I am not afraid of the bogeymen.
This summer, my landlord was arrested for possession of child pornography. My reaction was mixed. Revulsion, yes. Disappointment. Pity. That deep melancholy that accompanies a reminder of the world’s dark corners. I felt a lot of emotions, none of them happy.
But even on the day I found out, when I saw his pathetic mugshot and imagined how fundamentally unsettled the parents in our building must have been to hear the news, even when my blood was hottest, if you had asked me to grant the government wide-reaching powers to capture other people like my landlord… I would have said no.
Sexual predators. Pedophiles. Terrorists. These are the bogeymen they warn us of. “Beware,” they hiss, and they gesture at the dark, foreboding closet as their grip on our shoulder grows painfully tight.
I am not afraid of the bogeymen. What I fear is something else entirely.
“Either You Are With Us, or You Are With the Terrorists”
Bogeymen are neither red nor blue. They are, by their very nature, the epitome of that which we hate and fear. In this grey world of nuance and interpretations, bogeymen are pitch-black shadows, forces of evil so despicable, the only moral choice is to oppose them.
So we do. All of us, and especially our leaders. Politicians trip over themselves in an attempt to appear “tough on crime”. World leaders, savvy to the outcry that arises when they attempt to filter or monitor internet traffic, have instead learned to frame the debate around children, invoking the bogeyman of the pedophile. Across the United States, the vague and nebulous threat of terrorism is given as reason to spy on American citizens, gut the Constitution, and militarize police forces.
Because if you’re not anti-bogeyman, you must be pro-. If you’re not with us, then you’re the enemy. And nobody wants to be the enemy.
What I Fear
Let me tell you what I fear.
I fear a bloated juggernaut of a state, so powerful and enormous that it has no need to respond to the wishes of the people.
I fear a state that finds new excuses every day to disregard the supreme law of the land, a state that creates an ill-defined class of bogeymen and refuses to grant them the rights they deserve.
I fear a state where the distinction between “dissident” and “terrorist” is considered semantics.
I fear a state where police forces respond with oppressive force to non-violent protests and arrest journalists. Where citizens protesting police brutality are shot with rubber bullets, subjected to sonic weapons, stun grenades and tear gas, and intimidated by dogs and sniper rifle-wielding police officers.
— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) August 14, 2014
— David Carson (@PDPJ) August 13, 2014
SWAT just invade McDonald's where I'm working/recharging. Asked for ID when I took photo. pic.twitter.com/FOIsMnBwHy
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 13, 2014
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 13, 2014
— Sebastian Walker (@sebwalker) August 13, 2014
I fear a state that views privacy as not a right, but a pesky obstacle to be circumvented in pursuit of hegemony.
I fear a state so firmly in the pocket of corporations that businesses are valued over people; where corporations’ rights are weighted more heavily than humans’; where “democracy” is a facade sustained by periodic elections and occasional public comment periods.
I fear the police state that citizens rationalize and justify, and the surveillance state that’s regarded as “no big deal”.
See, bogeymen evoke a predictable response. We bare our teeth. We hiss. We step back. I’m not afraid of the bogeyman–I’m afraid of where we’re being herded.
One hand points at the shadows. “Beware,” it says, “beware!”
But I fear the hand on my shoulder.