The battle between "Then" and "Now" is one I can join on either side. When the "Now" crowd gets too strident about women being chattel then and blacks being second-class citizens back then I might jump in and point out that back then we never locked our front doors and we left the unlocked car sitting by the curb with the keys in the ignition. When the "Then" people get too rhapsodic about the utter absence of drugs and the breath-taking rarity of teen pregnancy in the good old days I might jump in and spotlight the wonders of modern medicine and cellphones.
There's one area of now-versus-then that broke through into the headlines in mid-2008 that should bring all argument to a halt followed by deep meditation on the part of all who love America and want to defend it.
According to news reports, increasing numbers of Arab-Americans and other American Muslims are getting jobs relatively high up in sensitive U. S. government agencies and alarming numbers have been caught using their positions to spy on America and ferret out American secrets for the benefit of forces that openly seek America's destruction. That makes me wonder who is watching the "security store" and how they do their job these days. Let me tell you how they did it back then.
I served in the American Army during the Korean War as a Russian translator for an American intelligence agency that's become quite famous in recent years, the National Security Agency. The agency, of course, did background checks on all individuals employed by the agency, civilian as well as military.
I was not given a full security clearance. I was only given a partial clearance. The badge all of us were required to wear at all times had to be fully visible to all the many government eyes checking us as we came and went and moved from one section of the work space to another. My badge had a bold black slash running diagnonally from upper left to bottom right indicating I only had a partial clearance and my movements within the agency were restricted to those areas that didn't require a full clearance.
If I finished some work that colleagues in certain other parts of the building needed I couldn't deliver it myself. I'd have to wait by the gate until someone with a full clearance came along who would take the material to the proper person inside the restricted area. There weren't many of us with the "bar sinister" and it admittedly felt a little funny walking around officially branded as "not quite trustworthy" by the government I loved and served. (Today that feeling would be described, not as "funny," but as "humiliating, devastating and causative of overwhelming pain and mental anguish!")
Now, what could the problem possibly have been for a 23-year-old native-born American boy from North Carolina, an Eagle Scout and a volunteer for military service who'd never had any brush with the law or any suspicious association with real or potential enemies of the United States and who, moreover, was an outspoken anti-communist who wrote blistering anti-communist articles for his college paper and later his hometown paper and whose favorite magazine was the Reader's Digest, then a militant handbook for English-speaking anti-communists?
The background checks performed on us back then in 1953 went all the way back to our parents and grandparents. My parents were both born in the American south. All four of my grandparents, however, were from eastern Europe. Not a single one of my grandparents had ever spent one day in a communist country. However, they were all born and lived in countries that later became communist!
Someone in my position angry about being "discriminated" against today might ask, "Why should I be singled out as not-quite-reliable when my grandparents left their homelands fully 20 years before they become communist. And the answer which I agree is utterly correct from a security if not a politically-correct point of view is; "How can we be sure that cousins, uncles or other relatives that survived the Holocaust weren't ardent communists working for their communist governments and staying in touch and exchanging information with my side of the family in America whose real political sympathies were not readily ascertainable?"
An exasperated "victim" of that partial-clearance stigma today might then wail, "For cryin' out loud, the FBI would know it if anybody in my family were to get one postcard, much less a stream of letters from any communist country!"
And, again, the watchdogs who put a black slash through my security badge in 1953 would win the argument by pointing out that a communist operative seeking to maintain contact with sympathizers in America during the Cold War would't write directly. Those up to serious mischief would use mail-drops in neutral countries like Sweden, Switzerland, India, Jordan, Egypt or a dozen elsewheres and get their replies from cooperating agents in America by the same devious routes.
Put me down as an "Uncle Tom" to American security procedures. My civil liberty juices may have been flowing insufficiently strongly, because the only times I ever resented being branded as only "partially" cleared was when I got cold waiting for a fully-cleared colleague to take my work to areas where I was forbidden to go.
Obviously I know nothing about how the screening and clearing of Arab and Muslim personnel takes place today where security issues are important, but that doesn't keep me from suspecting the worst! I actually fear and suspect the entire process is hostage to political correctness. I visualize frustrated professional and patriotic security officials being side-tracked, scolded, disciplined and even discharged for offending the sensitivities of Arab and Muslim job applicants by all their aggressive and intrusive questioning, every jot and tittle of which necessarily implies suspicion of some kind.
Can we make a deal? I'll leave my car keys in the ignition like we did in the 1950s. I'll leave my front door unlocked like we did in the 1950s. I'll accept your handshake instead of your signature like we did in the 1950s.
All you have to do is give my America the thorough and effective security scrutiny we did in the 1950s.
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