terror, domestic and abroad


I was saddened yesterday to hear of the Asiana Airline crash in San Francisco. Initial reports were drastic, but the death-toll has turned out not to be nearly what it could have been. That does nothing for the families of the two people who died, I know. It has to be extra terrible for them that on a flight of so many people, their children were the only to die. That has to be so hard.

When I say I was saddened, I should say I was eventually saddened. My first thoughts were to wonder if terrorists were involved. Then I was sad for the victims, the families, and all Americans, if not the world, that we live in such perilous times.

This morning I read an unrelated article over at Salon reporting on S.W.A.T. teams breaking up poker games and betting rings. In some cases, the article contends, detectives actually pushed citizens to involve themselves further in gambling, prodding them to raise the stakes, and then busted them. A polite word for that, if it’s true, would be entrapment.

It reminded me of an article from Rolling Stone that hit a little closer to home. In May, 2012, five men from Cleveland were arrested for attempting to blow up a bridge, a bridge that I myself have traversed many times. The Rolling Stone article describes how an undercover FBI agent first infiltrated the Occupy movement and then converted these five hapless bums into dynamiters. And then of course the FBI swept in and made the arrests, essentially capitalizing on a villain they themselves created.

I don’t know how true either the Salon or the Rolling Stone articles are. I don’t know that the truth of either will ever come to light. What I do know is that we live in a world in which both could be true. That the American government might suborn its citizens to illicit activities is every bit as plausible now as it wouldn’t have been even just fifteen years ago.

And it’s not just when planes go down. And it’s not just that the government is doing something that the fucking Germans think is wrong.(2) It’s that everyone is angry all the time. The Wife says I’m not allowed to flip people off whilst driving anymore and, while part of me rails against her telling me to whom I can and can’t extend my middle finger, I have to admit that she’s right. I simply can’t trust that someone I flip off – even someone who knows he or she was in the wrong – might not just come follow me with a gun or some other means of extricating ill-intended vindication.

That’s the world we live in, full of paranoia and pre-emptive defense, plus a national media and political system that actively seeks to polarize every issue, every idea, every citizen. This is bad for us, because if I’m told that you and I are poles apart on everything, that there is no common ground for either of us, I’m given license to negate your values, your beliefs, and  therefore you.

At this point I haven’t heard that the Asiana Air crash had anything to do with terrorism. I certainly hope it didn’t. And while I’m glad that only two people died – and sad that two people died – I’m hoping that when the next tragedy strikes, I can train myself not to think it came of human hands. When disasters are presumed immediately to be the work of fellow human beings…well, these are times that all who see them wish they’d not seen.

  1. This should have been a Sunday Adverbs post, but I have something far more important on my mind. So I’ll put the adverbs off until next Sunday, assuming I’m still blogging at that time, which, who knows.
  2. The Germans are pretty upset about the NSA’s program of snooping on its own citizens. Of course, Edward Snowden, Das Vistleblower, says that the Germans are totally in bed with the U.S.’s NSA on this. Then the Germans say that the NSA may have stolen German industrial secrets. So, in short, who’s to know.

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