I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but David Brooks actually had an excellent column in yesterday's New York Times that makes several insightful and important points. Brooks documents how "childish, contemptuous and hysterical" the national reaction has been to this latest terrorist episode, egged on -- as usual -- by the always-hysterical American media. The citizenry has been trained to expect that our Powerful Daddies and Mommies in government will -- in that most cringe-inducing, child-like formulation -- Keep Us Safe. Whenever the Government fails to do so, the reaction -- just as we saw this week -- is an ugly combination of petulant, adolescent rage and increasingly unhinged cries that More Be Done to ensure that nothing bad in the world ever happens. Demands that genuinely inept government officials be held accountable are necessary and wise, but demands that political leaders ensure that we can live in womb-like Absolute Safety are delusional and destructive. Yet this is what the citizenry screams out every time something threatening happens: please, take more of our privacy away; monitor more of our communications; ban more of us from flying; engage in rituals to create the illusion of Strength; imprison more people without charges; take more and more control and power so you can Keep Us Safe.
As Adams noted, political leaders possess an inherent interest in maximizing fear levels, as that is what maximizes their power.
The result is a citizenry far more terrorized by our own institutions than foreign Terrorists could ever dream of achieving on their own.
As Adams said: fear "renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable."
This isn't exactly new: many of America's most serious historical transgressions -- the internment of Japanese-Americans, McCarthyite witch hunts, World War I censorship laws, the Alien and Sedition Act -- have been the result of fear-driven, over-reaction to external threats, not under-reaction. Fear is a degrading toxin, and there's no doubt that it has been the primary fuel over the last decade. As the events of the last week demonstrate, it continues to spread rapidly, and it produces exactly the kind of citizenry about which John Adams long ago warned.
Take a tip from an old motorcyclist - your safety is only in good hands when those hands are your own and you have your head screwed on right. Don't leave it to the Repugs, neocons, and The Mighty Wurlitzer. They want you scared so they can rule the world.
You stand a better chance of being hit by lightning riding across the Great Plains because you're the tallest thing for miles around than you do of being killed by a jihadist, but that is not the way the war- and fearmongers want you to think.
Take another metaphor from WWII Spitfire pilots, amongst others, the main reason this ol' saddle tramp's arms and legs still work fine - stay alert, keep your head moving, and check your mirror constantly. As the Spit pilots knew, it's easier if you don't wear a necktie. Heh.
From The Grey Matter:
I don't know what's more frightening, the fact that many of us have given in to the scare tactics employed since 2002, or that we've neglected to heed the warnings conveyed by those before us (such as Serling and Orwell, to name two). In either case, ignorance is the common culprit.
Yep. Way too much of that goin' around.