Monday, July 18, 2016
Living in a Prison of Fear
I believe this is absolutely true. Think of every time America has fallen away from its principles. It was always about fear. We killed and then collected the remains of Native American tribes and put them on what we called reservations but what were really refugee camps, not because we hated them but because we feared them. We first kept African-Americans as slaves, then isolated them from white society, not because we hated them but because we feared them. We put Japanese-Americans in internment camps because we feared them. We imprisoned and tortured and humiliated Muslims, not because we hated them, but because we feared them. Hate is but an extension of fear.
And now we seem to fear and hate one another and Donald Trump is the fear leader. Once again, because of fear, America says, "principles, be damned!" Fear is why we want to build a border wall. Fear is why we want to ban Muslims. Fear is why we want to carry guns and shoot each other at the drop of a hat.
Black people are afraid of cops. Cops are afraid of Black Lives Matter. Fear is what causes both sides to over-react so the fear, and then, the over-reaction grows and reaches ever more dangerous levels as fear feeds on itself.
Most of this started with 911, of course. Americans were stunned because we'd never faced such a large scale, and successful from the terrorist's point of view, attack on our own soil before. Our reaction was nothing to be proud of. We rushed to buy duct tape and bottled water and emergency food supplies. We cancelled our vacation plans to Las Vegas. We stockpiled weapons. As if any of that would do any good when a plane crashes into a building.
But, worst of all, we gave up on America. We couldn't afford those values we had so cherished in the past - due process, habeas corpus, legal counsel, innocent until proven guilty, ban against torture. These were the ideals America was founded upon but we cast them overboard in our fear. We hurried to create a huge, new, secretive agency called, tellingly, Homeland Security. Homeland - I hate that word. I don't even like to say it. We acquiesced to having our privacy violated. After all, what's a little surveillance among friends?
We ignored reality which is often what fear causes people to do. How likely are you to be attacked by a terrorist? Not as likely as that you'll be killed by falling furniture....or shot by your drunken neighbor. Experts assured us that torture didn't work. It rarely elicits actionable information but we water-boarded and rubbed feces in faces and made people crawl on all fours by means of collars and leashes. We didn't even care whether it was effective or not. It was more about vengeance than truth. How many new radical Muslims do you suppose the pictures from Abu Ghraib created?
Now we not only live in fear but what you might call our "victims" do as well. Muslims are now afraid of us because hate crimes against them have increased. And we don't always even bother to find out if they really are Muslims. Hey, a brown-skinned man in a turban is close enough although he's a Hindu, not a Muslim.
We assume Latinos are illegal though many of them have lived in America longer than we have. They are an elemental, and growing, part of our culture and that scares many of us.
And, African-Americans, of course. Since the beginning, we have been afraid of African-Americans and we create our own reality. Our discrimination stokes their anger to the boiling point. How can we be surprised? Read the report about Ferguson, MO. and get back to me on that. Read the details about Flint, Michigan. Read the statistics about who we imprison and why and for how long.
I believe and always will that the horrendous treatment received by our First Family is a product of racism. It was anathema to envision a black man in the White House so that people like Trump and his followers tried to deny his very American-ness. The Obamas, all of them, have represented our country with pride and dignity and grace. We used to tell ourselves that we were a post-racial society but in the face of an African-American president, it turned not to be true. Judging from the current political campaign, if Hillary becomes president, I believe we'll discover we're not post-sexist either.
"The land of the free and the home of the brave."
Sad to say, not so much in the 21st century when we live in a fear prison of our own making.