Be Very Afraid: In the Texas House, the Gun Lobby and the Boston Bombing, the Fear-Mongerers are Winning

So who exactly wants innocent people sent to prison for life? C'mon. You know this one. We all know the answer. It's the same people who think we should toss out the Constitution and put American citizens on trial in military courts.

They're the arm-in-arm allies of terrorists everywhere, the same crowd who want to put guns on the hips of grade school teachers and encourage average citizens to stockpile weapons of mass destruction in their homes.

The Boogeyman Lobby.

This week the Texas House takes up HB 166, the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, named for a man who died in prison for a rape he did not commit. Last time a similar measure came before the House, a majority voted it up, then folded at the knees and took it down again after one guy said looking into mistakes might weaken the justice system.

Weaken it from what? Sending innocent Americans to prison for life or to their deaths? Exactly. Punishing innocent people is a time-honored tradition in Texas, where the clear intention is to terrorize entire populations. Take a look at the faces of the exonerees in Texas in recent years: What particular population do we think the system of deliberate injustice might be aimed at? Can't figure it out? Yeah, right.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham is calling for a military trial for the Boston bomber for the same reason: He thinks snatching away constitutional protections will put fear in the hearts of everybody who even looks like that guy. Hmmm. Might work. But, wait, won't it put fear in the heart of every other American, as well? If we give up our constitutional rights, protections and liberties, won't it be that much easier for some Vladimir Putin-style son of a bitch to come along, steal our money and then lock us all up in prison if we complain?

Yeah. That's a fear. We all get that. But the point here is fear against fear. If we have any sense, we all already have some measure of fear in our hearts, at least wariness. It's a perilous world. But how much fear?

If we are absolutely boot-shaking, lip-trembling, eyeball-spinning crazy afraid of radical Muslim terrorists, domestic ethnic minorities and the New World Order, then mere fear of oppression by a homegrown authoritarian regime may seem like a fair trade-off. All we have to do to stay out of trouble with the authorities is duck our heads, button our lips and kiss their asses.

Well, that, plus we need to not be black. And of course we can't be immigrants or even newly made citizens. Probably we'll be better off not shooting our mouths off about much of anything. Just go to work where they tell us, shut up, go line up for bread in the evening and turn ourselves into clones of the drones in every other authoritarian regime in history and the world.

That's exactly where the Boogeyman Lobby is pushing us. Let's not waste time speculating on their motives. Who cares? We need to focus on their end-game while we still have time. The abandonment of our constitutional rights is an abandonment of faith in civil society and the rule of law, closely related to gun fetishism and the culture of the citizen as barricaded gunman.

When we see the end clearly, we see that the Boston bomber, Lindsay Graham, the Texas legislators who will vote against the Timothy Cole Commission this week and the members of Congress who are killing gun control are all partners in the same machine. All of them urge us to believe we have nothing to believe in but fear itself. All of them want us to be chickenshits who will trade away the core principles of our nation if they will protect us from the boogeyman.

We have to remember why that's a bad trade. Sooner or later Vladimir Putin shows up at your own house, pulls out his bull-horn and announces that the boogeyman is inside. Then what have you won by trading away basic liberty, dignity and respect for the sanctity of human life?

Nothing. You've been conned. Is it a deliberate con, a self-con, an accidental con? When they announce that you're the new boogeyman, you're not going to care what kind of con it was. You got conned, that's all. Big-time.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze