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When Fear Is All Around You

Kevin Drum has a new article up at Mother Jones that is, in my opinion, worth reading. Actually, I’m not 100% sure it’s worth reading because I was too lazy to do anything but skim through it, but I got the general idea. Basically, the National Park Service wants to bring a higher level of security to the Washington Monument and Bruce Schneier thinks we should just shut it down.

Kevin Drum, like me, could really care less what happens to the Washington Monument. I didn’t even know people visited it. Like most Americans, I just see it in movies and I think, “Oh… the Washington Monument.” That sums up my opinion on the whole thing. But Drum sums up my opinion on something else very clearly: the intellectual laziness of Bruce’s attitude.

Maybe we should just shut it down. But that particular issue aside, I think Bruce’s attitude needs some major pushback.

There’s a certain class of people to whom his prescription sounds great. Refuse to be terrorized! Stop being such babies! I’m a member of that class. I would happily accept a slightly increased risk of terrorist attack in return for a less intrusive security regime. I think we’re way too willing to let fear rule our culture. On a purely personal level, this stuff infuriates me.

But those of us who feel that way really have an obligation to understand just how out of the mainstream we are. I’m willing to bet that most of us are a bit nerdy, sort of hyperanalytical, maybe even slightly Aspergers-ish. We’re comfortable — too comfortable, probably — viewing the ebb and flow of human lives as an accounting exercise. We’re also very sure of ourselves, generally pretty verbal, and we have soapboxes to shout from.

And, at a guess, we represent maybe 10% of the population. At most.

I have a friend who does not represent this 10% of the population. Like most people my age, she pretends to be non conformist and unique… but really isn’t. At least on this particular issue, her non conformism is purely commercial. If I go out in the middle of the night to take a walk or stop by the 24 hour drug store to grab some eggs, I get a tut and a shake of the head from her. “Oh… that’s smart. You’ll get raped and killed.”

Neither of us have spent much of our lives in particularly bad neighborhoods. We have been comfortably safe in suburbia and have never had our lives threatened in any way. But like most Americans we watch the nightly news and stories about murder and general destruction are plastered across the screen. Yes, I do run the risk of danger if I go out at night. I try to let this frighten me or deter me but… it just doesn’t. I don’t care.

Maybe I’m just a reckless young person who believes in her own invincibility. My answer to that is: well, I’ve been reckless for a while now and I’m still here, right? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. Actually, I’m probably just an idiot, but I think I’m losing my point here.

The point is, I have a certain attitude about the things I do, and it’s a simple one: I do what I want. I run the risk of dying when I get in a car to drive. Hell, I could drop dead or be struck down at any moment. My attitude is the exact opposite of reckless belief in my own invincibility. I know the grim reaper could pay a visit at any time, unannounced, and I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. That’s why I don’t care about death. It’s inevitable. I accept her dark embrace. And I’m not going to sit around and be so worried about death that I forget to live. As far as I’m concerned, she can call me anytime, because frankly I would rather die young knowing I stood up for something than die old and realize I threw my life away.

Our modern society is deathly afraid of death. Go figure. And violence. And since I was a child, terrorism was thrown into the mix. When you can’t even go through a scanner at the airport without having your private business groped, you have to stop and take a look  around you and wonder, “why?”

I am growing up in an age of fear and it is getting old fast.

We’re afraid of Cancer. “Watermelons cause Cancer!” a Woman’s Health article screams at at us when we’re in the Grocery Line. Jesus Christ. EVERYTHING causes Cancer! Who cares??? Eat a god damned watermelon! They’re friggin’ delicious!

We’re afraid of teen pregnancy and sexual activity. Oh my goodness. It’s not that hard. Teenagers want to have sex because they’re HORNY. Just teach them about sex education, give them some condoms and birth control pills and send them on there way. Everyone gets sex and everyone wins. Simple.

But then, what about morals? Our culture of sex and drugs is degrading our preciously valued beliefs and traditions! The sky is falling! No, it’s not. Who cares about morals? Morals are boring. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else do what you want. I have low moral fiber and I am proud of it.

But… Terrorism kills people! Yeah, it does. But Terrorism isn’t just about violence. It’s about using violence… to make people SCARED. I’m sorry, but groping my hoo ha when I’m at an airport is not the way to fight Terrorism. Closing the Washington Monument would just tell our enemies just how afraid of them we really are. I’d rather we stood up to them.

And most importantly, people are scared for America. Or of America. Which one? I don’t know, probably both. China is gaining influence, the media tells us ominously. And we are declining. Our standard of living is declining, our government is imploding from the inside out. The economy is down and won’t get back up for a while, if ever. What are we going to do? We won’t be the world’s biggest superpower anymore! By 2040 white people will be a minority! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

It’s all mass hysteria and it’s all silly. Stop giving into fear. That’s what you do. Don’t sit there and complain and let it happen. Don’t say, “America is doomed” and then go to Wal Mart to buy cups.  Do something. Vote. Get your shit together and get yourself organized. Protest. Raise Hell. It’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. They cared a lot more about that than “Family Values” and “American Security.”

And most importantly, stop being afraid for America. Fight for her if you love her. Don’t just let her go.


