...and stole our heart and our soul
Just before Easter, as I stood waiting at the Pittsburgh airport in the interminable security lines that were creeping along at the pace of a terrapin, I said to a stranger from Texas, "Bin Laden won this war."
She smiled. I did not.
I was serious. She just wanted to reach Galveston by nightfall.
That exchange occurred before I was forced to remove my shoes and my belt, placing them -- along with my wallet and change, and along with my Macbook and iPad, in the ubiquitous, ugly grey container. Finally, I raised my arms in a gesture of submissive defiance while being viewed by one of Big Brother's henchmen behind the iron wall.
Yes, we can talk of privacy, but since the 9/11 debacle, we really have little.
In fact, bin Laden destroyed us economically, emotionally, and spiritually. We have little money left, huge debts that occurred primarily because of the action of that Saudi national whom we finally killed in 2011.
Think of how much bin Laden has cost this country. First, we now have a new agency (Dept. of Homeland Security) with thousands of employees, along with a department that we never heard of prior to 9/11: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA employees can wave wands at every part of our body and pat us down in embarrassing ways or in private places, all under the guise of protecting our Homeland Security.
As a patriot, we must submit to their requests.
Second, our country started a war shortly after the carnage wrecked on 9/11 -- the longest in our history, one that still continues to take place in a distant, forlorn wasteland. Our government then initiated another war a few years later, one that had nothing to do with bin Laden.
Together, those wars have cost more than a trillion dollars thus far, with thousands of our special military personnel giving their precious lives in that effort. It also resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, albeit ones that Americans hardly even considers today.
All to secure our homeland.
In addition, our country has made millionaires from owners of companies that never existed until our government decided to outsource good government jobs to private contractors.
Enter Booz Allen, the employer of Edward J. Snowden. This 29-year-old contract employee of just three months was able to access top-secret documents that outlined exactly how the government has gained access to the personal information of each of us and is storing it away -- all in the name of our patriotic duty.
Some call Snowden a patriot, others a traitor.
The reality is that Booz Allen has only one customer: the U.S. government. In fact, the company earned $1.3 billion last year from the government just on intelligence work http://www.nytimes.com="" 2013="" 06="" 10="" us="" booz-allen-grew-rich-on-government-contracts.html="">.
Booz Allen should be banned from ever earning another government contract.
That will never happen.
In the year of 1984, I remember assigning the George Orwell novel 1984 to a high school class and laughing about it. saying, "Hopefully, we will never become the society detailed in this work of fiction. Even the Soviet Union was never really this bad."
Never did I believe that this would happen in America -- the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Yet, here we are expressing outrage at the government that we provided with the power to intrude into our lives after passage of the Patriot Act almost 12 years ago. If politicians are so outraged by Snowden's act and are not really providing some faux vituperation in this latest debacle, then just ask them as a body: Repeal the Patriot Act.
That will never happen.
Finally, Bin Laden has stolen from us what is most precious: Our heart and our soul, what we thought we stood for as a democracy, those intangible rights that Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence and James Madison protected in the Bill of Rights.
Remember Abu Graib.
Those rights, ones that went to the core of our being, are gone forever.
Bid Laden eventually lost his life -- but he won the war.