Following the horrific events at the Boston Marathon, Facebook posts revealed an additional horror: many posters were once again willing to abandon civil protections and principles in a vain effort to stop all terrorism.
From extreme conservatives to die-hard lefties, Facebook users suddenly felt that detaining Muslims in Guantanamo for indefinite periods of time without charging them with a crime was just fine. Miranda rights and obstacles to wire-tapping and illegal search and seizure - forget about all that. Let's catch the badguys!
Here are a couple of sample Facebook posts from the past week:
On a CBS report about he Gitmo detainees hunger strike:
"Oddly enough, in a week that has seen terrorist fanatics with Al-Qaeda sympathies and probable links try to blow up a major American city, this from CBS seems remarkably ill-timed. Should point out... that the medical and dental care given to these folks, never mind the regular meals, is probably better than they've lived in their entire lives."
On free speech:
"I think it's time that we start making examples out of terrorists both self proclaimed and those who actually decide to act! Waiting for things to happen is getting old and doesn't prevent the inevitable tragedies that spawn from the cold hearts of these people. If they want to cross that line they forfeit their rights as far as I'm concerned and we should then just erase the line and say "Ok....Game On Then!" and stop them by any means necessary! We should level the playing field before they level more buildings and innocent people!"
I'm reminded of what was truly shocking about Rob Portman's hairpin turn on gay marriage. It was his utter lack of imagination and empathy. He couldn't imagine that every gay child has a parent and that parent would want his child to enjoy all the rights and benefits of citizenship - just like Mr. Portman. Instead, he required direct experience of his own child being gay to understand the obvious.
In much the same way, abhorring the notion of rounding up Muslims across the globe and throwing them in prison without charging them with a crime, should not require a political science degree nor family member wrongfully imprisoned. It should just requires a simple question: What if you were picked up off a street corner in your hometown and locked in a prison for ten years for a crime you did not commit? Is that acceptable or fair? Is it worth the price for the greater good? I do not think anyone would say yes to this scenario.
Terrorism is awful and we must take measures to minimize its possibility. But the greatest threat to our security and future would be to abandon our strict protection of civil liberties and our global position -- despite our many failings and flaws - as among the world's most transparent and principled nations.