Sunday, 14 March 2010

Be very careful, America

So by now you've all probably seen this article or one like it in which a gunman opened fire at the entrance to the Pentagon last week. This is another event in what is becoming a rather disturbing trend of anti-government cause-heads going on the offensive. I'm not going to lay the blame solely on the Palin/Beck/Tea Party crowd, since past events like Oklahoma City shows that this sort of sentiment is anything but new. However it is rather unsettling that the tone of these individuals is becoming progressively more aggressive and, dare I say, militant. So although their not the sole culprits, they're certainly not helping matters much.

The way I see it, there are two possible ways that that powers that be could respond to this trend.

1. Conclude that all of these crazies need a heapin' helpin' of legislation to set 'em straight. Beef up security measures even more. Increase surveillance of 'suspected subversives' (whoever they are and whatever that means, details details). Perhaps even throw in some weapons control laws in for good measure.

Bad idea.

All this will succeed in doing is feeding the flames. These people are already convinced that the gummint is hell-bent on trampling their rights and restricting their freedoms. Trying to smother the problem with laws will only confirm their fears and, in all likelihood, provoke further nutballs to try the same thing in the name of defending the Constitution.

2. To use the old British war-time saying, 'Keep calm and carry on.' In other words, don't do a thing. Accept that this was an isolated incident that in no way represents the norm. Conclude that the better demonstration of strength and resilience in the face of adversity is to brush it off and keep going as is, refusing to strengthen or legitimize the place of these people by giving them unnecessary attention.

The trouble is, American doesn't do 'Keep calm and carry on' terribly well. If something happens, people have this need for someone to do something about it. We have to prove to ourselves and others that nobody can get away with crossing us without a serious reckoning. Satisfying in the short term? Maybe. Useful and productive in the long term? Not so much.

I suppose this is another manifestation of the U.S. as the angsty teenager of the world. Compared to nations in Europe and Asia, who've been at this game for at least a few thousand years, 230-some odd year old America is just starting to develop acne and grow hair in surprising places. We're still at the phase where everything is a massive universe-altering drama and we have to thump our chests and prove something about ourselves at every step of the way. Hopefully in a few more centuries, providing something very interesting doesn't happen in the meantime, we might slowly start to improve in playing the long game.

In the meantime, let's just hope that Obama and Co. take the high road and don't turn this into a bigger situation than it actually is.

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