In their continuing effort to ensure that we are enslaved by our collective fear of terrorism, the Bush Administration ("Vote for Bush: He'll keep us safe from the Bogeyman") is once again stoking the fire. Along with the usual vague generalizations intended to ensure that we see terrorists behind every convenience store counter, we are being cautioned to watch out for the latest WMD: floating exloding beer coolers.
As the July 4 holiday approaches, Bush Administration officials are bombarding the nation's police, fire, emergency and corporate-security offices with another round of terrorism warnings. Although there are no plans to raise the threat level from yellow to orange, a senior Justice Department official says, "there's very serious intelligence that's corroborated, that's multiple sourced, that indicates that al-Qaeda is intent on hitting us and hitting us hard this year." The official concedes, however, that "we don't have specific information."
Along with this now familiar general warning, the FBI has introduced the specter of a new terrorism threat: booby-trapped beer coolers. A lightly classified bulletin sent to 18,000 state and local agencies last week advised local authorities to look out for plastic-foam containers, inner tubes and other waterborne flotsam commonly seen around marinas that could be rigged to blow up on contact. Also, the bulletin warned, terrorists might attach bombs to buoys. FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials say no such devices have actually been discovered, nor is there any current intelligence that terrorists are hatching plots involving floating bombs.
No, but making sure that people are afraid is a good way to keep them from wanting to change horses in November, eh? What, exactly, is it that we are afraid of? I'm not saying that terrorism isn't out there, but it has always been out there. Since 9.11, how many terrorist attacks have taken place in the US? That's right- zero. Sure, it could happen, but you could also win the lottery and/or wake up smiling next to Britney Spears.
If we live our lives as prisoners of our fears, when will we find the time to live our lives? The essence of terrorism is the terror, the not knowing the when, where, and how the next attack may occur. You want terror? Try living in Tel Aviv and being dependent on taking a bus to get your to work and back every day. Imagine knowing that every time you get on a bus, it could be your last trip. (Um, why is that swarthy man wearing a heavy parka on a sweltering...cue the blinding white light...and fade to black....) THAT is terror.
None of this is to say that we should not be aware of the threat of terrorism. Nonetheless, allowing the Bush Administration to play off our fears will only make us the prisoner of those fears. Exploding floating beer coolers? Perhaps. How often can Homeland Security cry "Wolf!" before Americans figure out that they are being manipulated?
We need to live, and to live cognizant of our fears without being hostage to them. You chance of being killed in a terrorist act is still ridiculously slim. You'd have a better chance of dying as you smoke a cigarette while having unprotected sex in a swimming pool as someone drops a plugged-in toaster into the water.
WE DESERVE BETTER.