Sunday, April 26, 2009
How should the community defend itself against a persistent threat? Remember the man with infectious TB who defied the Public Health service order restricting his movement and sneaked back into America from Italy via Canada? There was widespread horror at his selfishness, coupled with shock at the realization that the authorities have the right to control a threat. Under the label of Public Health and Safety the government can do almost anything. The Nazi Nuremburg laws were worded as part of the Health Code. Jews were seen as vermin to be sterilized from the body politic and eventually from physical existence. The trick is to retain a government capable of acting to eliminate a real threat without expanding the concept of threats to be so broad as to include the arbitrary Other. Typhoid Mary was locked up against her will because she posed a threat to the community simply by being herself but the threat was real. If the Taliban are a real threat, not I would think a debatable point, then they must be contained or eliminated. We must define our concepts of safety and justice in a manner that draws a distinction between acting against the Taliban and the Nazis acting against the Jews.