Democracy and Homeland Security: Strategies, Controversies, and Impact


In memory of the occasion it commemorates, Democracy and Homeland Security: Strategies, Controversies, and Impact is a scholarly engagement asking questions about violence, justice, and human dignity. The authors and speakers who have contributed to this work have an uncompromising collective vision about individual liberty, structural access to equality, and the safety of the homeland. At the same time, this collection addresses larger themes by exploring theoretical concepts, dimensions of method, and the meaning of rights, inviting us to understand better the meaning of threatened democracies in an age of global “terrorism.”

The scholarly writing in these proceedings engages ideas that are under debate and represent the existing concerns, practices, and policies of the time. Hence, a number of names are mentioned repeatedly, and their ideas or policies are queried. Among the scholars are Barber, Cole (who was also a plenary speaker), Huntington, Mead, and Said; among the politicians, President Lincoln, President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Attorney General Ashcroft, and Senator McCarthy. Finally, although not explicitly mentioned in every chapter, the names of those students in whose name we speak about the meaning of democracy and fear were there. The memory of the four students who lost their lives on the Kent Campus on May 4—Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder—was there to challenge us and warn us that the words uttered have human consequences. As the collection shows, the authors captured the significance of the memory honestly.

The authors in this collection tell us that even under the perils of “terrorism,” democracy should not be understood as a set of procedures and laws only. Rather, it must reflect openness in the political process, an understanding of common humanity, principles about privacy and dignity, views about justice, and, most of all, a scheme for respecting differences.

Of course, the lessons to be learned from the May 4 tragedy on the Kent State campus continue, especially in light of disputed policies, laws, and wars. More specifically, these issues include the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2005 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, a new flow of ideas has surfaced since the writers developed their chapters. Those ideas were brought about by the natural disasters of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The issues here are not too far from the continual lesson of the May 4 tragedy about democracy and safety. They still include political process, human dignity, equality, and freedom. May 4, 1970, connects that past with the present to teach us (in the words of Richard Clarke) that

“As Americans, it is up to all of us to be well informed and thoughtful, to help our country make the right decisions in this time of testing. We all need to recommit ourselves to that ancient pledge ‘to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Untied States of American, Against All Enemies.’”1


1. Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror (New York: Free Press, 2004).