Every time something horrific happens, every op-ed writer in America puts out their thoughts on it: why it happened, how it could have been prevented, the senselessness of it all. And what’s sad is, a lot of people are getting sick of it, ignoring it, moving on. We see so very much that’s horrible and we just can’t face one more thing in a litany of more things. And the last thing we need is some self-important armchair political hack telling us who did what wrong and who’s at fault.
So why am I, yet another self-important windbag, writing anything? Why do you need another helping of empty wind from someone else who doesn’t matter? Why do we need any of them yapping at us when what we really want to do is grieve in peace or fix the damn problem already and get on with the business of living but this time in safety?
Good questions. Here’s the answer:
We really don’t. We don’t need any of it.
Oh, I know; that’s not entirely true. Whenever something like the Orlando shooting happens, it’s an opportunity for people with a Cause to push it out into the spotlight, and some of these causes are no doubt worthy ones. At least their supporters seem to think so; people are always eager to tell you how this means we should ban more guns or be harsher on crime or evict the Muslims. Yes, it’s distasteful to talk politics in the wake of tragedy, but if we can prevent the next bad thing from happening, shouldn’t we do so now, when people are paying attention?
I’m not here to tell you which cause is right or wrong, not in this post. (We’ll do that in another article, like maybe this one. ) I will, however, say that America has a pretty bad history when it comes to enacting laws from fear and terror. If you can’t remember any, here’s a couple of examples:
- In February of 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which was used as justification for the forcible relocation and internment of over a hundred thousand Japanese-Americans. Almost two thirds were citizens at the time; most of the rest were barred by law from naturalization due to their ancestry.
- In 1938, in the shadow of world war, the House created a committee to investigate “Un-American” activities. With the rise of Soviet fortunes after 1945, the Committee was made permanent, and led to such events as the Hollywood blacklist.
- In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act. While many provisions did in fact streamline national law enforcement, it’s widely agreed that other aspects drastically curtailed personal liberty and invaded privacy wholesale.
- The US also invaded Iraq as a response. It’s common knowledge that Iraq had little or nothing to do with 9/11, and that invasion indirectly launched ISIL.
- The War On Drugs is a decades-long example of horrible tragedy followed by disastrous law as a reaction, repeated over and over again. An example is the 1986 overdose of Len Bias, which led to the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act; billions were spent, with the results including a 300% increase in the street price of cocaine, a negligible diminution in amounts distributed, and American prison populations skyrocketing 400%.
Again, I’m not here to tell you that we shouldn’t practice safe border control and wise immigration policies. I’m not trying to say that we should stop fighting drug use or tapping the phones of terror suspects. Heck, I’m not even going to say we should stop invading places like Iraq (even though maybe we should). All these things are worth discussing, but not here and now.
Here and now, I want to tell you that, categorically, all of the laws passed as some sort of emotional reaction to a national tragedy are bad laws.
Draconian overreactions and the subsequent domestic response are an integral part of the strategies outlined by the anarchist philosophers of the 1800s, the ones that wrote works like the “Communist Manifesto”, people like Marx and Bakunin. These philosophies led to a climate of global terror in the late 1840s, and the repercussions are with us today. These works are quoted by modern revolutionaries and they provide the philosophical underpinnings of movements like ISIL and Al Qaeda.
Adolf Hitler wrote a detailed plan for the Second World War. He published it as “Mein Kampf”, and at any point prior to, say, 1936, people in power could have read it, worked out his next move, and stopped him.
Right now, we know the philosophies that drive ISIL and Al Qaeda. We can stop them the same way. It’s actually pretty straightforward. Step 1 in defeating the terrorists? Don’t Overreact. Overreacting Is What They Want.
So while other people are out there, beating their drums on things like gun control and outlawing Islam and building a wall on the Mexican border, I’m going to stand here and beat mine in counterpoint. People shout out hate and intolerance and chant self-righteous slogans; disaster is no reason to listen to them. They will appeal to your fear and anguish in order to promote their political causes, and you should shut them out. Stop listening.
Trust me: They’ll still be preaching their cause next week, when we’re calmer, when we’re more capable of rational thought and intelligent action.
We all want to do something in the wake of horror and tragedy. So you know what? Go do something. Do something positive, something helpful, something that’s good and decent and kind rather than hateful or reactionary or intolerant. Don’t give blood today; they’ve got plenty — but next week or next month, give blood. Donate your time or money to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Volunteer at community centers and for the Red Cross, and maybe if you have the skills and the time, do something to help out the mentally ill, or teach a citizenship class, or volunteer for Doctors Without Borders or the Peace Corps or Habitat For Humanity.
There are evil people out there. You won’t fix that by doing bad things. So — go do some good.