I recently had occasion to find myself among family in the triad area of North Carolina, in sorrowful times. The details are private; but it involved the passing of someone close to someone close to me. It was a time of emotion, yes, but also of reflection and observation. In such a situation, you reflect on the life lived, and those yet to be lived.
One of the lives yet to be fully lived is a 20 year old male who is, as are so many at his age (myself and my offspring included!) standing at a crossroads in life. He seems unfocused, unable to devote his energies toward a goal, undisciplined. Again, as many of us were at that age. It was remarked that a stint in the military would be just the thing to instill a measure of discipline and responsibility in him, and perhaps this is true. No more staying up all night on the internet and sleeping till noon in the army, no sir. But this idea was quickly dismissed- for the fear that to enlist now is to become I.E.D. fodder in Iraq.
The majority of Americans no longer support the war in Iraq, and an even larger majority resist the notion of escalating the war- feeling instinctively that a “surge” will only cause more loss of life and get us no closer to the goal- which is now only exiting, since “winning” is no longer (and never was) possible. At least, that’s the way our nation speaks in private to pollsters. In person they “support the troops” and speak of victory- but are unwilling to give these ideas anymore than passing lip service. They certainly won’t serve up themselves- or their loved ones- to any of these grand notions. To say one thing yet do another is generally called hypocrisy, but that term has a taint of duplicity that these people don’t really deserve. Why?
Because they are only afraid.
This area of the country is extremely religious, and what is organized religion but a packaging of mythologies meant to explain and order a confusing world, to remove the doubt and fear we all have about things we don’t understand. It provides a compassionate cover for inaction- “we’ll pray for you”- while avoiding actually doing or thinking about anything difficult. Be it God, or Allah, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster of your choice, a large part of the appeal of religion is in the tenet of “Let Go, Let God”- meaning, stop taking responsibility and let some mythical sky figure take care of it all. As long as a “higher power” is at the helm, then all actions done in its name are allowed, be it the beheading of US troops by insane Islamics or the destruction of hospitals in Fallujah by the coalition forces. Fear is the motivating factor in both of these actions- fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of “losing”- its all just fear.
Neal Boortz is afraid. He was afraid of being drafted during the Vietnam war, and made certain that he wasn’t one of the 50,000 dead bodies shipped back from Asia by gaming the system. He’s lied about it ever since, claiming health issues kept him from serving his country, all the while calling others “draft dodgers” and “appeasers” for doing exactly what he did. He claims (as do all the other nattering idiots of talk radio and Faux News) to “love America” while at the same time he pompously exclaims that 50% of his fellow citizens are “simply too ignorant and functionally incompetent to be living in a free society.”
To whom Boortz is referring I’ll probably never know, seeing as I wouldn’t read a book bearing his name, but in the end it doesn’t matter. A free society is one in which thankfully, demagogues such as Boortz don’t get to make the rules as to who can live or die, based solely on their fears. Boortz, Limbaugh, Hannity et al are afraid- afraid of another 9/11, while resisting any attempt to actually investigate it- out of fear that their beloved government might have actually turned the gun sights on their own citizens again. They are afraid of strong women, gays, any nation other than their own, and any idea that they must be responsible for their own words and deeds.
This fear has allowed this country to teeter on the edge of totalitarianism for six years now. It has allowed our mail to be read, phones to be tapped, finances cataloged in massive databases, all under the religion of the state, who promises as long as you quit thinking, we’ll protect you. It has gutted our economy, poisoned our children, and slaughtered our brothers to the false god of “our way of life”- which can be summed up as the divine right to consume without cost- all the while denying the rest of the world the same. Whenever the world objects, as it did on 9/11, or at the WTO summit in Seattle, the offenders are crushed. All from fear.
I am afraid. I’m afraid of many things, as we all are. I’m afraid of war. I’m afraid of bigotry. I’m afraid of those who would make decisions for me- from the pious pinheads who keep blue laws in place to the ghastly horror of a “president” who is too afraid to admit he’s wrong, and continues a war that might one day result in my child in uniform. I’m afraid of the media who facilitates such vile behavior by not calling the liars such, and who frame every occurrence in the world as yet one more thing to fear.
It is natural to be afraid. It is healthy. Fear protects us from doing things that could be dangerous. But a fear that paralyzes us, that keeps us from acting, that binds our lips and ties our hands must be overcome. No one person has all the answers our anxious times require. But one thing we must never be afraid to do is to speak out. To say “That is wrong” when its so abundantly so. We cannot be afraid to tell the truth, the truth to power, the truth to our neighbors, the truth to ourselves. We must have the courage to correct those who can’t – or won’t- speak the truth. We have to expose the frauds, the warmongers, the merchants of hate, expose them to the light of reason. We need to have the courage to move past the ignorant who still ponder the number of angels on that pin.
We cannot be afraid to believe in public what we believe in private. Perhaps the only thing stopping the world from changing, from evolving to something better and saner is that we are too afraid to try.