Be Not AfraidFebruary 9th, 2010

All the experts agree: America’s enemies are certain to launch attacks on “the homeland” in the near future. Terrorists foreign and domestic are plotting, as we read, to shoot up shopping centers and incinerate airplanes because they hate us. Luckily, Obama’s people are protecting us, mainly by invading our privacy, but we’re OK with that if it makes us safer. “What’s in your shorts?” the attendant might soon inquire. “C-4 yourself,” a saucy passenger might reply.

Why are the experts so sure of an attack? Could it be that our own leaders have set events in motion that make an attack likely? Certainly, that was what happened on September 11, 2001, when the Air Force was kept on the ground while airliners were allowed to crash into buildings. Profiteers and government officials have been reaping the perquisites of warfare ever since. Maybe we’re not scared enough to keep the security industry flush and are in need of a little booster.

Or are the experts sure of an attack simply because we so richly deserve it? We’ve been visiting death and destruction on foreigners for most of the present century, for no good reason except to steal their resources. Ordinary citizens can’t say we didn’t know what was happening (as old Germans typically point out when reminded of the death camps). We know everything. We’ve seen pictures of our torture victims. We cheered the trashing of Baghdad and Fallujah. And we can’t say we were powerless to do anything. We voted for violence over and over again. Nine-eleven’s a garden party compared to what divine justice could have in store for us.

Our government and media would have us believe that the Fruit of the Loom bomber has us spooked. Wouldn’t we like to torture him and his buddies, and aren’t we nostalgic now for the old waterboarding days? Two wars weren’t enough. Terorists take notice: We kill people in the remotest reaches of Pakistan and laugh about it afterwards. Don’t screw with us. Our kids can’t find work, and they’ll be just as happy to take up a rifle and kill yours if we make it worth their while.

In self-defense, mind you. Because we’re afraid. Because our government tells us we’re in danger. From things we can’t see. We cross city streets fearlessly, drive 90 whenever we can, eat fat by the gob, and soak ourselves in beer a couple of times a week, but we’re scared to go out because there might be a terrorist lurking. Yeah. Right.

There are people who live in constant fear, but most people frighten appropriately, when there is evidence of danger. Fear is in our nature, and we can’t survive without it, but irrational fear–of terrorist attack, for instance–is another matter. It’s a maladjustment, and it runs counter to our values. Timidity is not a virtue.

We ought to be offended at our government’s incessant whining about the danger we’re in. Life goes on. This preoccupation with “security” is like having a baby monitor in your bedroom: a bit much. People are afraid, realistically, of losing their jobs, not of getting wasted by a stranger. It’s time for us to quit coddling the prozac crowd and show a little spunk.