The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

May 20, 2013

Kevin Wilson, guest columnist: When fear wins out, so do the terrorists

NEOSHO, Mo. — I’m going to make a bold statement that’s sure to draw a lot of comments, but hear me out before reaching for the keyboard to type a rebuttal.

We have lost the War on Terror. The terrorists have won.

Now, wait a minute, you say. Didn’t we catch the cowards that bombed the Boston Marathon, and in record time? They didn’t even get out of the city before one was dead and the other was in jail. And because of the efforts of a lot of folks, another deadly attack on New York City was averted. Sure sounds to me like we won and they lost, so why would I say such a thing?

Here’s why: We have lost because too many of us are now willing to give up our privacy for our security. In the wake of the bombing, police forces and politicians are pushing for more and more public surveillance to prevent future attacks from occurring.

And they make a very persuasive case. Why wouldn’t we want to use available technology to fight the bad guys — especially since it works so well? And why wouldn’t we want to save lives and stop terrorist attacks from happening in the first place?

I admit I am torn and somewhat conflicted about this whole concept. On one hand, if I’m in public and not doing anything wrong, why should I care if I am under surveillance? But another side of me values my privacy. I shiver thinking about the all-too-real book “1984” by George Orwell. We are rapidly racing toward a society where Big Brother is constantly watching us and taking care of all our needs, and I for one am scared of that prospect.

Now, I have no problem at all with private surveillance cameras and even cameras at government offices. That is absolutely the right of private businesses, and it makes sense if you are conducting business at a government office to expect a higher level of security. What bothers me is that so many officials are now pushing for cameras in all public places and want private cameras to be registered so they can be integrated and used for surveillance by police and other government agencies.

Does anyone else think that this is pushing the limit, or am I alone in my fears? I think that what the police and FBI did in the Boston case was absolutely correct — they used private resources to piece together what happened, and they caught the bad guys. Great job! My problem is in giving any government entity too much power over my daily life. I really don’t want someone watching my every move — even if I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be doing.

What happens if and when some official decides he wants to cross the line and abuse that power? Such as the IRS targeting conservative groups or the attorney general’s office spying on The Associated Press. Luckily, they got caught, but these scenarios should cause us to pause and consider just how much more control we want to hand over to the government.

Many of you will remember the days of the Cold War and Nikita Khrushchev ’s famous statement: “We (the Soviet Union) will bury you without firing a shot.” He was implying that we would fall on our own and they wouldn’t need to defeat us by military means.

Well, the same scenario is playing out today with the terrorists. True, they have fired plenty of shots, but they can never win a war in the strictest sense. Instead, they have won by making us value our personal security higher than our personal freedoms. We are more afraid of physical harm than we are of losing our liberties.

That’s why I say we have lost the War on Terror. They have done what they set out to do and what no army could ever accomplish — they have put us in a place where we willingly give up at least part of our freedom.

In his first inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Eighty years later it appears that fear has won. And a sad day it is — the lives of so many brave American patriots wasted because of fear.

Kevin Wilson, a former state representative, lives in Neosho.

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