I had a bit of a wake-up call a couple of weeks ago when a friend sent me a message on Facebook. “What in the world is happening down there?!” Attached was a link to a story about a Mexican drug cartel taking over the small Texas town of Sarita, which is only two hours south of me. Violent gangs had forcibly occupied the public areas, and citizens had fled to the outskirts. My friend’s next question was, “Are you armed?”
We quickly learned the story was a hoax and had been published on one of those horrible satire websites that print fake news stories that sound pretty believable. What struck me after fear and anger subsided was that we live in a day and age where even a jaded skeptic like myself hears a story like that and doesn’t automatically call balderdash. Why were my friend and I so quick to believe it? Perhaps we’ve been conditioned to.
The influx of illegal aliens across our southern border has been deemed a crisis by the media; yet other groups say there is no crisis at all. Some are calling it a humanitarian crisis, saying the US has an obligation to help them. Others are calling it a national security crisis because we don’t know who those people are. Still others say this is much ado about nothing because illegal border crossings are at an all-time low.
Either way, the government and media have labeled the event a “crisis,” which naturally evokes fear in us. If they had reported and handled it as though it had no real effect or was nothing out of the ordinary, we probably would not be so concerned. But we have been told to fear it, so we do.
We fear the crime, disease, and other dangers the illegal immigrants may pose in our society. We fear having to support their basic needs with increased taxes. We fear breaking our churches and charities by overextending their resources. We fear breaking the spirit of the American people by diluting our patriotism with outsiders who may eventually show loyalty to our corrupt government rather than to our sacred heritage.
The very fact that our borders are not secure incites fear in many. If people from every nation south of us can cross the border undetected, why can’t terrorists from anywhere in the world enter via those countries as well? Is Congress no longer able to carry out the few duties granted to it by the Constitution, or do they just not want to? Maybe the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was just for show.
Inciting fear in the American people isn’t a new idea, and it isn’t limited to the border issues. Since the September 11 attacks, we’ve been led to believe there are terrorists hiding in every corner and that no public place is safe. In the same breath they tell us that the terrorists are radical Muslims, they also tell us calling them “radical” is unacceptable.
However, it IS acceptable to refer to a gun-toting, Bible-believing, Constitution-defending, job-holding redneck as a radical. They’re the real terrorists, you know. Anarchists, even. Racist, homophobic, blood-thirsty, tinfoil-hat-wearing, hate promoting, ignorant anarchists. (I hope you can hear my sarcasm.)
If all this is a little overwhelming, just look to Big Sis for guidance. Homeland Security’s Advisory System color chart tells us which days we should be more fearful and which days to relax. Here is a bit of trivia about that. Threat levels have never been reduced to blue or green, which are Guarded and Low, respectively. It has only been raised to orange or red, High and Severe, a handful of times. We nearly always have a yellow, or Elevated, risk of a terrorist attack. It’s a dangerous country we live in, folks; that’s why “If you see something, say something.”
We also fear planes being hijacked, buildings being blown up, suicide bombers at sporting events, and shooters in public schools. We fear all kinds of violence. Gun violence, gang violence, domestic violence, bullying, and crime of all sorts. Drug crime, hate crime, race crime, cyber crime, and people hurting our feelings.
Sometimes we even make up new words for things we fear, like microaggression. These attacks include such abhorrent actions as calling something a sin or simply disagreeing with someone’s choice. You’re not supposed to support things that go against certain agendas because someone may call you intolerant, and we’ve been told that being judged is the most horrible crime of all! Not every fear is of an attack, though; we also fear losing things.
We fear the economy falling apart and leaving us all homeless, jobless, hungry, and broke. We fear the earth not being able to sustain us, running out of fresh water, salt water, clean air, and places to put our trash. We fear our computers being hacked, our phones being tapped, our secrets being told, our innocence being lost, and waking up from the American dream. Real or imagined, the government perpetuates these fears. Why?
As long as there have been relationships, people have used fear to dominate each other. Even the serpent used fear of ignorance to get Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. They fell for it, and things have gone downhill ever since.
Ben Franklin warned us against sacrificing our liberty for safety because he knew we would become slaves to the idea of security and those who claim to provide it. He knew that when people are afraid, they behave in ways they normally would not. When people are afraid, they allow violations that would seem horrendous any other time. But we’re scared, and we’ve been told such violations protect us from those fears.
When a woman asked Franklin what he had given the People, he answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Have we kept it? Have we preserved a government that derives its powers from the consent of the governed? Have we bound our leaders down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution? Or have we allowed fear to usurp the security of our entire republic?
Maybe FDR was right: Maybe the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
The above article appeared on the cover of the August 2014 edition of The Northeast Texan.