The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Nothing to Fear

Posted by ALmod on July 11, 2005

This is an expansion of my previous entry– mostly because I got so many emails and calls from my friends about it.Franklin D. Roosevelt was a very wise man. You may remember that he was the man in charge during some of our most desperate times, like the Great Depression and World War II. One of his most memorable quotes was, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As it turns out, “fear itself” is a powerful monster.

These days, people are bombarded by fear, FeAr, FEAR!!! People react to that fear, and as a result, bad things happen. That fear comes from many places. Terrorism is one major source, but there are other culprits. Think about the last time you watched the news. Think about the last time you heard the president (or any other politician) speak. When was the last time you heard the Department of Homeland Security downgrade the alert to blue or green? Who needs terrorists when you have the U.S. government and media?

Terrorists operate by using fear to cause reactions that we would not otherwise have. Their goal is to control our emotions, reactions, and consequential decisions by keeping us in a constant state of fear. It’s a good strategy because history has shown that it works. Throughout history, when a brutal dictator or emperor came to power, he rose to that power by playing on the fears of the people they ruled.

When was the last time that you said to yourself, “I’m not going to take a safer and less expensive means of transportation. I’m going to spend hundreds of dollars extra to put my life in greater jeopardy”? Under what situation would you say, “I’ve done nothing wrong, but I would love it if the FBI could break into my home without my knowledge and go through all of my most intimate of belongings”? What on earth would rationalize that kind of thinking? Fear could, and it has.

“But flying and mass transit are dangerous,” you say. “It’s a main target for terrorist activity,” you say. “The Patriot Act helps us deter terrorist attacks,” you say. Guess what? You’ve been had by your own fear.

Here are some statistical facts that I believe should be published in every newspaper, stated in every news program, and aired on every radio station on a DAILY basis. Statistically speaking, you are in greater danger of losing your life to suicide than to a terrorist attack within the U.S. That annual statistic includes 2001, by the way. According to the CDC, the leading cause of death in the U.S. for 2001 was heart disease with 700,142 deaths. Accidents ranked number six with 101,537 deaths. Suicide ranked number eleven with 30,622 deaths. And in 2001, nearly 3,000 people died from terrorist attacks. Now there is rationalization.

So if you choose not to fly, you may not be killed in a terrorist attack. But would you be any less dead if you die in a car accident, which is far more likely than a terrorist hijacking?

But then there is the idea that while the Patriot Act sacrifices certain civil liberties, it keeps us safe from terrorist attacks. This is not necessarily true. Most people will divert attention to a recent speech by President Bush, in which he claimed that since the Patriot Act had become law, over 400 arrests, and nearly half of those had been convicted. That wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it wasn’t necessarily true, either.

Note that the president never stated whether or not the Patriot Act had been used in these arrests. More importantly, he never mentioned the fact that most of these arrests and convictions, with the exception of about 40, were for misdemeanors unrelated to terrorism. These convictions included working without visas and stealing cans of baby formula. As for the forty, that record is no better than our pre-9/11 government. What most people fail to realize is that the majority of terrorist attacks in the U.S. are thwarted by our local police, and they catch a lot more than forty in a four-year period. Most are pulled over for minor traffic infractions. No loss of civil liberties necessary.

So this is what we’re scared of. Get them before they get us, and if a few innocent U.S. citizens get hurt in the process, it’s all in the name of protecting us from safer, less expensive transportation and baby formula thieves. Feel the fear. The terrorists have won.

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One Response to “Nothing to Fear”

  1. Independent said

    The terrorists have won? I don’t think so. It’s WAY too early…

    You are correct when you indicate that many are fearful, but in some instances, fear can be a good thing. My parents taught me to “fear” the blue flame on the stove when I was 3 so as not to burn myself. I wouldn’t change the way that I travel just because terrorists contolled 911 through the air. But on the other hand, I am cognizant of my surroundings and of the other passengers when I board a flight. I think that anticipation is a healthy thing and it could possibly save mine or someone’s life one day. Perhaps the Patriot Act goes to far in some instances, but it’s not like declaring “martial law,” which many countires do at the hint of civil unrest.

    We are a free people with many civil liberties, but our freedoms are not absolute (we are not free to drive on the left side of the road or to yell FIRE in a crowded theater.) I think that as long as you have nothing to hide, the Patriot Act is actually pretty tame. However, if you have a basement full of C-4 explosives, then the Patriot Act may be something you’d be against.

    Nice post by the way.

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