March 03, 2006
Of Ports and Courts - Fear is the enemy of the mind
[Cross-posted from the March 1, 2006 Pulse.]
Twenty years ago, I was a big fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. I still am, even though I haven’t read one in at least a decade. (I did check out one of the new ghostwritten back-stories by Herbert’s son, but that’s a different matter.) Many Dune readers acknowledge Frank Herbert for possessing a degree of social understanding not commonly found in even the better range of science-fiction works. Herbert’s knack for plumbing the depths to which humanity so consistently sinks lifts his material above categorization.
A singularly captivating element from Dune is the Litany against Fear. Herbert’s young protagonist is required by his mentors to recite this passage, and more importantly, to embody its message throughout his lifetime. The Litany begins, “Fear is the mind-killer.”
To Buy World Ports
Though we’re many miles from New Orleans and even further from Newark, I suspect that Chattanoogans harbor fears about a foreign country’s company taking over security at our nation’s ports. Such would be understandable, but there are two major factual errors supporting those fears. These errors enjoy much sustenance from the media. I, too, included them in this paragraph’s opening sentence – but solely for purposes of destroying the misconceptions.
You see, the ports are not just now slated to be operated by a foreign company. Overseas firms already manage many of our ports’ operations. It was therefore quite obvious to anyone who was paying attention when this story broke that the word “foreign” is being used to connote more than its literal meaning.
Another word that suffers gross mistreatment in this story is the word “security.” No matter how many times the facts are laid out – and acknowledged, even – the people who are supposed to accurately deliver the facts keep using the word “security” as the product that’s changing hands, not merely in the “national security” sense. They cross the line and go beyond implication that port security is being handed over to “Arab” personnel. Great, thanks, mass media; now that’s what everyone thinks. And if everyone thinks that the security – meaning, the guys with stinking badges and many, many bullets – is being handed over to a foreign company, everyone is going to be afraid.
As one of the very funny hosts of “fake news” on cable’s Comedy Central put it, there would hardly have been an upward glance if the “A” in UAE stood for “Armenian” or “Andalusian.” We all know the fear is due to the word “Arab.” If comedians and satirists get this, why can’t the nation’s reporters and commentators? Clearly this is not a case of misunderstanding; it is purposeful manipulation. What if China wanted to operate some ports in the United States? Newsflash: they do. Now, we’re hoping that someone checked this out, and made sure that there were no problems on the way. Singapore does some, Taiwan, and then of course there are our friends getting bought out, the “Great British.” None of this is new. Giving them control of security would be new; but that’s not happening, not with any of them, and not with Dubai Ports World. Consider yourself informed, if you hadn’t been. If you had, you can thank me later for helping to dispel the myths. I’m not necessarily condoning the deal at hand. Oppose the deal if, as with any other, the firm in question doesn’t check out. Just don’t approach the situation with fear, especially when that fear is likely caused by calculated obfuscation.
Gay Marriage Bane
Oh, here’s a scary one: that nice couple down the street from us, the ones with the home, the jobs, and the family and pets? They might get married if some judge lets them. Best that we drop everything we’re doing and rush over to the courthouse to stop that…no, wait; I’ve got an even better idea. Let’s alter the founding document of our State, the bedrock not usually burdened with narrow restrictions on individual liberty, and then our fears will be curbed.
I wish I were joking. Unless something happens upon further appeal to a Davidson County judge’s ruling, Tennessee voters will be provided the fabled “up-or-down vote” on adopting a constitutional amendment that denies a certain configuration of adult human couples the ability to participate fully as adults in society. This vote will coincide with the federal and state general elections on November 7. This column will use every reasonable means to persuade citizens to do the responsible thing and vote “no” on the ballot measure. It is regrettable to have to get preachy, but this is an “all hands on deck” situation.
Later, we’ll discuss legal philosophy, religion and other subjects I’m not at all qualified to engage, but this time it’s all about the fear. What outcome can be rationally ascertained that would send otherwise balanced people into screeching horror? What are we afraid of? I say “we” even though my position is clear, because the legislation to create this proposed amendment passed twice, in two houses each, and that’s one of the best initial measures we have of how the public feels. No doubt many contacted their representatives with these feelings during those two legislative sessions.
Yet we wisely forward the idea from those tests to a fully democratic final say. This gives us the opportunity to think as well as feel. The citizen becomes self-ruled for real in this instance. It’s one of the highest honors, and the most wanting of careful and informed deliberation. This is not a “call your senator in a moment of zeal” activity. Each voter must as carefully weigh a constitutional change as he or she expects a Supreme Court Justice to consider a law’s constitutionality. If there is anything to fear, it’s the possibility of screwing that up.
Pulsations | By joe lance | 02:42 PM