S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Can we have security?

Are we safe? The recent UAE port security episode made me want to explore the prevailing level of fear among U.S. citizens. Since 9/11/01, the nation has not felt nearly as safe as before the terrorist attacks. How safe our nation actually is a major question.
Mixed messages - Our Current President (OCP) was seen as the terrorism expert. And, politically, it seems that keeping citizens at a certain level of fear was to his advantage. But selling the idea that we should not be afraid to have a foreign nation in charge of many of our most important seaports backfired. OCP could not have it both ways. Turning fear on and off at will does not work. Sometimes the "spin" is not successful.
Current threat level - Officially, then how afraid should we be, now that the deal appears to be off? According to the DHS (title linked above),

Current Threat Level
January 23, 2006 – The United States government lowered the national threat level for the mass transit sector in August 2005. The country remains at an elevated risk, Code Yellow, for terrorist attack. The United States Government will continue to closely monitor and analyze threat information and share that information, together with guidance for protective measures, with state, local and private sector authorities as well as the general public as part of the sustained national effort to prevent terrorist attacks and protect our homeland.
Recommended Activities
All Americans, including those traveling in the transportation systems, should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicions items or activities to local authorities immediately.
Everybody should establish an emergency preparedness kit as well as a communications plan for themselves and their family, and stay informed about what to do during an emergency situation.
Learn More About Preparedness. All Americans can visit
Words matter - Notice the anxious words in the preceeding paragraphs: threat level, elevated risk for terrorist attack, protective measures, sustained national effort, be vigilant, take notice, report suspicious items or activities, emergency preparedness, emergency situation. Even the name chosen for the 2002 project matters. The combined large number of services, departments, and functions under a big umbrella was called The Department of Homeland Security.
What words actually mean matters, too. Here are some American Heritage Dictionary definitions:
  • homeland - "One's native land. A state, region, or territory that is closely identified with a particular people or ethnic group."
  • nation - "A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country. The territory occupied by such a group of people. The government of a sovereign state. A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality."
  • security - "Freedom from risk or danger; safety. Freedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; confidence. Something that gives or assures safety."
Spin department - From these three definitions I have concluded that "nation" better describes who we are than "homeland." Homeland feels like a manipulative word to me. "Security," according to the definition and the DHS threat meter, can only reach a certain level of security - approximate/low/green.
Psychological definitions - Where are you?
  • Paranoid folks maintain the delusion that others work against them, making them severely afraid.
  • Anxious folks maintain a hypervigilance and worry about what they might fear.
  • Pessimistic folks maintain an elevated sense of the bad things that might happen.
  • Realists are folks who maintain a guarded attitude towards actual possibilities, either positive or negative.
  • Optimistic folks
maintain the idea that good things might also happen in bad times.
Notice that the DHS threat meter makes no provision for our feeling secure, while the Department title implies that they will be the ones to make us feel safe in our homeland. Spin.
My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about the landscapes I love.

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