Portney’s Complaint

Portneys Complaint

Portney’s Complaint

Devon Portney

Until now I have discussed war, social movements, and the media, all of which have been closely linked over the passed forty-five years. But I have yet to mention the one thing, the emotion, the group phenomena, that makes all of this possible. We go to war because of it, we elect political candidates whom we would otherwise deem inept because of it, and it allows us to believe almost everything we hear… it is called fear.

Throughout American history, the fear mongering of politicians and others in power has fueled citizens’ support of war and other foreign policy. We turn the other cheek to what representatives of this country may have done in places like Germany and Nicaragua, we (initially) support going to war in places like Vietnam and Iraq, and we completely ignore places like Darfur. We are not as scared of what is going on in Darfur (although we should be because it is becoming tantamount to the Holocaust), and many people just choose not to think about what goes on beyond the end of their noses- unless someone in power tells them there is something to fear. It could be Communism, or fundamentalist Islam, or the notion of the possibility of the chance that perhaps Saddam Hussein might sell arms he doesn’t have to terrorists. Whatever the fearsome belief is, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Forty-five years ago it was Soviets and fallout shelters. Not it’s terrorists, and instead of fallout shelters I suppose we can all just take cover in our SUVs.

The Bush administration and companies like Halliburton know that if you are not scared all the time, they will be out of business. Bush hasn’t really focused on anything domestic, something that might not require the constant installation of fear. I am sure he has spun out words like health care, education, and jobs, but the only words I can actually remember him saying are September 11th, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, smoking gun, and mushroom cloud. Scared yet?

On September 11th, 2001, 2,819 people died in the attacks, including rescue workers. In the three years since we have invaded Iraq, there have been 50,592 deaths due to drunk driving, approximately sixteen to seventeen thousand each year. That is an average of one person every half hour. Drunk driving is one of the biggest causes of fatalities each year in America, yet the government has not tried to create a grave fear of it. Why not? The numbers are staggering, and barely alter year to year. Why wouldn’t the government try to make people afraid of something that they have a far greater chance of drying from than terrorism? It is because there are no interests (at least no political ones) served by a decrease in drunk driving fatalities. It would serve the interests of the public, but I can’t say I have seen any evidence of this for oh, say the past six years.

When you feel afraid of what politicians tell you, take a moment to think about what there is to be afraid of, really. We feared Communism because we were told it was evil. Meanwhile, we lost almost 60,000 men in Vietnam, and we still have a Communist nation just south of our nation. Anyone feel threatened by Cuba lately? We feared WMDs, and Saddam Hussein’s supposed collaboration with al Qaeda and other terrorists. It turns out that Hussein did not possess these WMDs, and fundamentalist Muslims (including al Qaeda) hate him. Clearly, Democracy was not in danger. But you were afraid that it was.

While the deaths of soldiers and civilians should not be taken lightly, you should remember the differences between what there really is to be afraid of, and what has been exaggerated to make you afraid. Often, they are two very different things.