WASHINGTON — After a recent attempted terrorist attack set off a debate about full-body X-rays at airports, a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll finds that Americans lean more toward giving up some of their liberty in exchange for more safety.
The survey found 51 percent of Americans agreeing that “it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”
At the same time, 36 percent agreed that “some of the government’s proposals will go too far in restricting the public’s civil liberties.”
The rest were undecided or said their opinions would depend on circumstances.
I don’t know how accurate these polls are, but there’s precious little reason to doubt the overall results. Any time I mix and mingle with broad swathes of My Fellow Americans, I’m noisily reminded that everything I read, watch, blog about, or read others blog about, all of it - everything - when taken together, constitutes a very, very slim minority of opinion in this country. It’s probably common sense to most everyone reading this that the whole liberty versus security dichotomy is false. When you give up your liberties you are giving up your security. But that’s not common sense to people who watch Entertainment Tonight, or American Idol, or When Animals Attack, or people who laugh at the commercials during the Superbowl, play the Lotto, eat at TGI Friday’s, wear their hats sideways and/or still play video games after attaining the age of fifteen. In short, a solid majority of Americans.
The great, big roly-poly 51 percent cited in the poll don’t care about constitutional liberties because the don’t use or need them. Why would someone who doesn’t read care about freedom of the press? Why would someone who doesn’t have anything meaningful or original to say care about freedom of speech? Why would someone who’s never stepped foot in a public library care about the privacy of those of us who do and who don’t want our records scrutinized by the FBI? Answer, they don’t. Give them a tub full of buffalo wings and a plasma screen TV, and you can chuck the Constitution in the trash for all they care.
And there’s no point in arguing. Their minds, such as they are, are made up. When someone looks you in the eye and says they don’t mind if police come rummaging through their homes and bodily orifices “because they haven’t done anything wrong and don’t have anything to hide,” further conversation is pointless. You may as well teach calculus to an ice plant.
The only hope from the breakdown in this poll comes from those undecided ones whose answers “depend on circumstances.” Once they get strip-searched by a squad of special-ed goons at the airport — many of whom are themselves probably violent felons — they’ll probably join the blessed 36 percent of us who oppose further encroachments on our freedoms, because if there’s one thing we hate more than insecurity, it’s inconvenience.