Monday, March 27, 2006

A Culture of Fear

Disclaimer: I know some of you are "Bushies." Please get past your love of G.W. to get at what this guy is really saying. And know that I've heard that Mr. Bush has asked White House staff to read this book. I just finished the book The World is Flat, which is a spectacular read if you are interested in globalization, big business, and global politics. Anyway, I came across this quote the other night towards the end of the book that I wanted to share here. (In order to "get" what he's saying you need to know that on 11/9/89, the Berlin Wall came down, breaking the Iron Curtain and opening the world.) I believe that history will make very clear that President Bush shamelessly exploited the emotions around 9/11 for political purposes. He used those 9/11 emotions to take a far-right Republican domestic agenda on taxes, the environment, and social issues from 9/10 -- an agenda for which he had no popular mandate -- and drive it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush not only drove a wedge between Americans, and between Americans and the world, he drove a wedge between America and its own history and identity. His administration transformed the United States into "the United States of Fighting Terrorism." This is the real reason, in my view, that so many people in the world dislike President Bush so intensly. They feel that he has taken away something very dear to them -- an America that exports hope, not fear. We need our president to restore September 11 to its rightful place on the calendar -- as the day after September 10 and before September 12. We must never let it become a day that defines us. Because ultimately September 11 is about them -- the bad guys -- not about us. We're about the Fourth of July. We're about 9/11. The reason that this quotation gripped me is because I hate the culture of fear that we live in. I hate that while violent crime continues to be less and less in this country, the REPORTING of violent crime is on the rise. Remember that Mormon girl that was kidnapped out of her home? Every night for several weeks I would walk into Caleb's room at night terrified that he wouldn't be there. Forget that the odds of any one child being randomly kidnapped by a stranger is 1 in millions. Are there dangers in the world? Of course there are! Do I need to live my life in constant fear? I hope not! Family members have scolded us for allowing our two boys to play outside without us being out there constantly. But when I was a kid we played outside for HOURS by ourselves. Has the world actually gotten less safe? Or do we just know more? Are we just more afraid? What does it do to my kids if I raise them to fear everything, all the time. I know that I need to teach them to be wary of strangers, but I don't believe locking them up in our house will help them grow to be imaginative, creative, confident young men. I have a lot of questions...obviously. And I don't have any answers.


david rudd said...

i saw v for vendetta this weekend. i think it really deals with these issues.

we definitely need to find a balance between responding appropriately to the dangers of our world and exploiting the fear of people.

however, i think politicians have exploited fear as a motivator for as long as there have been politicians. bush and his buddies have done it, but so has the left (particularly through conspiracy theories, michael moore, etc.)

Screwtape said...

The Rhetoric of Fear is a powerful motivator to push ones agenda and policies but Bush is not the only one to blame. He simply becomes a focal point for our own frustrations of powerlessness.

Ultimately, the Rhetoric of Hope is far greater and will be needed soon. Furthermore, it is the leaders who spread such rhetoric that are remembered most caringly. (I did not just leave it as remembered most-please note). "We have nothing to Fear but Fear itself." FDR


"I may be paranoid, but that doesn't mean they aren't watching me." The more famous one being, "I am not a crock." Nixon

Your friend,
Jason . . .

ckd said...

I'm with you guys. For sure, Bush is not the only leader responsible for this. Frankly, I think a lot of pastors are just as guilty -- or at least the national evangelical fund-raising machines who attempt to scare people into giving money with their Chicken Little appeals.

Mike said...

You are so right. Incidentally, Friedman writes a weekly newspaper column.

Fear come in many forms. Why are huge military style vehicles so popular with rich American drivers?

We forget the words Jesus said more than any others: "Be not afraid."

May I recommend to you "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis? It is also an excellent book, if a little repetitive at times.