A life of courage, joy and independence.
During my one week visit to the USA I enjoyed many wonderful aspects of the American world view, including the fun-loving, upbeat optimism which seems to characterize our perspective and way of life. Though this quality is indeed alive and well I did notice a widely shared sense of concern and uncertainly regarding what the future might bring. This shouldn’t be surprising given that the nation and much of the world is still struggling with an economic crisis which has caused so many to lose so much in a relatively short period of time. Though I’m relatively ignorant of the current circumstances in the USA due to my removal from day-to-day life (I’ve spent the last decade in Japan) I was concerned by the sense of pending greater disaster and even conspiracy evident in the speech of many. So many people I spoke with and heard on media talked of how things are going to get worse, a position I might agree with based on the evidence of continued economic difficulties, though the words which concerned me most were the description of a coming police state in the USA led by President Barack Obama. I heard open discussion and warnings of concentration camps, suspension of civil liberties and even talk of the stock piling of weapons ammo, coffins and even the purchase of thousands of guillotines by the federal government. These claims came from friends and family as well as broadcast over mass media. I wound up leaving the USA more than a little unsettled by the sense that many in my country legitimately believe that the US is headed for a police state condition.
After returning home I looked into several of the claims I heard and quickly learned that many of these rumors are exaggerations or misinterpretations of facts. The concentration camp rumor appears to be nothing more than a misunderstanding of the purpose and use of new and existing facilities as documented in the following investigative article by Popular Mechanics:
The Evidence: Debunking FEMA Camp Myths
The story of guillotines may be a simple misinterpretation of a government requisition for large paper cutters which are commonly referred to as “guillotines” in the trade. You can read about this in the article below published in the Urban Legends column of About.com.
My simple research revealed that the stock piling of ammunition by federal agencies is something that is really happening, though the reasons appear to be less sinister than one might think as the agencies are simply buying in bulk to save money in tough financial times with the purpose of using the ammo in routine training over multiple years. The article below seems to give some clear evidence of the reason and utility of these purchases.
Homeland Security Explains Plan To Purchase More Than 1.6 Billion Bullets: Buying In Bulk Is Cheaper
With regard to the government laying aside huge numbers of coffins it seems this rumor is founded on nothing more than the fact the companies which manufactures burial supplies sometimes lay aside large quantities of coffins, burial vaults and other materials ahead of future use.
Debunked: FEMA Coffins (plastic grave liners)
As for the tightening of civil liberties, this issue has been active since 9/11 due to heightened security concerns. It also should not be surprising that a Democratic president is attempting to further a more liberal agenda including the socialization of some aspects of civil life.
Some stories I heard turned out to be true, such as the movements being made by the government to gain access to on-line communications such as private email by forcing disclosure through major service providers such as Google and Facebook and the efforts being made to legalize “preventative” detention of American citizens who might be deemed a threat to safety. These are big, and worthy of serious attention and I plan to continue looking into these in order to bring myself up-to-speed on what is happening in my country. All-in-all however, though things are certainly tough in the USA now and are likely to get more difficult in the months and years ahead at least it seems some of the more sinister rumors I heard during my week-long visit are nothing more than that. I’m publishing this blog to share the reality check I found on my own and to solicit the thoughts of others who may have opinions on this topic. I normally do not like to give time to the political rumor mill and conspiracy theory crowds though the sheer volume of such cautions I heard during my time in the USA gave me reason to look into this further, and I’m glad I did.