Let's not fool ourselves. Fear is winning.
The Los Angeles Unified School District received a threat against its schools. Today it proceeded to shut them all down out of an "abundance of caution", that term with which we've become so familiar. Seven hundred thousand students have been locked out of their schools based on a threat which New York City public schools also received, but which the NYPD determined to be a hoax. Hundreds of thousands of students disrupted from their routine has a ripple effect, forcing parents to stay home, affecting the economy.
I'm old enough to remember when Osama bin Laden said that his strategy was to bankrupt America by making it do stupid things. Although he sleeps with the fishes, his successors seem to be sticking to that strategy.
It doesn't help that fear isn't being stoked solely by jihadists. Our politicians on the Right are quite content to go along with stoking that fear, seeing it as a sure road to victory in 2016. So what if the country becomes a shell of what it was? So what if hate crimes spike as a terrified populace searches for scapegoats? None of that matters. All that matters is that they terrify the electorate into voting for a party which thrives on nothing but fear, as it has no other program on which to run.
Of course, fear as a motivator in American politics is nothing new. The Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s, and the internment of Japanese-Americans are evidence of this. But in the Age of Obama, one could have been forgiven for thinking such fear-mongering was done with.
However, Barack Obama's election kicked the fear up to 11. A vast minority of Americans saw "their country" being destroyed. Every action taken by Pres. Obama seemed to confirm their fears. And the fact that he was "exotic" just fueled their paranoia.
ISIL doesn't have to carry out mass casualty attacks on US soil. It can just phone in a threat and someone will take it seriously, paralyzing a city, a state, a nation. Eight years of the Bush administration telling Americans to be afraid have shattered this nation's psyche. Eight years of Pres. Obama trying to assuage fears are too little. Fear sticks in your gut. Once it's there, it's almost impossible to get out for some people.
The Democratic candidates are, along with Pres. Obama, doing what they can to fight the fear. But, of course, they're not aided by a feckless media whose ratings depend on a fearful public tuning in to get their next hit of fright. The media is part of the Department of Fear.
Next year's election will determine whether we remain a republic, or descend into a war of all against all. In the main, I am hopeful. But, today, the Department of Fear is winning.
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