Much about thankfulness is being bandied about today, but it rings a little hollow with me given that the mostly the discussion revolves around how badly thing are going in this nation. Noam Chomsky commented in a piece not long ago that America is a terrified nation, and I think he makes a valid point. Being thankful and terrified at the same time seems discordant.
We are terrified of disease, of old age, of losing our jobs, of poverty, of bad weather, of crime, of drug wars, and of course we are terrified of terrorists.
For some reason we are not terrified of being killed on the highway in a traffic accident, even though only old age is more likely than any of the foregoing to cause us to be hurt or killed. We take our cars onto the freeway and drive as if we are invulnerable; utterly without any trace of fear. Or good judgement.
What happened? We were once a nation which was not afraid of anything. We took on the Axis in 1941 with a terrible resolve and fought it to it’s destruction in less than four years. Today we still don’t know what we’ve accomplished against a handful of primitive tribesman in Afghanistan after twelve years, but we’re still afraid of them.
We’re afraid of them because our leaders are constantly prating that they are the only thing standing between us and the death and destruction that could be rained down on us by “extremists” if we do not spend half of our national resources enriching the national defense industry and reelect them.
During the “Cold War,” when thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us provided real cause for fear, there was less of a sense of panic than permeates our nation today. When McCarthy ran his fear campaign of “Communists everywhere” we wound up rejecting him. Today’s fear campaign of “terrorists everywhere” has run for twelve years through two administrations and has been and still is enormously successful.
When and why did we become a nation characterized by fear?