradley Manning and the situation of Edward Snowden have brought to light how completely Americans are programmed to believe the fantasy of good intentions of our government. Charges of traitor and spy have been hurled around like confetti, yet the illegal activities of the government against its own citizens brought to light by Manning’s and Snowden’s revelations remains unspoken.
From our earliest days we are taught that we are the good guys. We are the new sheriff riding into town to clean out the bad guys. It is unpalatable for us to see beyond that Old West mythology that we are in fact an international bully and a force of imperialist expansion around the world. You need only look to the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, undertaken on the pretext of fighting terror, yet obvious to everyone in the world but Americans as military actions whose purpose was to solidify the U.S.’s control of countries with major concentrations of oil and natural gas.
Worse yet, beyond our wars of conquest abroad, a war has been turned inwardly against us. In the name of a war on terror, Americans have given up without a fight their personal liberties and rights of privacy to a police state engaged in global surveillance and oppression of dissent, propped up by secret courts and laws, and claiming to have our best interests at heart—if we just trust them. Whether revelations from Seymour Hersh about the Mei Lai massacre in Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg about the Pentagon Papers, Bradley Manning about the Collateral Murder video in Iraq, or Edward Snowden about the NSA’s massive collection of citizen’s phone calls, text messages, and emails, our government has shown time and again that the things they tell us are lies and the things they hide from us under the veil of National Security are inevitably dangers to our liberty and our lives.
As a people, however, Americans stare at their televisions, ignoring that perhaps we are only one major terrorist incident away from martial law. Once martial law is imposed, ostensibly for our protection, it will be next to impossible to end it, leaving us at the mercy of a power structure willing to put troops in the streets, conduct warrantless searches, imprison people indefinitely on suspicion alone, and put an end to the pretext of America the free.
Fear keeps us in line, for we have no weapons against the troops of our modern forces. We keep our mouths shut, turn away from the truth of what we have become.
Alone against the police state we could be seen as helpless—or very powerful. When we are many we are conspicuous, but when we are alone we are hard to detect. A well-informed, thinking person, even if she is solitary, is dangerous to the state. Take a lesson from history. Dinosaurs once dominated the earth, while small mammals occupied obscure niches in the ecosystem. But when the dinosaurs died out, the mammals had so perfected their varied survival skills that they came to dominate the planet.
Lesson: stay low, stay smart, and stay ready.