After September 9, 2011, America became united, as it grieved the loss of so many lives on American soil. The tragic event also changed so many things and it changed us, we Americans. I know we talked about how we were not going to allow it to change us, because that meant the terrorist would win, we would just carry on our lives as we always had and defy the purpose of the terrorist in the first place. What we did instead was allow our government to lead us into war and we allowed that same government to interrogate prisoners with torture along with a host of new things, such as intrusive searches at the airport, wiretapping of American citizens and a loss of innocence from the assured peace of mind, we had before – all because of fear.
It was because of fear that we Americans changed. Suddenly, we were vulnerable. Our ever-resourceful intelligence community and our powerful military were invincible no longer in our eyes. It also became an opportunity for some to exploit the fear that so many felt, to fulfill their own agenda. Sometimes politicians in powerful leadership positions, uses fear as a tool to accomplish something, such as starting wars.
The war on Iraq by the George W. Bush’s administration is a good example in my opinion. Clearly, fear was used by members of his administration on the American public, Congress and the world, with warnings that Saddam Hussein’s government had “weapons of mass destruction”. Saddam Hussein we were told, was conspiring with Al Qaeda because of a faulty piece of intelligence, we later learned.
Support was high for the war, mainly because the populace and the Congress believed the Bush Administration’s statements and the intelligence community’s assessment concerning WMDs in Iraq. A majority of Americans were misled because they were afraid and another war offered a solution to make them feel safer.
A personal story; my father kept a gun in the house; it was a revolver and a very powerful gun, though I cannot remember the type exactly. I was quite young but I remember the loud sound it made when my father used it in the country once, to shoot a skunk.
He gave a warning to us children – there were six of us – telling us “not to ever touch that gun because it had a hair-trigger and it might go off!” We all remembered the sound of those two shots my father fired, so we were all entirely afraid of the gun. It was kept up on the top shelf in the closet of my parent’s bedroom, but it did not matter where he put it, we would not touch it. Fear was a useful tool to keep children from a deadly weapon but it should not be used on adult citizens of a nation.
There are a great many threats out there in this world and we have been fortunate to avoid many other horrible acts if it had not been for government intelligence and intervention. Yet government must have its limits. There is a fine line between alerting the public to a possible danger and inciting them to be afraid, and just trust that government to do the right thing, even if it is against our Constitution and most importantly, our sense of moral ethics and decency as a nation.
Government is not the only entity that uses fear to incite the public. The Media plays an important part in giving the public a reason to be afraid of all sorts of things. Fear has high ratings for news sources; sensationalism and violence brings in the viewers and the bottom line is profits. The Media has a different motivation than government politicians and it is its job to report the news, though its method of selectively choosing what news to report is usually bias, in favor of its ratings.
Then there are the hate groups and the propaganda machines on the internet that pop out garbage they call news. A good example would be the lies and misinformation that have been told concerning our current president, Barack Obama, accusing him of not being born here and that he is secretly a Muslim. I believe what riled up many on the far right was a lie that Obama had plans to take away all their guns. He has never sought to do that, not even in the most recent gun control bill. Yet that false piece of information has been pushed by many right-wing conservative blogs, email campaigns, just to stir up fear among the less informed that Obama was out to take over the country with a Muslim government and force Sharia law on everyone.
The main tool of any terrorist is fear. When we as a nation make important decisions, such as a decision to go to war or not, or allow our civil rights to be waived in favor of more protection and a sense of safety, all out of fear, we then are allowing ourselves to be manipulated by sharp players who do not have our interests in mind.
I believe the best cure for fear is knowledge, the more we know the more we will understand.