Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Deuce And Fear

Fear has been called "nature's gift." It lets us know when our life is in danger, and so fulfills the only universal right--survive, if you can. When humans were little more than small, hairy bipeds trying to make a living on the savannas of east Africa a million years ago, fear is what made us climb the nearest tree when lions came prowling; it's what made us conquer fire so that we could light up the night and keep those lions at bay so we could sleep with both eyes closed; it's what led us to agriculture and the domestication of livestock, to ward off starvation and finally end the ceaseless need to follow the migrating herds of zebra, wildebeest and antelope just to get enough protein to survive another day. Fear is a survival tool--for the individual. Paradoxically, fear is killer for a people.

Americans today are more obsessed with safety than ever before. We can no longer tolerate the slightest chance of injury or death if there's any chance at all of avoiding them, and should someone actually be injured or killed doing the most innocuous of activities, then someone must be at fault and that someone will be sued for "damages." This has lead us to embracing the ridiculous. Big issue or small, fear rules this land--and it's destroying America.

You know; small children must, by law, be enclosed in high-tech, death-proof car seats that can insure the safety of any child regardless of the ferocity of any car crash. Schools embrace "zero tolerance" policies out of fear of law suits ( and fear of actually having to exercise any judgment ) that lead to suspensions and worse for little kids who bring a pen knife to school, or give a friend an aspirin, or give a classmate an innocent peck on the cheek on Valentine's Day, or wear a T-shirt that depicts a revolutionary war Minute Man holding a rifle ( zero tolerance for guns in school...really, it happened ). Dodge ball at recess? Forget it--too dangerous. Keep score at a youth soccer game? No way! It might injure the losers self esteem. Not give a trophy to any kid who's team didn't finish in the top three of the league? Outrageous!

This kind of fear leads to adult activities and behavior. Seat belts are mandatory and failure to comply leads to fines and points on your driving record; smoking is almost universally outlawed in any public place, even if it's outdoors; children go un-vaccinated out of fear of serums causing autism, so childhood diseases that had been all but eradicated are coming back; fear of being called racist leads to us allowing illegal aliens crossing our borders almost at will, introducing adult diseases like TB that had been extremely rare in the last 50 years; fear of a credit meltdown leads to us funding a $700 billion "toxic asset relief program" ( which was little more than the Goldman-Sachs fraternity protecting each other's private fortunes and professional reputations ); fear of global warming, uh, climate change, leads to the upcoming Cap and Trade legislation designed to limit/ration energy usage.

Fear. America is awash in it. It permeates every aspect of our lives. We don't build nuclear power plants out of fear of another Three Mile Island, though not one person died as a result of that accident; we don't drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, though the drilling would only effect less than 1% of the refuge and would have virtually no effect on the wildlife or the environment, even if there was a spill. Even Ted Kennedy stopped the development of a "wind farm" of electrical generators because of fear it would ruin the view off Hyannis Port and spoil his sailing...the hypocrite!

Many teachers even refuse to use red ink when they grade papers, out of fear it will traumatize their students! This is America? This is the country that spawned and cheered Patrick Henry? Daniel Boone? Davey Crockett? This is the nation that defeated the Nazis and freed Europe? This is the country that fought a civil war to save the union and end slavery? This is the country that went to the Moon?

Our national anthem ends with a two lines, "the land of the free, and the home of the brave." With each day that passes, we are less free...because we are less brave.

FDR said "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

It was the truest thing he ever said.

No comments: