Monday, June 20, 2016

The United States of Fear

It is extremely odd to come to the realization that the citizens of the most powerful nation humanity has ever seen, the United States of America, are very much afraid.  Indeed, fear permeates the lives of the vast majority of Americans at many levels.  They fear being attacked by terrorists.  They fear being attacked by crazed gunmen with automatic weapons.  They fear being shot by strangers.  They fear being shot by people they know.  They fear getting sick.  They fear being able to pay the medical bills.  They fear losing their jobs.  They fear growing old.  They fear their families falling apart.  They fear not being able to get a good education.  They fear not being able to pay off their student loans.  They fear immigrants speaking foreign languages.  They fear these immigrants taking their jobs.  They fear homosexuals living close by.  They fear giving up their guns.  They fear having to pay taxes.  They fear falling into poverty.  They fear their country losing its place in the world.  They fear going to hell.

Living in such a climate of fear, no wonder Americans call their country, "the land of the brave."  With all that fear, you have to be brave just to get through the day.  But, it doesn't have to be that way and that's something that most Americans simply just don't get.

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Yes, life is full of uncertainty.  At times, we can be dealt a bad hand.  We can fall sick, lose a job, be in an accident, have a marriage come to an abrupt end, or in other words, "to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."

Given life's inherent risks, it makes sense to try to mitigate them -- for everyone.  It's not rocket science.  Progressive countries all over the world have figured it out some time ago: extract a portion of the money that circulates in the economy and use it to pay for health care, education, pensions, child care, periods of unemployment, a guaranteed income for those who cannot work, the public infrastructure (public buildings, roads, bridges, railways. airports) and pay civil servants to run the system effectively and efficiently. 

It's never perfect.  There are always things that can be improved.  However, for most of the people, most of the time, it works pretty good for those who are fortunate to be born in one of the nations that have chosen to go that route.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in Canada.

So, what's up in the United States?  How is it possible that with all that wealth. all that military power, they are unable to do something as simple as prohibiting people from owning automatic and semi-automatic weapons?  You know, the ones repeatedly used in the tragic mass shootings that regularly occur there.

Fundamentally, it is the fear factor, the fear of the slippery slope.  Starting with a ban on automatic weapons, other rights will surely be transgressed.  Indeed, all that talk about the necessity to protect and advance the common good might mean that wealthy individuals and corporations might be asked to contribute more to the common good.  Heaven forbid, at least the Heaven and the God that fundamental right wing Christians believe in.

Instead of calling it the American Dream, it should be called the American Nightmare.  Instead of pursuing the American version of the good life, most Americans are simply trying not to succumb to one of the fearful demons that lie in wait, lurking to heap misery on the poor, the sick, and the abandoned.

It's as if life in America has become a giant zero-sum game, with most of the wealth and the well being money can buy going to a very small number of players, while misery engulfs the increasing number of losers ill-equipped to compete in a game in which the rules are rigged against them. 

It doesn't have to be that way, but the rules of the game need to be changed.  Yet, those who control the corporate media would have you believe that any change to the status quo would be dangerous, embarking on a perilous route leading to an uncertain destination.  Better the devil we know.

Looking at how the Presidential election is shaping up, it appears to be nothing more than a campaign based on fear: the fear of the other, the immigrant, the terrorist, the homosexual as mongered by Donald Trump, or the fear of letting him assume power, as mongered by Hillary Clinton.  In the end, the status quo remains.

Looking from afar, I observe that Americans have become so paralyzed with fear they have become unable to extricate themselves collectively from the mess of things they have created.  America's trajectory is not about to change, and I fear that it will continue to drag down the rest of humanity.

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