Yesterday (Monday, April 2, 2012) the US Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision on the legality of strip searches in jails and prisons.

strip searchThe news is not good for anyone who gets arrested – guilty or not – and proves that the precept of “innocent until proven guilty” is sinking beneath the surf of paranoia that has marked the last decade, and has been a dark underbelly of the American character since Columbus landed all those moons ago.

Which leads me to reflect on the fact that it appears that the more open and social global society becomes, the more paranoid some sectors of society in turn become.

Look at the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin incident in Sanford, Florida. Would Martin have been in danger of being pursued and shot by a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer if it were not for some serious societal paranoia that drove Zimmerman to feel that he needed to wander the streets strapped with a 9 mil?

Full disclosure: I’m a gun owner. Additional full disclosure: if someone breaks into my house when I’m there, they run a risk of getting a face-full of lead. However, I don’t walk in paranoia when walking the streets of the city where I live. And I didn’t on the streets of New York City for the 27 years I walked there, even though I often found myself in dangerous places because of my work in TV news.

The Kinks song “Destroyer” says it all:

Silly boy you got so much to live for
So much to aim for, so much to try for
You blowing it all with paranoia
You’re so insecure you self-destroyer

Paranoia, the destroyer
Paranoia, the destroyer

As a culture, I think we need to take a long hard look at how we view our fellow citizens, and how we react to their presence in our vicinity. How do you tell if someone “belongs” in your community? Is it based on clothing, demeanor, skin color, language, the car they drive, what?

If your negative-perception radar is pinged simply because someone looks different than you, or different from what your definition of “normal” is, what does that mean about you? Does it mean you’ll shoot a dwarf who walks down your street because s/he is different?

Think about it. Your behavior could lead to a strip search … of you.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it …

Paranoia: American as apple pie. And gunpowder.
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