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News ::
The Cry of Wolf (english)
02 Jun 2003
Must be all that sunshine...
Are we stupid? Often times we appear to be. That's part of our humanity. Even when we look that way, looks can be deceiving. Just because you see a man slip on a banana peel should not indicate to you that he is particularly clumsy. But labels do stick; if they didn't, nobody would use them. But you know the truth. You have a pretty good measure of your own mental capabilities. You know you're not stupid (whether you are or not - that's one of the more unsettling traits of true stupidity).

Over the weekend, the state of Arizona took a stride ahead of the pack. Listen carefully to these words, and if you happen to be a 'Zonie, your chest should puff up just a little bit. For the rest of you, the aspirin is in the medicine cabinet: "I believe that, based upon our own intelligence, I'm of the mind-set that we don't have to follow suit."

Those are the words of Frank Navarette. He's talking about the farce that is Homeland Security. "It creates incredible problems: overtime, financial, functional... It's not quite to the point where it creates havoc, but it's quite disruptive." He ought to know, because he is Arizona's homeland security czar. And quite frankly he is saying he has heard enough of the federal government wailing about a wolf that isn't there.

Tom Ridge takes his end of the bargain a lot more seriously than does his State-employed counterpart, but that's due to the fact that his boss is George W. Bush. But Frank Navarette, who should be admired by Arizonans and everyone else for his stance on this issue, is an employee of the people he serves. And he is saying that the next time Ridge pulls the string that makes the national Homeland Security Advisory System change colors from Yellow to Orange, we'll likely ignore it.

It's different out here. We have a mighty history of bloodshed in this state; we gave you the OK Corral, and the Hatfields and McCoys, not to mention Geronimo. Even the USS Arizona took lives with her when she went down at Pearl. And the government, while it has tried to modernize its ways, means and buildings, understands that, when it comes to being a secure homeland, this is it.

This is the state that has armed militias riding shotgun on the Mexican border. This is the place with the self-proclaimed Toughest Sheriff in America. This is the capitol city that pinned a medal on a citizen for shooting a criminal who had just killed a cop. In Switzerland, the government mandates that every house have a machine gun in it; in Arizona, the government didn't have to. They did have to make it a felony to randomly fire the weapons off in the air (for the Fourth of July, New Years Eve, pig-roasts, stuff like that), because a teenage girl was killed standing on her back steps by a bullet that fell from the heavens above.

We understand what the rest of America needs to understand. Bad things happen to good people every day. We have Africanized killer bees here; did you know that? Last week, fire ants killed a baby in a crib. Mosquitoes in some of Tempe's man-made water features have tested positive for Yellow Fever and encephalitis. Those are the things that are too small to shoot.

Then there are the traffic fatalities. And the dozens of children who toddle into pools and drown each year. Hanta virus. Heat stroke. So you can see how terrorist alerts might not bother us all that much. The way Navarette sees it, the Orange Alerts (not to be confused with the Amber Alert) pertain mostly to targets of opportunity, in places like Washington D.C. and New York City, where terrorists have been known to strike. He sees no reason to go along with a gigantic, Republican-built fear-mongering machine. From his perch in government service, he sees that for what it is, which is the largest un-funded mandate in the history of national politics.

Why, then, does it exist? Because a scared electorate will vote for the incumbent, who will woo the people with promises of security, and will wow them with footage of our military might in action. Because a scared electorate will vote for the guy who most acts like a cowboy, one that they feel will act out of a courage that they wish they had. While Arizona does not have a scared electorate, it does have a voting population that was pretty evenly split at the last big election (Bush beat Gore by 72,000 votes), and who just elected a Democrat to the Governor's office.

But a scared electorate will also stay home. They'll sit on their cash, no matter how much of it they "get to keep", because they don't know what's coming next (in Arizona's case, we just don't care). That hurts the economy, of course, and the cycle spirals downward for all of us. So the Republicans are betting, again, that fears of national security will be seen as a trump card over the fact that the economy is in tatters. They make no secret of this strategy, which represents only the worst that politics has to offer. We've seen them do it in their charge up the road to Baghdad as well.

At least here, the message is finally wearing thin. We can only hope that our immunity to fear might spread and take hold across the rest of America.
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