July 26, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 317

Vigilance not Vigilantes
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 26--There is a difference between Vigilance and vigilantes.   Vigilant people work with one another to protect their children, and their children’s children’s children.   Vigilantes prosecute on the spot, take the law of “self” into their hands, and pay lip service to the ideal of protecting civilization’s laws of fairness, justice and right action.
         I was thrown for a loop when I read how our Attorney General, John Ashcroft, is moving forward with what is being called America’s “snitch system.”

Carrying the acronym, TIPS, the program is called the Terrorism Information and Prevention System.   Under the Homeland Security Department, the proposed “worker’s corps” will include civilians who volunteer to “spy” on other civilians, and report any “strange behavior” or “susceptibility” to a central data source.
         These “eyes of the government” include truck drivers, port workers, mail carriers and meter readers.    Essentially, the “worker corps” is wide open to any group that wishes to volunteer.    The mission:  to spy on others and report any behavior considered “suspect.”
         Congress is squirming over licensing a group of untrained citizens to spy on other citizens, and risk violating the Constitution and Rights to Privacy.

       Senator Patrick Leahy

       Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is one of the major forces concerned with the TIPS program.  “The program,” he said, “would enlist thousands, even millions, of civilians as TIPS informants to report their suspicions to the Justice Department.  We could be vigilant but we don’t want to be vigilantes,” he added.
         Committee Member, Senator Orin Hatch warned of a potential Orwellian 1984 where neighbors spy on neighbors.  Laura Murphy, director of the A.C.L.U.’s national office calls TIPS a “government-sanctioned peeping Tom” program.  “…people’s  activities, statements, posters in their windows or on their walls, nationality, and religious practices will be reported by untrained individuals without any relationship to criminal activity,” she said.
       Where I depart from the Civilian Work Corps idea of “spying” on others, is the intent of those participate.   Where is the “future of the children” in the equation?   Where are their rights considered?
        Vigilantism is all about satisfying some sore now, finalizing some need for revenge against another, and not pausing to think through the impact of decisions.    “In the heat of the night,” is the cry of the vigilante.
       “For the sake of the children’s children’s children,” is the hue and cry of Vigilance.
       For over two centuries America’s power has been vested in the right of each citizen to “be his or her own boss,” and to have “freedoms” unequaled in the modern world.   Now, we sic upon each citizen another citizen who has the authority to put another citizen “under suspicion.”
       And where is the line drawn between a parent’s actions and a child’s actions?   What if the child promotes Terrorism but the parent doesn’t.  Does the parent snitch on his or her own child and turn in the child to the government?
       And how many mistakes can be made in accusing one of some act of “freedom of speech” or “right to protest” as “subversive?”
       In our zealous effort to keep the “war on Terrorism” alive, we employ the tactics of Terrorism.   Terrorism is based on creating Fear, imposing Intimidation, and driving the public into a state of Complacency, accepting what the “government says” as the final authority.    Complacency strips the individual of the right of his or her Voice, of the freedom to express one’s self.

       All of these Terrorism tools appear to be the hammer of the TIPS program, and the population is the nail.
      On the obverse side of Terrorism is Vigilance.  It promotes Courage, Conviction and Right Action.   It’s not about spying on our neighbors, it’s about enfolding them into a larger, more expansive goal of protecting our children, and their children, and all the children’s children’s children.
      Promoting communities to install the Pledge of Vigilance, and recruiting members of a community to become Citizens of Vigilance, promotes the Courage of individualism to unite.   It promotes the Conviction to stand up for something far beyond the self, and invites one to stop and think before taking any action which might impair, damage or destroy the rights of the children.
       In the midst of a group of Vigilant citizens concerned about all children, a Terrorist has a chance to be assimilated to the larger cause.  In history the three ways to rid oneself of an enemy is to kill him, imprison him or assimilate him. Spying is not one of the options.
        I personally don’t want my meter reader snooping around my living space, trying to “find” reasons to dial a number and put my name on a “dangerous citizen list,” or to think my post person is monitoring my mail, or imagine a truck driver mistaking a towel around my head as a turban and try and run me over.

         Vigilance is not about being a vigilante.   It’s not about spying.  It’s not about secrecy.  It’s all about being open for the future of the children, standing up and being counted by one's peers, not by some government official in a room filled with Terrorist Hunters.
  Let’s hunt Vigilance, not Terrorism.  What we find will be a lot more fruitful for our children.  We can all begin by taking the Pledge of Vigilance below.


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