What are we afraid of? It’s hard to say from this letter to the editor in my morning paper, whose author seems to think there are all sorts of dangerous activities going on that we good citizens aren’t reporting with sufficient avidity to the police state:
“See something, say something,” goes a Homeland Security commercial encouraging people to report things seen/heard (even by your children, they are more observing than given credit for) even if you think or dismiss the observation as “nothing.”
As good citizens and good people, I encourage you to make these “nothing” reports to the authority agencies (local police/sheriff’s department, FBI, U.S. Marshals, fire department, etc.) to check these out. Do not play amateur detective yourself; you can put yourself in danger and/or contaminate the scene. These agencies have the taxpayer funds, responsibilities, tools and evolving knowledge if “nothing” is actually something that put people and property in danger by foreign or domestic terrorists.
How many lives could have been saved/spared in Las Vegas or the Boston Marathon, to name just two in the last 16 years since the Twin Towers went down in New York City in 2001, if someone had just spoken up and out about “nothing”?
The next horrific occurrence could happen here in South Dakota: Mount Rushmore, the Oahe Dam system, another week’s worth of notable concerts in Sioux Falls, the Brown County Fair, your child’s prom, the yearly fireworks at Wylie Park celebrating our freedoms on the Fourth of July. Nothing and no time is actually no longer fully safe/safer without our cooperative attentions, awareness and reportings about “nothing.”
Be brave. Be a good citizen. Turn your “wishbone” into a “backbone”! Speak out — God is watching [Patricia Myrmoe, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2017.10.17].
There’s an interesting psychic tension Myrmoe’s central use of the word “nothing.” She points to no specific threat. She points to no evidence of terrorist activity in South Dakota. She points to no specific example of actionable evidence wishbony people saw but remained spinelessly silent about in Boston or Las Vegas. The writer’s mock quote marks are out of place: she seems to be talking quite literally about nothing and trying to manufacture it into “something” to justify a constant and overwhelming fear of terrorists around every corner.
Maybe this call to constant collective surveillance and calls to the state security apparatus is better applied to other visible threats to out social fabric.
Maybe Aberdonians need to screw up the courage to call out the rank racism of last week’s letter to the editor calling for putting “people of other cultures” on “a couple of buses and send them to the penitentiary.” Maybe that letter isn’t “nothing” but actually a signal that local white supremacists are planning terrorist acts against Aberdeen’s minority population.
Maybe Aberdonians should report Senator Neal Tapio’s rabble-rousing accusation that the Chamber of Commerce, the Aberdeen Development Corporation, and the mayor of Aberdeen are working with the Muslim Brotherhood and his call for “boldness.” Maybe that rhetoric isn’t “nothing” but really evidence of a planned violent uprising against our local government.
Maybe Aberdonians should report Senator Al Novstrup to the police for his silence about accusations of sexual harassment and assault in Pierre and a Capitol culture of misogyny, along with Novstrup’s resistance to a rule prohibiting legislators from having sex with interns. Maybe that silence isn’t “nothing” but really a signal that Novstrup is part of a patriarchal plot to keep South Dakota women from enjoying equal political power.
Boy, this business of turning “nothing” into “something” is all sorts of fun! And, unlike the above letter-writer, I’m actually starting from something, real statements on the record, and real apparent threats to rational, neighborly, and just social order.
But hey, rather than address real social harms, let’s keep looking for bogeymen under the bed and at the Oahe Dam. (I have wondered: wouldn’t the Pactola or Sheridan dam make more cost-effective terrorist targets? smaller dams, easier to blow up, causing destruction in a larger city? Or would a sudden Oahe burst washing away state government create more chaos? Or is my even asking that question a “nothing” that folks with backbone need to report to the Thought Police doubleplusquick?)