The media keep telling us how afraid we should be. Do they know? I read our local, Austin and national newsprint media daily. If it isn’t the Cheney clan, or Fox News (Internet), it’s a local writer who keeps pounding the drums of fear.
"Fear health-care reform," I read. "Fear taxes that we don’t know about," "fear our president," "fear, fear, fear."
Is there anything we aren’t afraid of?
We are told to be afraid of debt. Yes, we should. Japan leads the world in debt as a percent of gross domestic product (The Economist, Feb. 22, 2010), not us.
We are told to be afraid of those terrorists from abroad who will attack us again. Instead, we get a loopy tax evader who flies an airplane into an IRS office building. We are told to be afraid of those dreadful illegal immigrants who are spreading mayhem and disease while consuming our precious resources and services.
Has anybody seen reliable numbers that show how these people illegally hired by non-hyphenated employers to do jobs non-hyphenated Americans won’t do are really such a huge burden on our economy? Never mind that the Patriot Act tramples all over the Fourth Amendment, among other Constitutional freedoms, and is labeled as "ill-advised."
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957. It was nothing more than a radio transmitter, but our so-called leaders went berserk. We were told then the Soviets were going to launch missiles at us from outer space. That fear-mongering motivated us to accelerate our rocket and space research such that in 12 more years we landed men on the moon and "returned them safely to Earth." Those fears motivated us to display one of our finest hours.
It is true that Soviet missiles in Cuba were worth worrying about, but if cool heads hadn’t prevailed, Havana and Washington, D.C. might be cinders, or worse. The Cuban missile crisis is a perfect example of an outcome where sanity prevailed instead of mind-numbing fear.
The merchants of fear have been here forever.
Remember the fear of California breaking off from the rest of the continent and sliding into the Pacific? How about Y2K? People ran around like scalded cats trying to make ready for their doom. Hot on the heels of Y2K came the fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001. I choose to write out the date because the hackneyed use of the shorthand sounds more like a convenience-store name than another day of infamy in U.S. history. The incredibly dramatic deaths of almost 4,000 people that day were worthy of horror, disgust and sadness. But not fear. No invasions were launched. No armies rattled their sabers at our borders. Panic did NOT seize our financial institutions with irresponsible actions.
Instead, our leaders panicked.
This one-time attack brought us the idiotic Patriot Act and all the lies surrounding illegal wiretaps. It brought us the color-coded alert notices. It made air travel throughout the U.S. a ridiculous exercise in security afterthought. It brought us the invasion of Iraq and a trillion-dollar exercise in borrowing to finance that war. In case you haven’t been following the news, it’s still going on there. That’s almost a billion dollars per week for a war brought on by fear. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but our government knew there was nothing to fear from Saddam Hussein and the phantom weapons of mass destruction before we invaded.
Fear drove weak-mindedness to waste our treasure, our manpower and our financial future.
Some say that we have to trust God instead of the people we elect to govern us and our country. Great. You and I can have faith in God, go to church and pray our hearts out for things to work out for the best. But history shows us that it is the actions of man that decide the fate of societies and countries. Surely our benevolent, loving God didn’t plan the horrors of World War II. But then, unlike others, my personal humility dictates that I not understand or know God’s thoughts.
The cure to our fears and fearing must come from within each of us whether or not it includes God. We must not become like the enabled child who has a parent explaining away all the mistakes it makes. We must take responsibility for what happens.
When we accept that responsibility, we won’t be so afraid; we’ll have the courage to take the action necessary to do what is right and true for our families and our country. Nothing else will cure fear.
Turner is a retired industrial engineer and teacher who lives in the Marble Falls area.