So there you have it. The Republican National Convention is underway. The conservative conscience of our country is speaking-at least some part of it. And though it may be easy for those of us outside the walls of the gathering, both literally and figuratively, to go after the low hanging fruit and poke holes in the message, perhaps we should take a moment of pause. And listen to it.
So try, if you can, to ignore what doesn’t matter. Ignore the nominated first lady plagiarizing the sitting First Lady’s convention speech. Ignore the angry retired mayor screaming at everyone. Ignore anyone from the cast of Happy Days. Ignore the mother of one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi. I feel for her. We lost 36 in a day in Iraq. And over 8,000 total in the war. It’s war. I was there when it started. And when it ended. I get it. It sucks.
Ignore the fact that on the second day, when they were supposed to talk about the economy, Chris Christi, instead conducted a mock trial on Hillary Clinton.
It’s all quite easy to poke fun at. But none of that matters. Not a bit of it.
What matter’s is the singular message reverberating off of the walls of Quicken Loans Arena to the corners of middle America. It’s not subtle. It’s this:
We are scared. And we want to be protected. And we want our government to do it.
It’s a simple, concise, unifying call for a people bathing in fear. It’s a collective that fawns over strong acting men and leaders who talk tough. A people tired of talks of diplomacy and complex solutions to simple-we think-problems. It’s a hard message to counter. And it gets harder with every act of violence. If I were in opposition to that group, it would worry me. And I would be focused on my own message, whatever that is.
I don’t know what the Democratic response is going to be. I’m sure they’ve got rooms full of people crafting it at this very moment. I’m interested. And I’ll be listening. But I’ve got one of my own to give in the mean time. It’s this.
I’m sick of the bullshit tough guy act. It’s a sham. It’s devoid of strength and lacking in conviction. And I’m not scared enough to buy it. And if the other side comes out and tries to follow suit, I’ll tell them the same thing.
I have a few years before my experience in the military is no longer relevant to the specifics of our national political discourse. And when I get there, I’ll retire my opinions to a bar stool at the VFW with the rest of the old guys down there and tell war stories. But until then, I’m happy to whip it out when it’s relevant. When people with no experience running for office talk tough about keeping people safe from terrorism, it’s one of those times.
I was a junior officer on my first deployment when 9/11 happened and a reasonably senior one when my team wrapped up combat operations in Iraq. When we left there, I was a part of a group that was as effective at hunting down and destroying terrorist networks as just about any in the world. So I understand the mechanics of keeping a population safe from complex terrorist networks. It’s why I know that the tough talk, is just talk.
I don’t do that work any more-or anything like it. My time was up. So I serve America in a different way now. With my words as a private citizen. I’ll take this opportunity to give you some of them to make two points.
The first is this. Be wary of people who fight for a living telling you what’s good for the country. Don’t discount it. But be wary. Because when you’re a hammer, the world looks like a nail. People trying to stoke the fires of fear have been using them through history as shining castles of safety to run to. Sometimes it’s the right call. Sometimes it’s not. So be wary.
The second is that I hope I never, ever have to see it come to the point where we actually need to get “tough” on terrorism here, in America. Stopping terrorists, the way you need to in order to make us measurably more safe then we are now, is actually a pretty simple game. It’s really just about making the holes in your net small enough. Right now, the groups responsible for keeping us safe, inside our borders at least, have pretty big holes in their nets. It’s not their fault. It’s by design. Because those holes let Americans live their lives, the way American life is intended. And if you make them small enough, so small that we can pretty much guarantee no one ever gets killed by terrorism, I can tell you what that looks like. It’s not American.
Be warned. This is going to get specific. And hearing toughness and specificity can get confusing because those two things tend to diverge on the path of political rhetoric. So here goes. Here’s life with no threat of terrorism:
Every American has no expectation of privacy on any types of communication other than face to face, in their own private residence. Even that is suspect if anything bad ever happened anywhere near there. All immigration into our country stops. Not just from certain places. Borders are closed. From everywhere. Specific religious groups are profiled and watched more closely than others.
Some of you may be starting to like this. Sit tight.
Guns? No. No one has a gun except the government-legally. If you get caught with one illegally, I’m assuming you were part of a group that was up to no good and you’re going on a list. If your money ever ends up going anywhere near someone involved in any terror related activity, you’re going on a list. Intended or not. You’re related to anyone who ever did anything that smells like terrorist activity? You’re going on a list. And that list? Guess what, due process is modified for people on that list. You do the wrong thing and it’s possible you’re going away to a facility for as long as is required to ensure you’re not a threat, without a trial.
We don’t torture. We don’t murder. But we do just about everything else we have to in order to keep America safe. And a lot of us, those willing to sign up and do it, may give our lives.
I could go on. Because there’s more. But you get the point. That’s what “tough” on terrorism looks like. That’s what you have to be willing to do in order to stop all of it. And if you think that none of those things are possible-that it could never happen in America-we’ve done every single one of them as a country to our own citizens, at some point in our history in service to an extreme threat. And every single time we have, we wish we hadn’t. We did it during the first decade of our existence as a country when most of our citizens were born citizens of a country we just fought. We did it when half of the country seceded. And we did it during the largest, deadliest armed conflict in the history of mankind. Those are the times we decided to get “tough” on things that we thought made us unsafe.
Now, you could make the argument that perhaps we don’t need all of that stuff. Maybe we just need to do something. I’ll respond with the fact that the last two terror attacks on our soil were conducted by American citizens, with no criminal record with weapons that were purchased legally. If you’re going to stop that, your net better not have any holes.
You could also make that argument that these are dire times. And dire actions are required. That’s certainly what I heard on the first day of the convention. Consider the following:
Over the past decade, Americans were twelve times more likely to drown in a bath tub than to be killed by terrorists.
While you’re chewing on that, consider this. In 2014, 48,000 people died of drug overdoses. 32,000 people died in car accidents last year. Over 12,000 non-terrorist related murders were committed with a firearm in 2015 alone.
Over the last ten years, we’ve had less then 200 deaths in America from terrorism. I will mourn for every one of them. And I will pray for their families. But I will not fear.
It appears to take incredibly little to scare some incredibly tough sounding people.
“A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” said Alexander Hamilton. Let that one hang for a bit.
If you need to feel tough, then show some toughness. And stand in there fearlessly against the minimal threat of terrorism and live your life like a damn American-the way generations of Americans before you stood in there against much greater threats to defend our way of life during much more dangerous times. Over the beaches at Normandy, on Little Round Top, at Lexington and Concord, etc, etc…
Here’s my tough talk. Leave my rights and my liberties alone. Stop being so damned scared. I left my wife with tears in her eyes in the middle of the night on the beach behind my command in San Diego three weeks after our son had been diagnosed with severe autism. And I did it to go put boot to ass for God and country. I’m not entrusting that type of sacrifice to either one of those frauds from either party.
There’s one other thing I’d like to add. Johnson/Weld 2016. That’s my vote. Give me one honest reason why anyone is better. They may not win. But I’ve given too much to this country, parts of my soul, parts of my family, years gone in shitty burnt out places to go quietly into the night with my vote. It starts now.
CC: Libertarian Party, for distribution to whoever the hell you see fit.