Monday, November 16, 2009

Fear Factor

It has come to pass, that since the horrible events of September 11th, 2001, we have lived in fear so long, that it has overwhelmed our better judgment. It does not help that some in Congress have become so reflexively afraid of anything that smacks of progress or change, that their impulse is to run to their constituents and the American public and scream at the top of their lungs about how the country is being sold into slavery, how freedoms are being trampled, and how it is all the fault of liberals.

Consider the vitriol that has been used in the health care debate, from "death panels," to "baby killing." It is far easier, apparently, to pander to the fears of the many, than to look out for their best interests. The common good appears to come with its own bogeyman attached, the idea that dark forces will leap out of the bushes, force women to have abortions on the Federal dime, that the old and infirm will be strapped to tables and murdered wholesale, and that this will all be done while jack-booted thugs go door-to-door, relieving the good citizens of our country of every dime they have.

Consider the idea, that bringing those who are responsible for the current "war on terror," -- the masterminds behind 9/11, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and the attacks on our embassies overseas -- into this country, to face the same kind of justice that we hold so dear as citizens of America, constitutes some kind of horrible security breach, which will bring about a fresh reign of terror, as they mastermind their escape from confinement, and exhort their minions to pour into the streets and murder us in an orgy of mindless, heathen slaughter.

Consider how a whole class of people, homosexuals, is being marginalized and minimized, turned from decent, hard-working, tax-paying citizens, into purveyors of bestiality, roaming the streets in gangs, looking to poison the minds of our youth, turning them gay with mere words, corrupting future generations, leaving us vulnerable to their machinations. Were gays to be given the right to marry, straight couples would suddenly feel their hearts seize, their minds go blurry, their bonds of love being torn asunder, overwhelmed by the sheer force of homosexuality, obliterating modern human civilization and leading to anarchy and chaos.

When we look back into the human historical past, we are often amused by the quaint, superstitious, and frankly ridiculous beliefs that people held, laughing to ourselves at how silly they were to believe the things they did. We believe ourselves immune to the hysteria, the debauchery, the destruction of the past, because we are somehow more enlightened, more learned, more sophisticated. We would not be so easily duped, to be held down by rich lords, looking to use our labors to further their power, or cowed by the forces of nature, which we know to be natural, not the result of gods on high. We want to believe that we are better than that.

We're not.

We carry the baggage of human history with us, to this day, in the superstitions we continue to believe, in the irrational fear we feel at certain thoughts, and the beliefs we cling to, even when it is clear they are no longer valid or relevant. Our history continues to be littered with the detritus and debris of human stupidity and ignorance, for while we have grown smarter, we have not grown wiser. Knowledge does not beget wisdom, it is only one component thereof. How else do we explain the likes of Hitler, Pol Pot, "Reverend" Jim Jones, Bernie Madoff, or Timothy McVeigh? Were we wiser, would we have not seen the potential for destruction in them, and stopped them before they could harm humanity?

It is, perhaps, our fate to be hoodwinked, as long as we refuse to apply the precepts of reason and logic, as long as we are willing to surrender our individuality to the mob and abdicate our own need for clear, concise thought. Appeals to our emotions will garner greater energies than appeals to reason, for our feelings carry life within us, while reason feels cold and sterile. Yet, sadly, it is the exact opposite, for reason carries with it the continuation of life and the ability to live it free of fear and loathing, while emotions simply drain away our impulses toward goodness and decency, making us mindless automata, ripe for programming by those who would command us to our own destruction.

If we are to grow, as a people and as a culture, we must deny the comfort of charming words and their attendant feelings. We must not give in to simple impulses, but must ask what the ramifications of our actions are, or will be. We must tread carefully, deliberately, moving forward in measured increments, always keeping the greater good in our foremost thoughts. We cannot act in isolation, but must act in concert, if we are to slough off abject fear and replace it with steadfast resolution. We must not reject fear out of hand, for fear is the genesis of courage, but we must learn to examine it, dissect it, and take from it only what is necessary to move forward. To wallow in fear is to be sucked down into an abyss, from which humankind will be unable to extricate itself.

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