Global Bite

Goodnight Moon. Goodnight NSA.

What can jolt Americans into seeing that security comes only through transparent civic institutions?


  • While the nation gently slumbers away, the US's overgrown national security apparatus stands watch.
  • The NSA systematically undermines transparency and responsible civic dialogue among adults.
  • The NSA and its many Congressional acolytes are only too happy to treat Americans as “Goodnight Moon” children.

The NSA disclosures have shown that Americans (and others) are watched, recorded and analyzed from A to Z. Unfortunately, it seems that most Americans are willing to accept an overreaching Big Brother state — in exchange for what they perceive as “security” against terrorism.

What can be done to get Americans out of this all too feedback loop? Perhaps someone should write a parody of the famous bedtime story and “deceptively simple ritual,” “Goodnight Moon.,”

Parents in the United States have read this story, published in 1947, to their children for generations (quite a few parents inadvertently memorize it from repeated readings). Indications are that parents in at least 13 other countries — including China, Japan, Korea, Brazil and several European countries — have had the same experience, in translation.

Reading “Goodnight Moon” is a beautiful ritual. It works its magic in putting a child to sleep with endless repetition in the soothing voice of a parent or other caregiver.

But some day, don’t those children need to grow up?

Just imagine: Sitting in bed this time is the scared American nation. In a child-like fashion, it craves the repetitions of assurances that it will be safe.  And while the childlike nation gently slumbers away, the U.S.’s overgrown national security apparatus stands watch. Its ever-metastasizing machinations do not deliver a lasting security.

Instead, it systemically undermines transparency and responsible civic dialogue among adults. Of course, many politicians – including at the highest level – preach those virtues, yet precious few really practice them.

There is no denying that the NSA and its many Congressional acolytes are only too happy to treat Americans as “Goodnight Moon” children: “Just listen to us babble and then fall asleep. In a dangerous world, that’s the best you can do.”
A more adult stance would be informed by the English poet Mathew Arnold. He concluded wisely that the world “hath really neither… certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.”  His 1867 poem “Dover Beach” prescribes tougher medicine and far more realism than the lull of “Goodnight Moon.”  He suggests only one thing – that people be true to one another. In our context, the only answer is for the United States to be true to its guiding civic principle of government of, by and for the people.

The great 21st century American question remains unanswered: What is enough to jolt Americans into seeing that true security comes only through strong and transparent civic institutions?  Or are the American people collectively willing to bury the powerful idea of civil liberties for fear of – what precisely?
More sense of global reality and civic pride is needed, and quickly.


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About Terri Langston

Terri Langston is senior editor at The Globalist.

Responses to “Goodnight Moon. Goodnight NSA.”

Archived Comments.

  1. On February 26, 2014 at 9:41 pm Jamil M Chaudri responded with... #

    Madame, Langston.

    I follow the drift of your thought, but do not believe that your intended purpose will be served unless you go one step back from the onset of fear in the American Public. Let me explain, assuming that fear exists and then saying that vigilance exercised by
    CIA/FBI is too excessive, invasive, etc., misses the point about the presence of fear in the first place.

    My conjecture is that fear was instilled in the American Population through fraudulent manipulation of world events. How do you know that the purported terrorists were not in the pay of CIA/FBI etc? A lot of extra-legal authorities induce fear, as part of an extortion racket. So the racket here could be: make Americans fear, so that CIA/FBI can then rule the world through making the world on one side and the USA on the other, fear each other.

    Over the period of more than a decade, while American have become impoverished, CIA/FBI and the security “agencies” and the war machine has become more and more bloated. Inducing fear, begets money. The more the induced fear, the more the money for security purposes. FOLLOW THE MONEY!