Americans are addicted to fear. We love to have someone—whether it is a journalist, government official, or our friends—scare us to death about some aspect of our daily lives.
Just today, I’m waiting for the start of The Jim Rome Show, while I’m preparing my lunch and on comes a commercial urging listeners to discuss what to do in the event of a terrorist attack—the announcer asked the question, “has your family discussed what to do in case of a terrorist attack?” Holy Christ! No, I haven’t discussed what I’d do if a terrorist attack happens because I’m not expecting one, at least in the near future. He ended the commercial by giving the following website, which scares me more, than the thought of a terrorist coming to my little corner of Maine.
Yet, there are crazy fuckers out there, many of them running our government, or controlling the airwaves, who derive great pleasure (and profit handsomely) from scaring the bejeezus out of the average American. Yesterday, while driving home from some appointments in Dover-Foxcroft, I was scanning the radio dial for something tolerable, or at least wouldn’t put me to sleep. For a five minute period, my better judgment took leave and I found myself listening to the demagoguery of Sean Hannity, during his afternoon exercise in right wing ideological indoctrination. This man is certifiably insane. His propaganda-laced tirades are lapped up eagerly by his brain-addled listeners, who subscribe to this kind of bigotry-infused and racist rhetoric. He was prattling on about the need for the U.S. to support their friends (in this case, Israel) in the battle against “Islamofascism,” a term invented by the haters on the right.
I don’t understand the need to be afraid. George Orwell’s protagonist in 1984, Winston Smith, lived in the type of world that Hannity and company would like to construct for us. A place where we live in fear of our neighbors, people of color and immigrants coming here for the type of life that Hannity has at his disposal. For Smith, his world was a place where every action and every word was being recorded by the telescreen. The populace lived with a palpable fear. Smith’s totalitarian government, kept perpetual surveillance over the citizenry. Certainly not the kind of place I want to spend the last 40 years of my life.
Fear is a paralyzing force and a killer of the spontaneity and interaction that communities require to remain vibrant and open. All of us need to fight the forces that want to force us inside, safe behind locked doors, or isolated within our gated fortresses. The right-wing doesn’t own the patent on inflicting fear and paranoia upon its followers, either. Progressives often can be just as craven to doom and gloom and the paralysis that comes from apocalyptic pronouncements.
Sometimes, simple acts are empowering. Tuning out the talking heads has been meaningful for me. Also, something as basic as growing some of one’s own food helps to develop a sense of self-sufficiency that we need more of. There are other things that all of us can do to reconnect with our communities, embracing the unique qualities that we all bring to the table. Pick something basic, and make it your own. You'll be happier and healthier as a result.