Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thought for the Day

 Uncle BadTouch provided by the great Robb Allen.

This one is a riff on something Tam posted about the latest example of "Watch Your Neighbors" coming out of Washington:
Where do you draw the line? How far down the slope do you slide before you decide you don't like the view anymore?
Talk about a thorny issue.  On the one hand, we all want to do everything we can to keep bad things from happening, and we all screamed to high heaven on September 12 when all of the little things that weren't noticed or reported that could have at least reduced the risks and damage on 9/11 came to light.  On the other hand, citizens have the right to do things in their life that others might look askance at without risking a visit from the men in the dark blue suits.  The things someone would do to get ready for a terrorist attack are for the most part perfectly legal and innocuous by themselves.   It's when the fertilizer is combined with the diesel and a mind to use them destructively that someone should say something if they see something.

Example:  Lots of my neighbors are shooters and hunters.  I know that at least a few of them reload because I've given them brass.  So that means they have at least some gunpowder on the premises.  To me, that's normal.  But to the government, it's none of their business until one of those neighbors starts packing that gunpowder into packages or pipes and attaches a fuse. 

Example:  I regularly hear shooting, sometimes a lot of it, from the fields around the house.  As long as I don't hear rounds coming over the house, I tend to look up at the first shot and then ignore it.  If I started hearing loud explosions and the distinctive sound of a heavy machine gun, I might go on down the road to see what's going on.  Hey, who doesn't like explosions and machine guns?  But unless I see something that's actually illegal, I'm not calling the cops.

Example:  A group of people who get together to practice shooting silhouette targets that are placed around realistic office or home settings may be getting ready for a terrorist attack or a robbery.  Or maybe they're shooting IDPA.  Who's to say?

Example:  A young woman leaves behind a backpack on a bus, and someone notices it after she's a couple of blocks behind.  Is it a terrorist leaving behind a bomb or is it a young mother who forgot her diaper bag?

I guess my take on it is this:  I wouldn't want my neighbors, co-workers, or some yutz on the subway running to DHS if they spy me carrying my gun, reading a 'subversive' book, or heck, talking to a friend about how much we don't like the current government.  So I mind my own business, try to not annoy the neighbors, and complain to the neighbors when they annoy me. 

What comes of programs like this are incremental steps towards a  true surveillance state.  People in the Soviet Union or Germany both before and after World War II didn't wake up one morning and decide to become snitches all at once.  That frog was boiled very slowly over the space of years.

Reporting by citizens against other citizens for doing nothing more than living their lives the way they want to is a very dangerous thing, and it does nothing to make us safer.  If you see a crime, report it.  If  something seems odd to you, remember it.  Maybe it really was part of a crime, and you might be able to help an investigation.  But don't report someone to the police for seeming odd.  This comes from someone who enjoys people watching, but admits his own oddness enough to recognize it as being part of being human in others.

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