Thursday, May 05, 2005

Keep them scared out of their wits

Because I am on the "no fly list" I have a regular Google news alert on those words. Mostly, at this season, what I read every morning is about fly balls that led to no hits despite the most creative efforts of managers to draw up strong line-up lists.

But today an interesting story floated through. It is an account of a meeting in suburban McLean, Virginia (yes, the home of the CIA) at which a roster of "experts" discussed "how safe America had become" since 9/11.

"This forum was intended to be for information purposes only," said Carole Herrick, president of the Dranesville District Democratic Women’s Club, which sponsored the event.

"We had all sorts of forms of security, like homeland security, home security, gang violence prevention, identity security, everything but Social Security because that’s too contentious of an issue right now," she said.

The club wanted to "present something to the public" that would get those who attended thinking about safety and security in a new way, she said.

New way? Throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the security category seems the opposite of reassuring to me.

US suburbanites are probably, realistically, some of the least threatened persons on the planet. What are we so ready to be frightened of? Terrorism, of course, though the likelihood that any individual in McLean will suffer from it seems pretty remote. But why so many anxieties?

What else? The 10 o'clock news? Unruly teenagers? Perhaps we have some atavistic need to get adrenaline flowing that isn't being fed by horror movies and the daily news?

As a member of the Office of Commonwealth Preparedness, Delegate Brian Moran (D-46) spoke about what Virginia is doing to keep its citizens safe. "We have 76 tasks we’re currently working on, and a lot has to deal with communication coordination," he said.

The group has created a line of succession, should the governor be killed or incapacitated in an attack or other event, Moran said. , , ,Additionally, he spoke about the need for people to become aware and protect themselves against gang violence, drunk drivers and other threats to their personal safety. . . .

Virginia has been in a state of elevated alert since the national warning system was created months after the terrorist attacks, which Moran said makes it even more important that the region have enough police officers and firefighters should another attack occur...."We are only as safe as our people are alert," he said. "We need to be able to respond to our ever-changing world. One year the hot issue may be gang violence, another year it might be drug use. There’s a myriad of issues out there" for citizens to educate themselves about, and forums like this one help to provide needed information, he said.

I don't get it. Note these were Democrats, not Republicans campaigning on Bush's record as commander in chief. Holding forums to ensure people are properly scared doesn't reassure me.


JollyRoger said...

Scare f*ck out of 'em, and herd 'em to the polls. If Osama doesn't do the trick, then use Ellen and Rosie.

Despicable hypocrites, the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad but true reality that we live in a culture of fear. It's truly a sickness. Madison Avenue makes you fear bad breath, body odor, etc. The goverment makes you fear everything else. We really do need to condemn the victim society. As I see it, in a successful world, there is just no room for victims. (If you haven't read , "The Culture of Fear," I highly recommend the book, written by a Stanford prof whose name escapes me at the moment.)

That being said (I hear you groaning as you await the BUT), as a resident of McLean, I do take exception with your remark, "What are we so ready to be frightened of? Terrorism, of course, though the likelihood that any individual in McLean will suffer from it seems pretty remote."

It isn't really that remote, actually. Some of my neighbors work in the Pentagon and were there on 9/11. Barbara Olsen was one of my former customers (FYI - she was killed in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon). There were other local residents directly effected by the crash at the Pentagon and many in the Metro DC area who were on the plane that hit the Pentagon. McLean is full of gov't workers and officials. The VP - while reportedly in an "undisclosed location" - was here in McLean days after 9/11 shopping in his favorite grocery store (witnessed in utter disbelief with my own eyes). Just 5 miles from DC and basically the federal bedroom community, McLean would make great collateral damage.

We are surrounded by the MS13 gang - even here in toney McLean. While crime is really not an issue, the area is a sitting duck. And, we have had our fair share of the big crimes - we just luck out and don't get too much of the small crimes. For example, in the early 90s a Pakistani jumped out of his car in front of the CIA and gunned down a few people waiting at the traffic light and then managed to make his way back to Pakistan (imagine that!). More recently, a Congressman's wife was taken from her home by gunmen and "escorted" to a local bank to withdraw funds. A guy held up the local Rite Aid at gunpoint for OxyContin. Oh, and last year, the gigantic inflated deer at the Tyson's Corner mall was stolen. That really had people talking, let me tell you.

So, if it's so dangerous, why do I live here? (I have no idea. Convenience? The thrill of it all? LOL!) As you suggest, it really isn't a dangerous place to live. But, if terrorists wanted to make a point (and isn't that what they claim they want to do?), McLean would make a lot more sense that say, Poughkeepsie NY. Can you imagine the bedlam and devastation if Mr. Cheney couldn't shop at Gourmet Giant anymore?

Finally, give Ms. Herrick some slack, please. You may have questioned the sense of that meeting, but she isn't a reactionary and has actually done quite a lot for the community. And while crime and violence may not be a problem here today, there have been a few non-9/11 related changes in our local communities - specifically this one gang's increasing presence even here - that warrant a discussion. Should we all start hoarding water and meals-ready-to-eat? Well, I am sure that there are some right-wing wackos out there who are. But, not me. As a friend of mine so aptly put it, "the day I need a gas mask is the day I go outside and take a long, deep breath."

Anonymous said...

I grew up in McLean and graduated from McLean High School.

The big crimes described make me chuckle now that I live in Las Vegas, NV. Here, it is not a news day until you have read about the most recent murder in town. The coroners office investigates 4000 deaths a year (burned bodies are found in cars on the edge of town)

We have home invasions, car jackings, people shot driving in a car because someone wondered what it would be like to shoot someone.

The every day commuter is faced with road rage of not just a flipped off finger, but being run off the road and shot at. An argument at a car wash about getting cut off resulted in manslaughter. A nice neighborhood only has 30-40 police calls a month in a 1 square mile area (this is where houses run 800,000 and up)and by the way grafitti shows up in these neghborhoods too. A lower neighborhood has 600 calls a month.

Car theft? Costs you $900 a year to insure your $20,000 car and there are thousands stolen.

McLean a terrorist target? Sure I lived next door to embassey folks, military, FBI, CIA, State Department. Try living in a city where one attack could take out 1000 tourists in the street.

The safe haven of McLean does not sound too bad in my book.

It is all a matter of persepctive.

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