As I watched the Twin Towers collapse on September 11, 2001 I wrote this in my diary: “We can kiss goodbye to civil liberties from this day onwards. There’s nothing that democracies won’t do to prevent this ever happening again”. As ever, John Perry Barlow was both more articulate, and more perspicacious. This is what he wrote that day to those on his BarlowFriendz list. (Courtesy of SpiekerBlog.)
This morning’s events are roughly equivalent to the Reichstag fire that provided the social opportunity for the Nazi take-over of Germany.
I am not suggesting that, like the Nazis, the authoritarian forces in America actually had a direct role in perpetrating this mind-blistering tragedy. (Though their indirect role deserves a much longer discussion.)
Nevertheless, nothing could serve those who believe that American “safety” is more important than American liberty better than something like this. Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives.
Within a few hours, we will see beginning the most vigorous efforts to end what remains of freedom in America. Those of who are willing to sacrifice a little — largely illusory — safety in order to maintain our faith in the original ideals of America will have to fight for those ideals just as vigorously.
I beg you to begin NOW to do whatever you can — whether writing your public officials, joining the ACLU or EFF, taking to the streets, or living visibly free and fearless lives — to prevent the spasm of control mania from destroying the dreams that far more have died for over the last two hundred twenty five years than died this morning.
Don’t let the terrorists or (their natural allies) the fascists win.
Remember that the goal of terrorism is to create increasingly paralytic totalitarianism in the government it attacks. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
Fear nothing. Live free.
And, please, let us try to forgive those who have committed these appalling crimes. If we hate them, we will become them.
May God — or Whatever you want to call It — bless us all. We’ll need it.
And here’s what he wrote the other day:
The answer to terrorism is not fear. Nor is it violence. Nor is it transforming our country in the very ways Al Queda wished, thus betraying everything America stood for and becoming an arbitrarily violent and surveillant nation that routinely tortures perceived enemies and incarcerates them indefinitely without due process.
If only we’d had the courage and self-assurance to say, “Nice shooting, Assholes, but we have lots of tall buildings.” And left it at that. If only we’d had the courage to respond to terrorism with a steadfast unwillingness to be terrorized. If only we’d recognized the trap we were being led into. But we didn’t.
Now America is a parody of what it was that day 10 years ago. We have bankrupted ourselves and slaughtered tens of thousands with pointless wars of reaction. We have gutted our enlightened guarantees of civil liberty and governmental restraint. We have lost our way. And we have become the very monster Osama bin Laden perceived us to be.
This is a sad day indeed. Not merely because it refreshes the tragedies of that terrible day, but because it also reminds us of all the tragedies — most of them far worse and more permanent in effect — that we subsequently inflicted upon ourselves and on countless innocents here and abroad in reaction to those events.