A couple of President Obama’s lines gave me an eerie feeling. I asked myself does he really believe this? I’ve heard others say it lately and it seems to me to be the most erroneous statement any person with a smidgen of knowledge of history can make. A logical follow through on it would be to suggest there is no need of anything like a Bill of Rights.
Using it makes me think the president or his speech writers think we are a nation of Simple Simons. Here’s what he said as part of his “few broad observations: . . . After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors. They’re our friends and family. They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else. They have kids on Facebook and Instagram, and they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world . . . . “
I guess from that we are supposed to say: “oh, it’s only my neighbors who are doing this so it must be all right.” I’ve written about this before.The great majority of the genocides of the last 2 centuries were carried out by neighbors. It wasn’t invading armies but the people next door.
Where to begin? After WWI I suppose is a good starting point. The Holodomor, aka the Great Famine, introduced by Joe Stalin to suppress the Ukrainian people, the neighbors were used to inform on others so that they could keep their own meager supplies which were eventually taken from them by the special police who were recruited from among the population.
Then all the Jews who lived in peace with their German neighbors suddenly found that their neighbors no longer wanted to associate with them. When the thugs came down the street destroying Jewish property, few neighbors tried to stop their Aryan brothers fearful of being on the wrong side of the authorities. It was the neighbors who helped with the round ups, drove the trucks and trains that carted the Jews away, and kept silent. I recently read of one woman of Jewish heritage who moved to France and lived there 20 years, even becoming a Catholic, but when the Nazis moved in she too was taken to a concentration camp by her neighbors.
It’s not just that Europeans can’t be trusted, I need not go into what happened in Africa between the Tutsis and Hutu in Rwanda in 1994. People who had lived side by side for generations were suddenly murdering each other. Who can forget the videos of the river with all the bodies floating in it. Afterward, few could explain why they had turned on their neighbors.
Slide from there a few years earlier into Asia with the Chinese Cultural Revolution where those not deemed sufficiently loyal were sent off to re-education camps; it was such a good idea that some years later the Khmer Rouge, another one of those Communist groups decided to experiment on its own people. Google “killing fields” if you want to know more about that horror.
It’s not just an African/Asian problem. From South America we have the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who are trying to find out what their neighbors did with their children in Argentina; again in Europe those with a few years under their belts can feel the horror that happened in Sarajevo when snipers, former neighbors, sat in the hills surrounding the city shooting anyone who dared walk the streets of this international city. Oh, here you can Google the words “sniper alley.”
A word or two or three tell us how much faith we can put in our neighbors. Keep in mind Holocaust, Holodomor, Killing Fields, Sniper Alley, Rwandan Genocide, and Gang of Four whenever someone tell you not to be afraid because those who are coming to visit you in the name of the state are your neighbors. That Obama used those terms makes me wonder whether I’m missing something when I suggest the N.S.A. did nothing wrong.