I Sit On the Fence (Where do you stand?)

Oct 9, 2002 (Updated Oct 16, 2002)

The Bottom Line What we demand is what we get, and what we reject becomes obsolete. Now is the time for self-examination.

I sit on the fence – Torn between the principles of the First Amendment, and the sad realization that some things are better left unsaid, unknown and unexplored. Where do we draw the line? Is it possible to maintain a balance between our right to know, and our right to privacy, safety and security? As we draw closer to the inevitability of war with Iraq, aren’t these questions we need to examine?


At no other time in history has information and communication been so instantaneous. With the push of a button, in seconds, we can send greetings, photos, and money half way around the globe. This new technology, and the ability to be on top of everything, anywhere in minutes, has created a beast akin to Audrey II, (a la, Little Shop of Horrors) demanding to be fed. This insatiable hunger has the press and news media, scrambling at every turn to come up with bolder, more intrusive, more sensational fodder to temporarily satisfy our ever-increasing parasitic appetites. With access to over 2 gazillion channels, with cable, satellite, and the Internet, we have become a demanding lot, exercising unlimited power with that dreaded monster, the “remote control”. God forbid we should be bored for 2 seconds, and that is becoming easier and easier, as we become more jaded and desensitized with each exposure.

But where do we draw the line? Certainly we don’t want to return to the time when government went about its business, acting on covert policies, with which most Americans would have disagreed. Although I am sure there are still a great number of things taking place about which we have no knowledge, this new age of technology has taken the wind out of the sails of many of these surreptitious operations.

However, on this eve of impending war, I question how much I want or need to know. Is it necessary for me to know what day and time 2,000 marines will be dropped off at the Iraqi border? Do I need to know exactly which bombers they will be using, and what weaponry they will be carrying? Certainly, if I am watching it unfold on CNN, WNBC, FOX and local news, someone in Iraq, who is not so sympathetic to our cause is sitting at a PC, television or radio, and knows as well – This troubles me. So I ask, “Is it possible to be told too much?”

What brought all of this to mind were the recent sniper shootings in Maryland where I live. I don’t know how closely you have followed this unfortunate series of events, but just today, October 9, 2002, the press leaked what police officials consider to be pertinent information concerning evidence found at the scene of the last shooting. This over zealousness on part of the press, I blame largely on the Audrey II theory – The insatiable appetite of the general public – Needing to know, or rather, ‘feed me’, ‘feed me!!!’

While I am sure despite this information leak, sooner than later this horrific series of crimes will be solved, I question the mentality and the climate, which fostered the hunger that led to such a leak. I seriously question whether too much of anything, including information, is in our best interests. The Maryland shootings, though unfortunate, so far involve less than a dozen lives; war involves the lives of thousands. I’d hate to think our obsessive need to know would promote the leaking of pertinent information, which may place so many of those lives in harm’s way.

And so, I sit on the fence – As a writer, my very soul inextricably tied to the First Amendment, but as a human being, my heart and mind morally and ethically tied to the responsibility that comes with the invocation of that right. How many of you have pondered this dilemma and come to a conclusion? And how many of you, like me, find yourselves, legs swinging to and fro, hands holding on for dear life, trying to maintain your balance as you sit waiting, frightened and confused – On the fence?

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