Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is Homeland Security Only Important When Violence Committed By Non US Citizens?

From President George W. Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2009, I would have to say the answer is yes. Terrorism and murder committed by foreigners (Muslim or Hispanic mostly according to the rhetoric) is bad and must be fought fully no matter the cost.

Terrorism and murder committed by one US citizen against another? Not so much if general crime prevention funding is our metric. Terrorism and murder committed against women by men who are US citizens? I'll let information about the proposed budget answer this question for me.

Thanks to the Family Violence Prevention Fund for highlighting these budget items.

First a quick and clearly incomplete comparison. According to Dept. of Justice statistics there were on average more than 3 women murdered per day by their husbands or boyfriends in 2005. If those numbers hold steady for 2002 through 2007 that is over 6500 women who have been murdered since the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 which killed approximately 3000. If we add in the number of children who have been murdered by fathers or stepfathers, the non-foreign terrorist death toll goes up even more. This doesn't count the violence by US citizens who decide to go to a local mall and open fire.

Those who are terrorized or murdered by US citizens shouldn't be less important to our legislators than those terrorized or murdered by non-US citizens who kill out of a general hatred for what the US symbolizes to them. Just because it is easier for politicians and citizens to demonize non-US citizens whose first language is different from ours doesn't make this demonization right. It also doesn't make this demonization accurate or effective at violence prevention.

The whole process of demonization is counterproductive since it surrenders all attempts to understand the process of how and why people turn violent. This makes fortification our only viable prevention strategy when it may be our weakest defense.

For those who think a focus on combatting sexual and domestic violence hurts men they should know that the rate of men being murdered by intimate partners has dropped by 75% between 1976 and 2005 (1304 to 329) while the rate of women murdered by intimate partners has dropped by just over 25% (1587 to 1181) between 1976 and 2005. Going back to 1976 murder rates will have a much more negative impact on men than it will on women.

For those who insist that this comparison is meaningless then you also should ignore cuts and shortfalls in highway funding until a major bridge in your area collapses. Every time you go over a bridge you are relying on the government to take care of you. If local, state and federal budgets are skewed toward defense and homeland security you may find that you can no longer take it for granted that the bridges you drive over are safe.

This singleminded focus also has an impact on FDA food inspectors but somehow people dying of food poisoning doesn't have the same emotional kick as people dying from a high profile terrorist attack.

I've lost count of the number of times when the defense budget is defended because there have been no more terrorist attacks on US soil. The message is that when US lives are at stake, we must spend all the money needed to protect US citizens even if the US deficit goes up to record levels. Yet this administration's imperative to protect US lives at all costs is very selective.

Washington, D.C. - President Bush's FY09 budget proposal, released last week, asks Congress to slash funding for U.S. Department of Justice programs that address and prevent gender-based violence by more than $100 million. President Bush's proposal also would turn all funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into a block, or consolidated, grant. [...]

"This budget is irresponsible and could put the lives of women and children at risk," said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. "VAWA has dramatically improved our nation's response to violence against women and their families. We need to continue and enhance that work. We will ask Members of Congress to reject this proposal and maintain our nation's commitment to the groundbreaking violence prevention programs that were funded for the first time last year."

One of those on the not so important list is Aliya Blanchard who was 12 days old when she died. The initial reports show that she had injuries consistant with shaken baby syndrome and her father, an Iowa citizen, has been arrested in connection with her death.

Better prevention programs are needed across the country so parents and others who are around babies know how easily a child be injured and so they have resources to help them be safe parents. Those who are opposed to funding these types of programs because they characterize them as facilitating the hatred of men and fathers are willing to sacrifice children like Aliya. That in no way is a pro-man position.

Her life and her death matters to me and it should matter to politicians as they make budget decisions. We are not powerless to prevent similar deaths unless we choose to be.

How can anyone be safe in their homeland if they are not safe in their own home?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:39 AM   0 comments links to this post

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