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Fear and Loathing
Fareed Zakaria in his recent book (1) makes several good suggestions, but the interesting point is what he says should be the first step and precursor to anything else. He says we must stop the fear and loathing. This certainly strikes a chord with me. Republicans seem to believe they can use their own set of facts and emotion to rebut any argument making a rational discussion impossible. Democrats are no better in their rabid defense of Obama and terror of seriously discussing issues. Both resort to name calling rather than issues. (I would like to say the democrats are better than the republicans in this area, but they are not. I have been accused of everything from being a nut to being a communist to spying for the Republican Party because I question Obama’s policies. This even from people I thought were my friends who I had worked with on campaigns.)
Examples abound for both parties. Republican Romney asked, “Are we monitoring (mosques)? Are we wiretapping?”(2) Rudy Giuliani repeatedly shouted while campaigning, “They hate you!” and told students at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, “They don’t want you to be in this college!”(3)
Examples also abound for democrats who seem to excuse their many failings by saying republicans would be even worse. (Be afraid! Be very afraid!) And yet democrats in the HOR and Senate voted very solidly to extend the Patriot Act, once again suspending the constitution. Pelosi and Reid tried to prevent debate and accused those who supported the opposition of supporting terrorism. Obama, who had campaigned as a Harvard trained civil rights lawyer, signed it from France without ever breathing a word of criticism. It is worth asking what threat are we under that is worth suspending the constitution for 13 years? Is it worse than the Civil War or World War II? Really? How about the War of 1812 where the British burned Washington, D.C., the President had to flee the city, and Dolly Madison the First Lady stayed behind to save copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution before fleeing? We did not then suspend the constitution. Are times really that much worse now?
It is time to consider quotes from Fareed, FDR, and even John McCain.
Americans don’t like and are tired of other countries taking cheap shots at us so that this “country is unfairly turned into a punching bag. They are right. But get over it. There are many, many advantages to being a superpower. It has some costs as well. Those costs can be easily lowered by attentive diplomacy.” (4)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.”(5)
John McCain said, “Get on the damn elevator! Fly on the damn plane! Calculate the odds of being harmed by a terrorist. It is still about as likely as being swept out to sea by a tidal wave.” (6)
There are costs to giving into fear and loathing. One is the increasing inability to discuss or agree on anything while other countries make the hard choices we used to be known for and pass us by. Another is we may end up as England - declining as a world power and with a declining standard of living. The historian Correlli Barnett wrote that England in the mid-nineteenth century moved away “from the practical and reason-based society that had brought about the industrial revolution and toward one dominated by religious evangelicalism, excessive moralism, and romanticism.”(7) Sound familiar? Do we really want to follow this path?
I am a policy wonk and like analyzing and writing about policy. No matter how clearly I write or how much research I do, however, it will not be effective as long as my potential reader is overcome with fear and loathing. If we cannot overcome the fear and loathing that seems to have taken place in our citizenry, we are headed rapidly towards third world status.
See The Election March of the Trolls.
1) Fareed Zakaria, “The Post-American World Release 2.0,” (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011)
2) Zakaria, p. 276.
3) Zakaria, p. 276.
4) Zakaria, p. 274.
5) Zakaria, p. 275.
6) Zakaria, p. 277 from McCain’s book “Courage Matters”.
7) Zakaria, p. 262 referring to Corelli Barnett, “The Collapse of British Power” (New York, Morrow, 1972).