Something I noticed a great deal while traveling this February was the plentiful soldiers with full combat gear in train stations and airports. I can’t help but look at these guys funny. Who are you trying to stop? To be honest, a wily terrorist is going to look just like the average traveler.

I know proponents of this armed-to-the-teeth security like to claim that if I’m an upstanding citizen, I have nothing to hide from, but we all know this isn’t the case. I’m actually scared shitless of guys like this with guns in train stations where we can’t protect ourselves. It’s not that I don’t trust people, although I guess I don’t, but I don’t trust this as a counter-terror measure. I’m actually terrified of soldiers in these public spaces.

That’s probably bad. Of course I suppose there are people who are content to think that we’re safer because the guy in camo with the submachine gun is looking over our shoulders, but I can’t help but wonder what he would actually do in a crisis: what if someone set off a bomb in London St. Pancras, what would that soldier do? Would he know in advance of the bombing? And since I’m assuming the answer is no, why does he have that huge gun?

I don’t know. Police brutality is something that is a clear threat to me. I am concerned about abuses of power. I don’t think I’m alone on this, but the fact that I found that scarier than terrorism maybe says something about me — or the mentality that the rest of our society holds. The problem is, if you can predict it, it’s not going to happen. I’m not trying to say we don’t need counterterrorism measures, because we sure do. The fewer people who die the better I guess. But on the other hand, what is that gun going to do if there are people bleeding and dying on a train platform? I’m skeptical.

Proponents might claim it makes the public feel safer, but what does that mean? To me, that soldier on the train platform is a symbol of the surveillance economy, of the constant threat of abuse of power by a government in the throes of a war designed to never end. I suppose this sounds kind of nutty, but guns don’t save lives. Guns, even in the hands of trained professionals, always have the potential to turn ugly.

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