As the dust begins to settle from last Tuesday's hijacking and attacks, more and more people are coming to terms with their connections (friends, loved ones) to these events. Invariably, these connections are being underscored with a sense of blame--that is, over the past week, the label of terrorism has taken on a very personal and heated connotation.
"Communism" was over-used and misused in the '50s, and when such a word emerges as an uncompromising label--one that has no comeback or defense--it threatens civil liberties. Such broad terms can serve as the maiden step in a witch-hunt.
In an unfortunate coincidence, on Wednesday, September 26, City Council will vote whether to renew a resolution for the so-called Joint Terrorism Task Force. When the Task Force--a collaborative effort between the local police and the FBI--debuted a year ago, the term terrorism seemed a bit heavy-handed. Now, it seems like a solemn demand for law enforcement to step up their efforts. And who, at this point, would be willing to stand up against anything labeled as "terrorism" or "against security measures" designed to thwart terrorism?
In Portland, an immediate question is how far we plan to allow rash decisions regarding citizen's safety to sprawl--and over how many innocent people's liberties. Until last Tuesday's tragedies, it seems as if the Task Force was in jeopardy. During the group's tenure, political activists have complained about undue harassment and clampdowns on their privacy. But in light of thousands of lost lives, such complaints seem potentially trivial.
But surrendering to drum-banging patriotism and alleged needs for more surveillance is letting the real terrorists win. Already thousands of lives have been lost, but conceding to fear and paranoia also means giving away basic liberties that make America such a remarkable nation.
Restoring the soul of America will not be accomplished by intensifying the means for a police state--that is the very antithesis of the liberties on which America was founded. When City Council commences next Wednesday, demand that they ask for hard data about how the Task Force operates and who they target. Do not allow this decision to be made with emotions alone. PHIL BUSSE