January 15th, 2010

planet

civil liberties for safety?

So there's this gem of a poll that came out, that says 51% of Americans agree that "it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism". It annoys me.

It also goes along with a local Opinion Line gem I came across last week, where someone called into our paper to say "I'm all for racial profiling if it will keep our airplanes in the air." (link) Actually, I'm officially giving that quote my "could you be any whiter?" award because I'd be willing to bet a LOT of money that the caller in question is not worried about racial profiling affecting his life. That makes it much easier.

But I digress... I hate these sorts of questions because they seem to trick people into relating things that should not be related. It's like asking, "Would you stop eating oranges to get a new high score on tetris?" Well, yeah. But that's not how you get a high score on tetris. Just like giving up civil liberties won't make us safer. They pose that question a lot with torture too... "is torture okay if it could save lives?" It might make us feel better, tougher, more in control... but there's more evidence to support that torture actually distracts us from getting real answers. You can kidnap a pizza delivery guy and torture him until he tells you the location of a bomb, even if he's never even heard of a bomb, he'll say anything. Does that make us safer?

We're always looking to feel secure from these irrational fears and it pains me. Even using 2001 statistics, your odds of being killed by a car while crossing the street are twice as high as your odds of being killed by a terrorist. And we're willing to give up moral guidance and torture people, give up civil liberties, spend all this time and money thinking about terrorists? We need to just relax, and live.

Giving things up may give you the illusion of safety and security, but I don't really think illusions are worth it.