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To Fear or Not to Fear?

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To Fear or Not to Fear?

I'll admit it. I'm afraid.

Afraid for my children. Afraid for my country. Afraid for the world...

My fear makes me wonder which part of the "long war" we'll be in when my son turns 18 two short years from now. It makes me wonder what kind of world he and my daughter might inherit. It makes me wonder about ALL the lives, whether barely an adult or mature in years, being risked for an illegal and immoral war of aggression (with another one looming on the horizon). It makes me wonder why we put up with the shredding of our constitution. With the demise of freedom and liberty and truth at home. It makes me wonder about all the innocent men, women, and children dying this very moment because of our current brand of "advancing freedom." It makes me wonder about all the nasty--present and future--repercussions of BushCo's "freedom agenda."

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These are just some of the questions my fear makes me ask. It feels like a healthy fear though. The kind that begs difficult but important assessments and further questioning.

Like questions about another kind of fear...the kind used as a means of control. "In their remarks to the American Legion convention this week in Salt Lake City, President Bush and his Cabinet members have made it clear that their efforts to boost the administration's poll numbers and, more important, to maintain Republican control of Congress this November will be based on a campaign of fear." --Salt Lake Tribune, 8/31/06

In order to maintain their slippery grasp on power, this administration continues to use the only tool it's ever had in its cabinet. Fear. And this is the kind of fear we need to address if we are to heed Edward R. Murrow's passionate dictum--channeled again this week by Keith Olbermann--We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.

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Are we being driven by the wrong kind of fear? Does the following description fit?

The motives offered for such a deliberate programme of scaremongering vary, but hinge on the potential for increased social control that a mistrustful and mutually fearing population might offer to those in power. In these accounts, fears are carefully and repeatedly created and fed by the mass media and other sources-through the manipulation of words, facts, news, sources or data, in order to induce certain personal behaviors, justify governmental actions or policies (at home or abroad). --Wikipedia on culture of fear/constructed fear

Are we allowing ourselves to be manipulated and controlled, and into sacrificing precious liberties and freedoms and lives along the way, by fear? By carefully and repeatedly created fear perhaps?

This is not the first time history has dealt with the idea of "constructed fear" or of fear in general being used as a means of controlling the masses. The following example--an interview with Nazi leader Hermann Goering by Gustave Gilbert and documented in his 1947 book Nuremberg Diary--though perhaps familiar, is particularly compelling:

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war..? Naturally, the common people don't want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

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"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good," Goering replied, "but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."


Goering says it doesn't matter what we the people think or say, because we are easily brought to the bidding of the leaders through fear. Using fear is the secret to their power.

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Debi Smith lives in Ashland, Oregon. She welcomes your thoughts, comments, and observations.

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