A Trick and a Treat

They say government is here to protect the general public. Let’s look at some recent stories to see how this works in reality.

Violence is one of the main threats that governments are supposed to protect the public from — just look at the funding of the United States Defense Department compared to the rest of the federal budget. Yet violence — against not only military and civilian authorities, but innocent third parties — is often inspired by aggressive foreign policies. A thorough study headed by University of Chicago professor Robert Pape concludes that suicide bombers are primarily motivated by foreign military intervention. And the Iraq War Logs, classified documents released last week by Wikileaks, detail killings and torture that ought to cause outrage.

There are other violent actors out there. As it turns out, members of the Zetas, one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels, defected from military units trained by US forces at Fort Bragg. One would have to question the oversight on that decision. Of course the United States government has been training and supporting violent groups like the Contras for years, sometimes financing that support with drug trafficking profits.

Every week gangstersinblue.org compiles reports of police violence, and those are just the ones you hear about. Conversely, when the effects of laws regulating private gun ownership are studied, either a rise in crime or no effect at all is found.

Surely responding to environmental disasters, minimizing the risks to people in the affected areas and holding responsible parties accountable, would be playing a protective role. A recent Al Jazeera report describes the continued health problems of people exposed to BP oil and dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico region. Severe respiratory issues and internal hemorrhaging persist. But don’t worry, Obama will fix everything.

If there are corporate interests that government protects the public from, they certainly don’t include the prison industry, as a new NPR investigation makes clear. Corrections Corporation of America, hoping to cash in on government detention of immigrants without papers, got a seat at the table when Arizona’s controversial immigration was drafted.

It’s not really abuse if that is how the system works, is it? One party seeking control has something to offer another party that also seeks control, so they make a deal. Whether it’s a multimillion dollar industry or the building contractor who knows people on the school board, there’s money, careers, and hierarchies to be made.

But there is one treat in this week’s news: Despite widespread fear, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s Lenore Skenazy (“‘Stranger Danger’ and the Decline of Halloween,” October 27th), there are no known cases of children being poisoned by Halloween candy and there is no rise in abductions on Halloween. That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, but you have to wonder what has been lost in believing that the neighborhood is full of people who have unwholesome plans for your kids.

The further paranoia takes you from reasonable caution, the more you lose. Community is lost through lack of communication. Autonomy and initiative are lost when kids are excessively supervised and directed. And community and autonomy both suffer when people look to professionals for synthetic substitutes, instead of relying on one another for freedom, fellowship and achievement.

The treat is that liberty and solidarity are the way forward, and a little bit more of each can be chiseled out each day. For every problem created by authoritarian trickery, there are as many solutions as there are people willing to create them.

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