I don’t know if it happens to you, but sometimes I wonder what happened to people I know from high school. Specifically, I’ve occasionally wondered about Erik Prince, a person with whom I was on the track team. We weren’t close or anything, but I talked to him every once in a while. Also, his parents were wealthy and financed my class’s high school graduation party.
A few days ago, someone told me that he owned a com pany that supplied mercenaries to protect people in Iraq. “Oh,” I thought to myself, “that’s interesting. So that’s what he’s doing now.”
And then today, this:
Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq, champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future.
(From David Brin’s blog, scroll down a bit in the post and you’ll find it in context)
In a science fiction novel or comic book, this would undoubtedly be preparatory to me getting superhuman abilities and lead to a dramatic confrontation in the halls of Blackwater’s HQ. *
In reality of course, superpowers are not forthcoming and it remains very, very strange to find someone you knew mentioned on your favorite author’s blog as a possible source of theocratic dictatorship.
I’ve got to admit though, that I don’t think that either Erik or Blackwater is particularly likely to try to end democracy. The article that Brin pulls the quote from has a certain conspiracy theory quality to it that I can’t quite pin down. It might be that as someone who is a Christian and comes out of an evangelical background, I don’ t know anybody who’d be for a theocracy. In fact, on the rare occasions that I’ve been in Christian bookstores, I’ve been amused to notice multiple Christian, political thrillers in which the presumably atheistic left puts a dictatorship in place.
If nothing else, US citizens of all stripes share a common anxiety.
* Clarification: For those of you who don’t ever read comics or science fiction, it’s worth mentioning that it’s pretty common to have someone that the main character likes turn up later doing something that they disagree with. It’s a good way to ratchet up the tension. It’s kind of overused though.