Freedom to Kill, Right to Live

by Jan Baughman

January 8, 2001



New Year's eve in my neighborhood used to culminate in the sounds of gunfire from a neighboring community known as Redwood Village, an enclave of Redwood City, California. In 1996, the Redwood City police installed the ShotSpotterTM gunshot technology system, which, according to a U.S. Justice Department report (Random Gunfire Problems and Gunshot Detection Systems), "consists of eight acoustic sensors, a central computer located in the Redwood City Police Department's dispatch center, and gunshot detection and location identification software."

"The sensors installed in Redwood Village resemble birdhouses and heating vents and are enclosed in weatherproof containers approximately 1 cubic foot in size. The acoustic sensors detect muzzle blasts from gunfire or other explosions and then transmit the sound of the gunfire via telephone line to a central computer located in a police department dispatch center... Once the sensors detect a sound and transmit the information to the central computer, the ShotSpotter software discriminates against most other community sounds (such as car backfires, jackhammers, thunder, and barking dogs) and pinpoints the location of the gunfire or explosions. Gunshot events are displayed on a computer map in the police dispatch center within approximately 15 seconds of the noise being made. The computer map distinguishes property boundaries, including front or side yards, curbsides, or street corners."

Acoustic sensors and microphones packaged in the form of birdhouses and heating vents. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and safe, doesn't it?

Things have quieted down, or at least taken a new twist, thanks to Big Brother. This New Year's eve was celebrated with firecrackers and not guns, starting around 11:30 p.m. and lasting into the early morning. Yet our 18-month old mutt, Priam, became quite frightened and managed to squeeze his 85-pound body through the cat door to get into the house. He stopped his whining once inside, but paced incessantly up and down the hallway, checking each room quickly, and then starting all over again. There was no reassuring him, and he didn't quiet down until long after the skies became silent. I lay awake wondering what he would be like if we were under attack -- whether by gunfire, cluster bombs, depleted uranium ordnance or carpet bombing. How would my absolute terror and sense of utter powerlessness manifest itself, and what impact would my reaction, layered on top of the horrible noise, have on Priam? How would I explain it to him, and how would I console him if we were still alive? I thought of Aleksandra Priestfield's article, Animals at War, a gut-wrenching description of atrocities committed against animals used as helpless pawns in the name of war. No creature escapes war unscathed.

Being the target of a bombing is something that neither my dog nor I can even begin to imagine. If we could, and if Americans could, would we persist in doing it to others for some higher purpose that is quickly forgotten as soon as we walk away from the destruction we create? We may never know the answer. Meantime, we accept to live in a society in which entire neighborhoods are wired and monitored to keep us safe from the guns we insist on keeping in the name of Freedom. We want the freedom to kill and the right to live. Soon Bush and his cabinet will lobby hard to build up "robust missile defenses" to keep the whole country safe from all of our enemies - the enemies we have created - all the while bombing who knows who.

I've tried to explain all this to Priam, but he just doesn't seem to comprehend.

Happy New Year. Work for peace. Work to help people to stop burying their own humaneness out of fear of invented enemies.



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Related links

Animals at War - by Aleksandra Priestfield

War Against Women and Other Civilians in Yugoslavia: Terror Keyed Triumph of the New Colonialism - by Geoff Berne

...Dream - by Milo Clark

Addendum to ...Dream - by Milo Clark

Freedom to Kill, Right to Live - by Jan Baugman

Depleted Uranium: The Balkans Syndrome - by Gilles d'Aymery

Short Excerpts of I Had Seen Castles - A Novel by Cynthia Rylant



Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath


Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath

Published January 8, 2001
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