“Fear,” a great Jedi master named Yoda once said, “leads to anger,” which leads to hate, which leads to suffering, which, of course, leads to the Dark Side.
And while Yoda’s warning was directed at the long-ago problems of a galaxy, far, far away, we’d do well to take it in stride right now in the United States in 2015.
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That’s because fear has reached an absolute fever pitch in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, and, as Tuesday night’s Republican debate showed, it’s taking our politics into a dark and very disturbing place.
When the candidates weren’t coming up with fun and unique ways to start World War III, they were debating whether or not Muslim human beings deserve rights like other human beings, and talking about ISIS like it’s an army of fascist zombies that owns its very own Death Star.
The conversation was apocalyptic, bizarre and terrifying.
In other words, it went down exactly the way Republicans wanted it to go down. They’ve always used fear to win elections.
Whether it’s fear of same-sex couples getting married, fear of the government taking away the people’s guns or fear of Black men, they’ve always understood that fear works to motivate their white base.
Fear works because it appeals to our basic animal instinct to stay safe, and it makes the simplest, inane and most downright evil solutions sound smart.
This is great for Republicans because they don’t have any real solutions, but it’s awful for our democracy and keeps us from having an honest conversation about the things that are really hurting our country.
Terrorism is a problem; no one denies that. But Republicans and their enablers in the media are blowing it way out of proportion.
There’s no reason Americans should be as scared about it as they are, and according to recent polls, they’re more worried about terrorist attacks now than they have been at any time since 9/11.
This makes sense in the wake of a non-stop media and Republican scare campaign, but it’s still ridiculous in the face of, you know, facts.
The simple truth of the matter is that terrorist attacks in the United States – especially those committed by Islamic fundamentalist extremists – are very, very rare.
Since 9/11, a grand total of 93 people have been killed in terrorist attacks on American soil, and of those 93 people, the majority of them were killed by white conservative terrorists.
Could the real reason everyone is terrified of ISIS and not abortion clinic bombers be that the people who sympathize with ISIS are more often than not brown of skin and “foreign-looking?”
It seems pretty likely.
But anyways, neither Islamic fundamentalist terrorism nor right-wing terrorism is worth freaking out about. Again, just 93 people have been killed in terrorist attacks on US soil in the past 14 years.
By comparison, in just one year (2013) 600,000 Americans died of heart disease, 580,000 died of cancer and 150,000 died of respiratory diseases. And in that same year, 130,000 people died in some kind of accident, 128,000 died of strokes and 75,000 died of diabetes.
Oh yeah, and 57,000 people died from the flu, 47,000 died from nephrosis and 40,000 died from suicide.
You’re more likely to die from the flu than you are from a terrorist attack. And yet there’s no special CNN debate devoted to talking about we can better immunize Americans against the flu. Could that be because freaking out terrorism means more support for war, which means more military adventures abroad, which means more money in the pockets of defense contractors?
Again, it seems pretty likely.
The US faces many serious threats right now. For example, tens of millions of people are still without health care despite Obamacare; the middle class is rapidly vanishing; and global warming is rapidly spiraling out of control.
And while Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is a problem, it’s a manageable one, and I guarantee you that if we’d minded our own damn business, we wouldn’t have to worry about it much longer.
If we had a mature political system with responsible parties, everyone would understand this. But we don’t have a mature political system.
We have a political system where one party – the Republican Party – is totally and completely committed to scaring the crap out of people to get elected so they can have access to money and power for their own purposes.
And that is something worth freaking out about, because if history tells us anything, it’s that when people are scared, they’ll do pretty much anything to feel safe. Talk about a path to the Dark Side …
Our message to the Republican Party – and their symbiotic fellow travelers in ISIS – should be simple: “We are not afraid.”
And once that’s said, let’s get about the business of rolling back Reaganism and Clintonism and rebuilding the US middle class while being good neighbors and citizens of the world.
We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.