Monday, January 11, 2010

Security Is an Illusion

Since the Boxer/Brief Bomber terrorism scare on Christmas day, there’s been a lot of talk about “security.”

At first, Homeland Security Director, Janet Napolitano said that the system worked. She recanted two days later and the Obama Administration has been furiously trying to figure out what went wrong and how the major agencies can stop someone trying to execute a “man-made disaster,” which used to be known as a “terrorist attack.”

Good luck.

As a society, for the most part, we strive for, pay for, and crave something that is elusive, mercurial and ephemeral. “Security” is just an illusion.

Any psychologist, poet or philosopher will tell you that the sooner you give up on this idea of being “safe” or “secure,” life becomes easier; it’s not fraught with Henny Penny anxiety or hand-wringing over “what if’s.” But that’s not what the American people want from this president or the Department of Homeland Security.

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts cartoon always had a character who never went anywhere without his blanket. Linus represents all of us who hang on to this illogical notion that if we have a blanket, a lucky rabbit’s foot, anything that makes us feel safe, we will be okay.

The notion of being safe is just that – an idea, not a concrete fact.

Take the economy. There are many people who did the “safe” thing. They had good credit, bought a house they could afford, got a good loan. But are they “safe” from this recession? Probably not. The house is probably be worth less that what they paid for it. And yet, they did everything to be “secure.”

You can work out, watch what you eat, and not smoke and still be stricken with cancer or hit by a gasoline truck on your way to work driving on Camelback.

Don’t get me wrong, this administration doesn’t understand what terrorism truly is and what needs to be done to monitor and thwart attacks in the future. But when the president announced new measures to make sure our country would be “more secure”, all I kept thinking was what a waste of time. Just because this administration implements a new piece of technology to screen someone at an airport doesn’t mean we are any “safer.” Security isn’t about spending billions of dollars on new technology; it’s not about creating another layer of paperwork from the major agencies that will report to the president. It’s not even about accountability. Security is realizing that no matter how much you prepare, train, pray, pay or kvetch, stuff still happens in this randomly chaotic universe.

Janis Joplin sang it best: “Freedom’s just another word, for nothing left to lose.”

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