24 Responses

  1. You must not have heard FDR was irresponsible, didn’t you? Him and his speeches about fear!
    I am adding to it with today’s tabloids which are wall to wall terror

  2. Righteous rant!

    Preach on little Isis!

    I’m with you life is too short to spend it cowering in a corner. There are always going to be “bad” people so waiting around for the world to be “safe” isn’t a real option. So instead you do the best you can and hope the universe takes care of you.

  3. I think it was Bowling for Columbine in which Michael Moore criticized the print and broadcast media for being at the root of some of the fear.

    If the Founding Fathers knew of the mischief that would be caused, turning elections and ginning up support for invading other countries do you think they would want a do over on the First Amendment?

    Gee, snow on the back ground, something only someone who doesn’t have to shovel would find cute.

  4. You’re munging a whole bunch of threat levels into one basic statement.

    Of course, you shouldn’t stay inside and hide due to the threat of terrorism. But that threat is quite low.

    But go to the store by yourself in a bad part of town at 2:00am? Pretty much a risk. You are asking for trouble. And I suspect if you’re ever mugged during such an occasion, you’ll be quite likely to stay home and wait until daylight next time. Yes, I think your sense of invincibility is playing a role here.

  5. There is a difference between resisting fear mongering and adopting simplistic answers to complicated problems like teen sex. Letting kids do whatever they want (or doing so yourself) isn’t the best answer to every situation.

    • Yes, but the dangers of teen sex are STDs and Pregnancy – so prevent the “dangers” and get out of the way. I don’t think they will all turn into cats in heat and start having sex everywhere. Besides, what would be the consequences if they did – provided that pregnancy and STDs are reasonably prevented?

      OMG – teh girls won’t be virgins?

      Spend the time worrying about pre-teen and early teen sexual abuse where the child does NOT have the power to prevent but also don’t have the resources to fight it. Way better use of everyone’s time.

  6. Interesting Isis. I’m getting that the ironic Mr. Schneier may be a bit more libertarian, and Kevin Drum is saying perhaps we ought not entirely ignore the predictable fears of 90% of the population who are not as smart or special as he is. And Kevin is saying all this possibly in defense of the stricter airport security checks. Am I getting that right. It’s somewhat convoluted.

    In any case, I’m with you Isis. The two countries in the world with the highest per capita insurance industry is Japan and the US. We seem to need protection from everything all the time…germs, drugs, accidents, law suits, financial defaults, crime, terrorism, cataclysms, and so on. The security and insurance industries represent huge sectors of our economy. Land of the free, home of the brave, as long as we have enough insurance and security personnel standing by. At the same time, we can’t seem to provide everyone with basic affordable coverage for medical care and retirement. Our priorities seem out of balance. On the other hand, I also had no fear and no insurance when I was in my twenties. Not sure what happened after that. It’s kind of a blur. 🙂

    • Yup, no fear and no insurance over here. Hurray!

      Fear is a big industry in this day in age. It’s like Edge said, whatever happened to FDR’s irresponsible calls to fight fear? He managed to implement the New Deal and a Social Safety Net while at the same time being completely fearless. Americans used to be totally reckless and we were respected for it. Now we’re just a bunch of washed up old posers. *sigh*

      • I think FDR’s fear line referred to the financial crisis as the Great Depression set in…as in, we’ll get through this together. The kind of thing we don’t hear at all from Obama.

        • We hear it from Hillary, though. Via Hillary is 44:

          Hillary worked; Obama ducked and ran AWOL from America; and the Department of Defense took its cue from AWOL Obama instead of “manning up” and taking responsibility for their mess. Hillary, with testicular fortitude not evident in anyone in Obama’s Chicago gangland; Hillary with ovarian strength not seen since the Octomom produced her litter, took charge and slapped away:

          “Mrs. Clinton’s reaction to shouldering the burden has been every bit as artful as the cables that have landed her in so much trouble.

          “It was a DoD system, and a DoD obviously military intel guy,” she said. “But we’re part of one government, and we’re part of one country, and we have to work together, and that’s what we’re doing.”

          Oh, Esther, er Hillary, that is a great diplomatic slap you gave there. Thank you for your service and thank you diplomatic corp for your services as well. We can’t wait until your last “public position” ends and elective office beckons.

          The only thing I’m afraid of is fear itself.

  7. The risk from terrorists is negligible; the political risk is high. Bush wanted us frightened and he succeeded mostly. Obama doesn’t understand much, therefore, he doesn’t try to lift the majority away from fear.

    There is a nice view from the top of the Washington Monument (inside elevator). Go up and enjoy. After all, you cannot enjoy our two last , the elevator doesn’t get to the top, presidents.

    • I took the stairs when I visited as part of a Boy Scout trip back in the 1950’s, have they closed them?

  8. that one of the biggest probs we have now to many people give in to fear .

    it think it can be all summed up in this quote
    ‘Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither” – Benjamin Franklin

  9. Ain’t that the truth!

  10. @jaketapper: In addition to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, President Obama has agreed to re-invade Iraq

  11. If only the Hill in Washington would shut down.

  12. Honk, honk. Great rant!

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