Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fear Factor - America's Addiction to Being Afraid

Americans seem predisposed to being afraid. Oh, I know, you'll say that's a load of crap, that Americans are the bravest and toughest people on earth. In many cases I would agree with you. All one has to do is look at our soldiers, fire services, police and many other occupations that put people in harms way. That's not what I'm referring to when I talk about our addiction to being afraid. Situational bravery is there. It's repeated over and over again. We celebrate it with honors, medals, stories and even movies.

Being afraid however is far more pervasive and in my view attractive. We get to use fear as a cloak to shield us from dealing with the real issues facing us today. Terrorism has become the new badge of fear. At any moment our government tells us, we could be subjected to another attack from the "terrorists". We must be vigilant. We must be looking for the evildoers around every corner. Sleeper cells of radical Islamic terrorists are probably in your neighborhood, or so the government would want you to believe. Is there a threat of terrorism? Certainly. Is there also a threat that an asteroid will land on your head when you go out to get the morning paper? Certainly, but we don't consider that because of a couple of reasons. First, the threat of an asteroid hitting you on the head is remote, the odds of you getting hit by a meteor are 182,138,880,000,000 to 1, and secondly, we don't see news reports about threatening meteors or asteroids every day on CNN, FOX or ABC.

What we do see every day is news about the terrorists. Mostly we see news about Iraq and then we see the government spin the news about Iraq. The story has become a permanent fixture in our lives now. Our country has more or less decided that we are o.k. with having over a hundred thousand soldiers in combat in Iraq. The polls don't agree with this statement, and I think it's because individually, many of us don't like the war and when asked will say so. However, we don't collectively seem to mind. We as a nation have not been forced to sacrifice hardly anything with respect to this war. We aren't paying for it economically, that bill is coming due in the future. Because we are borrowing the funds to execute the war, our kids will get the honor of paying that bill. We haven't seen rationing of food or power. About the only inconvenience I have witnessed is standing in line longer at the airport. Not a dramatic level of sacrifice. The point here is that we don't have a big beef as a nation right now with Bush and his minions fighting this war. Why? Because we are absolutely convinced that if we didn't fight them there, we would be fighting them here. How many times have you heard the term 9/11 when anyone in government who supports this war tries to justify its existence?

Because we've decided to be afraid, we've agreed to put up with all sorts of foolishness from our government. We've agreed to give up civil liberties and allow spying on our citizenry, all in the name of fighting terrorism. We've agreed to allow the government to look into yours, mine, my kids' private lives to nose around to see if we have any connections to Al-Qaida. We've agreed to allow the government to hold people in prison without right to representation or even to confront their accusers. All of this in America. All of this because we are afraid.

Folks, the likelihood of another terrorist attack in this country affecting you is remote. It may and probably will happen again, but let's put this in perspective. This year, the odds of you getting killed by a terrorist attack are about 1 in 88,000, roughly ten times more than the odds of dying as a result of extreme cold.. The odds of dying from a homicide are 1 in 197, or about 447 times more possible than dying in a terrorist attack. The odds of dying from a stroke are 1 in 6, dying from heart disease 1 in 3. So, you see we spend a significant amount of time worrying about something that is not likely to happen. One wonders if we spent $400 billion dollars (about the cost of the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and all other actions towards fighting terrorism) towards fighting heart disease if we could push those odds out to 1 in 100, or 1 in 1000.

What will it take for us to wake up from our collective nap? We have been sold a bill of goods purported to keep us safe, but really does little in the larger view to protect us. How about if we spent the money on new energy sources, reducing environmental pollution, educating our people, providing health care to those that are sick? Wouldn't this make more sense? Wouldn't it make more sense to stop killing people and giving them more and more reasons to hate us? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend money to secure our borders, ports, and public venues?

It is time for the people in this country to refuse to be afraid. It's time for our nation to take action in a manner that stopped the war in Viet Nam. It's time for us as a people to demand that our civil liberties not be eroded and that we bring our soldiers home. It's time to change our political landscape and remove politicians who will use fear to obtain or retain power.

We must dissent. We must argue and debate. We must act. This November, use your vote wisely. If you are tired of listening to the drivel spouted by the administration and congress, vote them out. We will not have a chance to vote for President again until 2008, but we can effectively alter the course of the Bush administration's actions by voting in a democratic majority into congress. Perhaps this will have the desired effect of placing constraints on a president that has forgotten he is the servant of the people, not the master.

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