I have to admit: I don’t normally read the e-mails from the Farm Bureau. I probably should pay more attention to rural politics, but I’m really just in it for the car insurance. And I’ve selected that provider for the most Iowan of reasons possible: My agent goes to church with my family back home. But when I read in one of their updates that U.S. Representative David Young (R-Iowa) had gotten a bill through the House to devote a portion of our nation’s Homeland Security efforts to something called “agro-terrorism,” I perked up. The Securing Our Food & Agriculture Act passed the House last month and its Senate companion – S. 500 – is pending before the Homeland Security Committee.

There were several noteworthy pieces of legislation passed in the 11th hour of President Barack Obama’s administration that flew almost entirely under the radar. The most alarming concerns controlling how information will be filtered then disseminated to the public.

Readers are urged to familiarize themselves with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA), signed December 23, as it relates to your personal security (RCReader.com/y/radar1). It includes a most disturbing new provision with the Countering Foreign Propaganda & Disinformation Act of 2016 (RCReader.com/y/radar2) that was slipped into the NDAA bill as a matter of political convenience.

The entire purpose of the language of terrorism is to cloak the sentiments of war in a victim rhetoric. You see, France isn't "at war"; it's merely responding to "terror" attacks. Those wretched, vile gunmen are not warriors or soldiers; they're madmen, lonewolf terrorists.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo's office on January 7 might otherwise be considered an invasion, an attack from outside forces France has declared war on. But war is far too brutish for the 21st Century, where of course violence is on an inevitable downturn and world peace is just around the corner if not for a few meddling terror cells.

Calling such events "terrorism" is just a way of de-familiarizing people with the concept of war. No matter what, an attack on any Western nation's soil is terror, wholly undeserved, never the result of an ongoing worldwide conflict but merely the work of crazed individuals.

(Editor's note: This essay is a response to this commentary.)


The scene in Boston on April 18 and 19 was awesome.

By that, I don't mean it was cool. Rather, the mass law-enforcement action to shut down the city and search for the brothers Tsarnaev was "awesome" in the dictionary sense of "awe": "dread ... and wonder that is inspired by authority."

In his commentary in the May 2 issue of the River Cities' Reader, John W. Whitehead announces that the situation showed that "the police state has arrived." Certainly, anybody who's doubted warnings about the police state should have been struck by the swiftness, scope, coordination, and force of law-enforcement actions those two days following the bombs that exploded at the April 15 Boston Marathon. Even though television viewers didn't see much beyond reporters breathlessly saying that something was happening, it was readily apparent that the combined resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement are a fearsome instrument that can be unleashed quickly and without regard for rights.

So if you have the misfortune of seeing your picture above "Suspect Number 1" or "Suspect Number 2" on TV, I hope you did something truly evil, as this is the man- and firepower you'll face. And if you decline to let police search your home in a scenario similar to what happened in Boston, good luck.

But this was not a "police state" as most people think of it - a brutal, proactively oppressive regime. It would be more accurate to say that the Boston metro area on April 18 and 19 was a vivid demonstration of our potential for a police state through a single, short-lived, but widespread instance of de facto martial law.

Yet it was also a visible reminder of a more persistent underlying condition: the security state that has been built steadily in the United States since September 11, 2001. It's ostensibly designed to prevent terrorist attacks, but it proved last month that it's much more adept at responding to them.

Boston showed what our police state could look like. Now we need to decide whether it's what we want.