“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It’s been a long time since we’ve had a president eloquent enough to drop aphorisms the way a tree drops ripe fruit. “Let’s roll!” doesn’t pack enough substance, even if it was borrowed from a hero of the 9/11 attacks. FDR’s words said something about the ways in which human behavior, no matter how well intentioned, runs the danger of becoming counter-productive. There’s a thin line between preparedness and paranoia.
How to deal with fear? Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge recommends a three-day supply of duct tape, plastic coverings, water and canned food. But don’t panic, he warned last week. Besides, you may need that paraphernalia for the brutal winter, never mind dirty bombs.
Our nation’s “intelligence” is based on scraps of paper found in Afghan caves, the meandering confessions of tortured al-Qaeda operatives held away from American shores, or perhaps our own Americentric view of the world. We know it by rote: What America wants, America gets. Those who disagree with us—France, Germany and Russia, three nations that know all too intimately the consequences of war—are cowards. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we throw around more than 80 percent of its weight.
America’s fear is so robust, we even fear an organization as impotent as the United Nations. Witness Utah’s own House Resolution 7, which calls for the United States to relinquish its permanent membership in the international body. Why? Get this: We fear losing our sovereignty! Or perhaps we simply want to distance ourselves from an international organization working to aid refugees and developing nations with food, medicine and economic assistance. Xenophobia is a tasty dish.
In August 1998, when al-Qaeda unleashed bombings on East African embassies that killed 224 civilians, we had much more important issues on our mind. Like, what are we going to do with a president who lies about getting blow jobs? What indeed, asked a whole host of Saudis in between flying lessons.
You can only fear what you don’t understand. “Code Orange”? Let’s break it down. Get yer duct tape, get yer three-days’ supply of snack-ums and hunker down for another night in front of the tube. Don’t worry about the assault on our constitutional rights. Security is more important than freedom (wink, wink). And remember: They don’t hate us because we have troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, because of our economic embargo on Iraq or for our indifference toward the plight of Palestinian refugees. They hate us because they want our “reality” TV shows, plastic surgeons and other amenities of American culture. It’s that simple!
• More on the menu of fear: In Utah, where a lot of us have food storage down to a fine art, the urge to be prepared is nothing new. Novices, however, might want to check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guide “Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness” at www.fema.gov/areyouready. Here you’ll find tips on dealing not just with “Animals in Disaster” but also tangos with volcanoes and tsunamis. It’s your tax dollars at work.
• The urge to survive is also the urge to propagate the species after you’re dead. In Philadelphia last week, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the frozen sperm of alleged New York mobster Antonino Parlavecchio destroyed after he convicted the northern Pennsylvania inmate of trying to smuggle it out of prison. That’s according to Reuters’ news service. Parlavecchio’s wife and a prison guard were also convicted.