When I hear the excuses of Americans willing to give up their civil liberties or, worse yet, let other people in some far off land get blown to smithereens to ensure the terrorists are occupied "over there" rather than here, I wonder what the f*ck they thought the world was like before 9/11? What fantasy of security had they allowed themselves to be lulled into? Were they really so convinced of their invincibility beforehand that the attacks changed everything? Weren't they aware that the world has always been totally fraught with such dangers, that people are murdered around the clock in every quarter of the planet, and that billions still ... STILL ... yearn to breathe FREE? I don't mind saying I think that being a gay man, and having to watch my back to avoid being bashed, has, thankfully, denied me that same false sense of security that I sense in some other Americans. The world has always been scary to me. You deal with it.
Surely, 9/11 rocked my world a bit more than the average day, but at no point since have I thought for even one moment that it's worth letting the government listen to my phone conversations, or check up on which books I've taken out, or even check my bag going into the subway to ensure it doesn't happen again, let alone grant the incompetent fool in the White House the power to grab me off the street for any reason he deems justified, ship me off on a CIA-chartered jet to some country where torture is standard operating procedure, and strip away any means whatsoever I might have once had to contest such actions. But this is what our world has come to. And make no mistake, anyone who voted for Bush last time around is complicit in those exact situations.
I've confronted the people I know who did vote for Bush on these issues, and almost unanimously they offer the same defense: it's worth it to prevent another 9/11. In other words, they're cowards. More than that, they're not worthy of the freedoms countless Americans before them died to protect.
In case you can't tell, I'm positively sick of seeing fear in the eyes of my fellow citizens. Sick of hearing them make excuses ("Well, if you're not carrying a bomb, why not let them check your bag? Only the guilty have anything to worry about."). Sick of hearing them justify the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis as OK because of some imagined threat to us or the insanely laughable lie that we're bringing them Democracy (yeah, like we're still the authorities on what that is).
Where did all this anger come from, you wonder? Partly it rose to the surface in response to the truly excellent series on the "Dada" exhibition at the National Gallery that Tyler's been posting. From the first post, titled "Dada: Art about war":
"Dada" is a terrific exhibition about a terrible time. Just as important: It is a celebration of the power artists have to portray horrors, as well as a celebration of the voice they have in condemning the circumstances that produced those horrors. On view in Washington at a time when our nation is questioning the Bush administration's conduct before and during war in Iraq, it is a rare -- very rare -- instance of an exhibition at our National Gallery of Art bumping up against the news of the day.And partly it's a response to this article about an artist arrested in London:
A woman who describes herself as an artist was arrested after a series of suspect packages sparked a security alert in west London, police in the British capital said today.Now, I'm not arguing that it's particularly clever of anyone to leave packages lying around in a city that's still reeling from a deadly terrorist attack, and I suspect the authorities are being as professional and level headed in their response as can be expected, but damn it, here's what the artist left at one location:
A number of suspicious items—apparently meant to be art installations—were left unattended at five locations in the busy Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith areas just after 8:00 am local time.
As police closed a number of roads, prompting traffic chaos, and bomb disposal specialists were called in, a 36-year-old woman walked into a local police station.
"The woman, who is from the Shepherd's Bush area and who described herself as an artist, was then arrested on suspicion of causing a public nuisance and taken into custody where she remains whilst enquiries continue," police said.
One in Shepherd's Bush consisted of three cardboard tubes supporting a polystyrene "altar" on which stood some flowers and a note lamenting the loss of a certain "Pelagius."It's not even as transgressive as the piece here in New York, where an artist named Clinton Boisvert left boxes spray-painted black with the word "Fear" stenciled on them around the Union Square subway station (and again, I'm not arguing that the piece was brilliant, but it was essentially a valid critique). In that instance, as well, the police responded sensibily, not like some jack-booted thugs squashing the artist or throwing him in prison, so I'm not criticizing the city authorities here...I'm criticizing the national response that has led to the situation in which we're afraid of art. It's shameful.
"Your absence has gone through us like thread through a needle. Everything we do is stitched with its color," the note read.
Consider the massive response to the bombings in Madrid to see why. I'll let two pictures (one, two) tell the tale here.
This is how a people who treasure their freedom respond to terrorist attacks, by marching a million strong to say we will not cower. We will not live in fear. We will confront you en masse and let you know in no uncertain terms that these are our streets...our cities...our country. Boxes with "fear" on them left in Madrid that day would have been trampled into pulp by citizens marching together to demonstrate they were not afraid.
Yes, the world is a scary place. It freakin' always has been and forever will be. That's only tragic if you let it change your commitment to live freely despite the risks.