September 28th, 2001

default, pepper

(no subject)

While part of me would like to write something profound about the attacks in New York and Washington, I don't have anything profound to say. I don't have anything even tritely uplifting to say, either. I'm not feeling patriotic, because the patriotism I'm seeing tears me in two directions: it's beautiful to see people coming together and acting like they finally believe "the common welfare" isn't some antiquated liberal New Deal relic, but it's tragic that--as happens so often--it takes a shocking tragedy for people to think about that. And the patriotism borders on jingoism. (I've gathered that not everyone understands the difference: patriotism is helping your country to do what's right, and jingoism is doing what your country tells you to without question. "My country right or wrong" isn't patriotic, it's jingoistic--and frankly, it's damn scary.)</p>

And I'm not feeling angry, either. I'm just feeling heartsick. War is not (to me) an acceptable option. Failing to go to war is not an acceptable option, either, I don't think. I can only hope that the fight, in whatever form, is as targeted as possible, creates as few new enemies as possible, and is as short as possible, with a minimal loss of life on all sides.

There's something faintly ironic about the sudden willingness to give up a little freedom for a little more security, though. That concept is what the despised and discredited welfare system is based on, when you think about it: citizens are required to give up a bit of aggregate freedom (in the welfare program, the "freedom" of not paying extra taxes to fund it) for a bit more security (in the welfare program, an economic security). The difference is that the security we're being asked to improve now is the kind that costs us not only in taxes but in the reduction of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. You'd think those must be the ones we'd decided were most important--there isn't a guaranteed economic freedom, after all.

So how come we fight so hard to protect that economic freedom, saying that the suffering of some of our fellow citizens is an acceptable price to keep our taxes low and our business unregulated (and finding ways to rationalize away all regulations as unnecessary and all suffering as self-inflicted, even in cases where that clearly isn't true), but are so often--particularly in times of fear--quite willing to restrain free speech and freedom of assembly in the name of security?

Times of fear are when those "economic security" programs seem the least relevant, I suppose--everyone is drawn to help one another, and the question a libertarian friend once asked of me makes perfect sense: "What makes you think I wouldn't give charity to others willingly, without coercion?" But economic security isn't about charity any more than airport security is; both are about spreading the cost of a community's safety across all members of the community, accepting that doing so means people who have the resources to pay for their own private security end up paying for those who lack those resources. It's just a lot easier to see keeping lunatics off planes as an issue of security than it is to see keeping citizens in your own country minimally healthy and free of poverty as one.