Citizen First-Responders: Models For Responsible Democracy
I write a lot of critical things about militarism, our unnecessary wars and our growing surveillance/police state. So it was heartwarming to watch the videos and listen to the stories from the Boston Marathon bombing about civilian “first-responders” who chose not to flee but to wade into a very messy situation.
It's clear that quick action by some very ordinary citizens -- people without badges or weapons -- made the difference between three dead and seven or eight dead. For me, such civilian involvement in incidents like this presents a model for an alternative to the malignant post-911 world we now live in. Driven by fear, suspicion and secrecy, officialdom and police agencies have too often become remote agencies of great suspicion themselves.
It's true the FBI and the immense fusion of surveillance, police and military elements that effectively declared martial law in Boston did run to ground the bombers in incredibly short time. Very impressive. It's the collateral damage that scares me, the passivity of those without badges, uniforms and weapons in the face of an arrogant blitzkrieg of police and military self-aggrandizement and mission overkill.
We would all benefit if the impulse toward secrecy was discouraged and more information could be shared with the American public. This doesn’t mean an FBI or police investigation should be transparent and media TV trucks should follow cops doing their investigative work. It would require citizens to step up more. What this means is, for the good of the nation, police agencies need to be more vulnerable, since much of what is made secret is not for security reasons but to avoid embarrassment and to cover up unpleasant or even illegal activity by authorities.
The story of my friend Carlos Arredondo is a case in point.
Carlos is a much-touted hero in the Boston bombing for his quick and unflinching intervention that saved the life of a man who would have very quickly bled to death from devastating wounds to his legs. I know Carlos through Veterans For Peace. Ever since his Marine son Alexander was killed in Iraq in 2004, Carlos has dedicated his life to working for peace. As if the loss of one son was not tragedy enough, a second son committed suicide due to depression connected to the loss of his brother in Iraq.