Dec 10, 2013
Dick and Trayvon ... Connect the Dots
Posted on Jul 5, 2013
By Judy Balaban
In the aftermath of 9/11, most of America, including the Democratic Party and the mainstream press, extended extraordinary compassion to the president and vice president. As I watch today’s congressional sessions in which Republican political leaders and their would-be successors call President Obama a traitor, conspirator, an enemy of the country, its people and its heritage, I reflect with nostalgia about the post 9/11 period when nobody pointed fingers at the White House, at the Pentagon or at the Bush administration for negligence. Almost all of us just got behind our leaders and supported them as they began to weave a blanket of security measures around our nation. I think somewhere in our own hearts, regardless of whether we had voted for them or not, many of us imagined how awful it must have been for Bush and Cheney to have had 9/11 happen on their watch, perhaps to question, in the privacy of their own consciences, what they might have done differently and whether that might have made a real difference. What we did know was that they were busy trying to do whatever they could to shield us in the future. And, in good faith, sometimes against our own better judgment about protecting the essence of a free country, many of us supported them.
Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine, his solution for protecting America from future danger, was in fact quite radical. If, it instructed us, we were even 1 percent suspicious that someone might do us harm, we were permitted, even encouraged, to act first to destroy the potential adversary and then, if there were questions, to ask them later. “It is not about our intelligence,” the vice president declared, “it is about our response.”
Acting first, before we gathered information and corroborated it, seemed acceptable, perhaps even patriotic, at the time. We were, as many of us recall, feeling vulnerable and frightened for ourselves, our families and our country. As it turned out, globally, the policy’s inherent excess led to abuse almost immediately. Much like an armed George Zimmerman riding around to look for a problem in Sanford on the night he shot Trayvon Martin, the Bush administration looked around the Middle East for a problem, decided it had found one in Iraq where nobody had attacked us and where there was no hard evidence that anyone was planning to, and shaped its suspicions into a rationale for invading Baghdad.
How, though, do we connect the dots between Baghdad and Sanford? As usual, it’s useful to follow the money. Once we implemented Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine in foreign lands, arms manufacturers and related contractors were assured of long periods of prosperity, not only for supplying us during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but anywhere and everywhere that danger might be even slightly perceived during the then-newly declared, long-term global war on terror. If the policy was acceptable in international terms, why couldn’t the same code govern personal safety on our own shores? If we as a nation could shoot first and ask questions later, why couldn’t we as individuals protect ourselves in the same way? For people within the gun culture, this sounded not only sensible, it rang of traditional, old West, self-reliant Americanism. And for people who made and sold guns and ammunition to people within our domestic gun culture, it sounded like the basis for a whopping new business bonanza.
Since the most sacrosanct place of safety is the home, the first laws passed to institute Cheney’s doctrine as domestic state policy were known as “Your Home Is Your Castle” laws. Thus if someone approached your house or property and you suspected he or she had come to do you harm, you could shoot and even kill, claim self-defense and immunity via the Castle statutes and be pretty much in the clear. Any debate concerning retreat was somewhat moot. After all, you were already in your own home. As Castle laws passed and the word went out, exactly as anticipated, sales of guns and ammunition soared.
But why stop at home? People who want to buy guns feel threatened in places far and wide, and, of course, on public streets where anyone can walk or drive. What could laws be called that permitted you to exercise the right to invoke the Cheney doctrine wherever you happened to be? On what ground would you need to be standing in order to be sure that the law gave you permission to shoot and maybe kill first, and ask questions later? As it turned out, that didn’t really matter. A generic term did the job much more efficiently.
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