How Gary Cooper can save us (from Mayor Daley, among others)

Here are the four ways we'll know that Americans are regaining their sanity about "Homeland Security"

1) When some politician has the guts to stop using the hideous term Homeland Security, or "Homeland" itself.

Forming the Department of Homeland Security was a mistake, but if it had to exist there was no reason not to use the normal American term Domestic Security rather than the 1984-ish "Homeland." The Libertarians are wrong about a lot, but they are completely correct in saying (as Thomas DiLorenzo does on the Libertarian site, while commenting on a book by James Bennett of George Mason University):

the very name "Homeland Security" has an obvious echo of "fatherland," as Professor Bennett ominously points out. "Americans have never used the word 'homeland' to describe their country" anywhere and at any time. The very word is un-American and reeks of fascism.

2) When politicians are laughed at, rather than listened to, for blowing every mishap of modern life into a security threat or a warning about the need always always always to live in fear of "the terrorists." Setting aside the Bush Administration, the current Mayor Daley, of Chicago, has been the worst offender in this regard. The AOPA -- a lobbying group for small-plane owners and pilots -- is also wrong about a lot, but its president, Phil Boyer, is completely correct in pointing out the fatuousness of Daley's reaction to the Cory Lidle crash in New York City. Happily, the Chicago Sun-Times agreed, calling Daley's over-reaction "Rubbish." My college contemporary, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, has run Daley a close race in his reaction to a lot of these incidents; at least he, unlike Daley, comes from a city that actually has been attacked.

3) When media outlets stop and ask, "Wait a minute, does this make any sense at all???" before unleashing 24/7 coverage of the latest "threat." The latest example is of course the "plot" to attack numerous NFL stadiums all at once. (In Mayor Daley's dreams, the attacks would have been via coordinated squadrons of Cessna 172's.) In a posting called "Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid," Bob Orr of CBS explained how and why the scaremongering coverage magnifies whatever damage a threat might pose.

4) When Americans act like, well, Americans in their public response to the certainty that their nation will face a long-term risk of political violence. Who created the imagery of how Americans responded under stress? Humphrey Bogart, as Rick Blaine. Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart, in almost any role they played (as I have argued elsewhere). When did we become a nation of ninnies? Yes, there are dangers in modern life. But to put it mildly, this is not the first generation to be imperiled. (By starving, being eaten by a bear, being scalped if you were a white settler, being killed by small pox if you were an Indian, being lynched if you were black, being dismembered in a factory, being shot as you stormed Normandy Beach, and so on.) We don't look back on those hardships as having created a culture of fraidy cats. The British like to think that they endure hardship with the spirit of Winston Churchill, not Mr. Bean. We'd be better off acting like Gary Cooper, not PeeWee Herman.

PS: For voices of sanity in this whole discussion, seek out works by Benjamin Friedman of MIT, such as this and this, and of course recent books by profs John Mueller and Ian Lustick.