No One Ever Looks Up

Copyright © by Len Holman, 6/25/13


  Jimmy Hoffa remains missing.  He has been gone for almost 40 years and his body has been dug for in almost as many places as the stories of his whereabouts contend he lies:  under the end zone in Giants Stadium, in a crushed and compacted car, in the sea, in the cornerstone of some building—many buildings—in some city somewhere, and the latest—a field in rural Detroit where, the FBI imagined it had “credible information” that good old Jimmy was taking a dirt nap.  The so-called tip came from a reputed Mafia captain, Tony Zirilli (now an author and still alive), whom the FBI supposed, were certain, knew the “truth” about Hoffa. 

  Alas, after several days of digging and after several days of breathless news stories, nothing was found but dirt.  This is a metaphorical look into that most human behavioral tick of looking around at the ground and no higher than at eye level.  We rarely look up to discover anything menacing, but that is going to change: the FBI has finally, reluctantly, grudgingly, acknowledged that it selectively uses drones in the United States.  For those who have not been keeping up with current events, we are all under the metal sky of surveillance.  FBI director Mueller says the agency only does it under the supervision of the FAA and only in extraordinary cases, as in the case of the little boy held in a bunker in Alabama.  There is, apparently no end to the uses a drone may be put, including delivering pizza, or carrying sushi to customers in a restaurant.  But when you are going to Wal-Mart to get a lawn chair, you might want to look up and see if there is something above you that’s not a cloud, something which looks like a strangely-shaped chunk of metal—if you can see anything at all. 

  Soon, very soon, drones will be as much a part of the day-and nighttime sky as smog, stars, and gnats.  We will begin to develop new habits of looking up, as they already do in Pakistan or Afghanistan or wherever America is peeking, and beginning now, Americans are peeking at…well, Americans.  Imagine the wonderful technology which can be—and no doubt will be—packed into an American drone overhead:  thermal vision, of course, so if you have a bad sunburn or got too much Ben-Gay on your sore muscles after working out, expect a visit from the Feds.  There will be X-Ray scopes, certainly.  Make sure to wear appropriate underwear at all times, as it is well known that terrorists and their honeys wear revealing thongs and bikini wear and that doesn’t even count the pervs controlling the drones flying over the swimming pools in Beverly Hills and Calabasas. 

  There will be “sniffers” which can detect not only radioactive material, but anything dangerous, like a flatulent tourist in Brandon, Missouri or an angry skunk stopping a line of visitors in the Redwood forest of Northern California.  These drones will have Hubble-like telescopic lenses which will see you being naughty or nice, and will presumably report to someone about who you patted on the butt or what color your vibrator is.  And of course, there will be the most sensitive microphone technology, and tax-payer dollars, can produce, so that every fevered whisper in the dark, every cuss word against the President’s policies, every sympathetic comment about the Tea Party or the NRA will be monitored, stored and held for further inspection.  Every time you sit in a park or in your car and troll the Internet or your Twitter account, you’ll be screened, and this will become a regular part of American life. 

  Americans, however, don’t seem to be that interested or concerned about all of this, if the latest polls can be believed.  Either they don’t believe they are entering a new age of little—or no—privacy, and are quite willing to allow their own private world to erode—just as long as they can be continued to be supplied with round after round of newer, shinier, more personally intrusive electronic toys.  When people use these things, they never look up and in classrooms and churches and weddings and family picnics and while just walking on the street, they look intently into the bright, colored, lighted faces of their companions.  The President is just continuing an old tradition, going back way past Bush I and II, which says, “Not on MY watch!” 

  And “Running for President isn’t at all the same as BEING the President!”  A person can criticize what a sitting President is doing—playing to the voters, mostly, but when he (or she) comes to sit in that padded chair in the oval office for the first time, the immensity of the job begins to really hit home.  And so it is for Obama, who must continue to wage—not just a global war (that would be taxing enough), but a war against those who are here in this country and who communicate with those inside and outside America.  What’s the choice?  Obey the spirit of the bill of rights, or go for the gold (the next election), where the Democrats can demonstrate they are no longer the party of weak foreign policy?  So we will, as a group, not look up, not bother to look up, and slowly, but inexorably slide into the Era of Surveillance, and who knows where that will lead?  Maybe we won’t look up because we don’t WANT to know.


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