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September 16, 2006

Phobic Nation

Shakes here...

President Bush, yesterday morning:

It's a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't that way. I wish I could tell the American people, don't worry about it, they're not coming again. But they are coming again.

Although I could actually write an entire (and rather lengthy) post on how Bush’s “Terror Rhetoric” is beginning to sound more and more like he’s concerned about an invasion by a hostile race of extraterrestrials, instead I’m going to focus for just a moment on the notion that because another terrorist strike is, quite possibly, inevitable, the president doesn’t feel he can tell the American people not to worry. You see, I believe that it’s eminently possible to both feel despairingly certain that the terrorists “are coming again” and not to worry about it.

At least not actively. There are different ways to “worry” about something. Abstract concern is both healthy and inevitable, not to mention integral to the heightened vigilance that outlines self-preservation. “Worry” in such an abstract form is familiar to all of us; we worry about disease, accidents, aging, the health and safety of our loved ones. That kind of worry generally makes us more careful, less reckless—but it doesn’t debilitate us. In fact, when our worries consume us as individuals and fundamentally alter our lives, when we cease to function normally because of the fear such worry generates, they are no longer worries, but phobias, indicative of an irrationally disproportionate response to a perceived threat. The president wants us all to be actively anxious and, thusly, perpetually fearful—a phobic nation, paralyzed and compliant.

We hear, over and over and over, that 9/11 “changed everything.” And so it did, in the sense that America grew up that day, joining the ranks of much of the rest of the world, where terrorist attacks within one’s own borders are one of many things about which to worry. But that worry elsewhere is responsible. It acknowledges that terrorism, ugly and contemptible and unfair, may be inevitable, that governments, no matter how competent, may not be able to prevent every attack, and that life must go on without its breadth being limited by an incapacitating phobia that terrorism, like war and droughts and hunger and disease and terrible, unjust accidents for no reason, may one day raise its hideous head again and look us square in the eyes once more.

Yes. They’re coming again. Here, in Britain, in Iraq, in Indonesia, in Spain… They will come again. And worrying about it will not stop them.

We are not to be indifferent, or complacent. We are, instead, to operate from a position of strength, where we can effectively address those factors over which we have control that contribute to the rise of terrorism. A phobic nation is never safe—not from terrorists, not from its government when trading on fear, and not from its own people. We are to be willing to accept the risk, acknowledge the reality, and live bold lives in freedom, refusing to succumb to being terrorized.

Mr. President, I know it's a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't that way, too. But, even though they're coming again, I will not worry about it, not the way you want me to. Not the way that makes me forget you were warned and did nothing to protect me, that makes me forget you started a war of choice which has made us less safe, that makes me forget you will steal our freedoms under the guise of protecting them, that makes me forget everything but my fear. Mr. President, I refuse to be terrorized by anyone. Including you.

(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

September 16, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

You say America grew up after 9/11. I say that the grown up thing is your response to terrorism. Not to pretend that it doesn't exist, but not to define our lives by it either. That's what we do with everything else great and terrible in real life. We deal with it, but we don't sit around thinking about it 24/7 as the Republicans would have us do. If it were up to them, we would be in a corner cowering and screaming in terror pushing the lever for Republican for the next 30 years. Anyone who think this is a good thing- needs some prozac.

Posted by: akaison | Sep 16, 2006 2:35:50 PM

...we don't sit around thinking about it 24/7...

It really boils down to whether you believe we are in a war or not. If you do, then Bush's statements make a whole lot of sense. If you don't, then you get the liberal Democrats' response.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 16, 2006 2:48:25 PM

How can Bush's statements make sense with a wide open border?

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Sep 16, 2006 3:04:14 PM

Fred,

Not being alive during WWII or Korea, and not quite being able to remember anything about Vietnam, I can't discuss what people were feeling firsthand during those conflicts.

But my parents and grandparents have discussed life during WWII and Korea. My father is old enough to remember the worst of the Great Depression. We have records of political speeches, of pundits and columnists.

During those conflicts, each of which involved more soldiers and more of our society's infrastructure, Americans were not told to be continually afraid. Vigilant, yes. But not afraid, not living in fear of what might happen next. Our Presidents did not use their bully pulpit to try and make the populace tremble and shake in order to squeeze a few more votes for his political party.

As a human being, George W. Bush may be the most wonderful, loving, strong man alive. But as president he is a complete failure. He only thinks of himself, his agenda, his short-term goals. He continually demands more power, can do nothing but bully, and has lied so many times to the American people that it is becoming an expectation - lies about war, about killing, about torture, about breaking laws, about weapons and terrorist connections, about every single important issue facing us today. If we are at war, I would especially expect Bush to show leadership, and I am especially disappointed at how incapable he is even at that basic requirement for president.

Fred, if you want to be a conservative, be one. The problem you have is that you aren't a conservative. You aren't a libertarian. You are, apparently, a Bush-worshipping toady, a modern GOP fetishist who confuses profiteering, fearmongering and a callous disregard for human life with strong leadership and clear direction.

I mentioned my Father and how he remembers the Great Depression. He remembers not knowing when his next meal would be. He remembers eating horse meat and being thankful, remembers meals of squirrel and wild rabbit. He and his family survived by wits and the generous help of the Salvation Army. He is an old-school conservative, distrustful of large government, self-reliant, a tax-hater. He's had his fill of George Bush and the rest of the current GOP powermongers. He wants the rule of law to be restored to this nation, and to have a political party that actually represents people like him. He's not a Democrat, never will be, never will vote for Democrats. But he's managed to open his eyes to the truth about the Bush administration. It's time for Fred and those like him to do the same.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 16, 2006 3:17:54 PM

How can Bush's statements make sense with a wide open border?

Bush has many flaws and this is one that I agree with you on. On the other hand, many liberals are also to blame for hinting at racism if anyone attempts to control the borders...and they do this only for their selfish political gain.

I would like politicians to enforce the laws passed in by our duly and lawfully elected representatives. Laws that are in compliance with our constituiona and I can't for the life of me understand how anyone can feel differently. You don't have to be a liberal or a conservative to honor the law.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 16, 2006 4:56:14 PM

Fred, the problem with your logic, is the problem with Bush's statement - this whole "if you believe it's a war, you will agree wholeheartedly with what he says." I believe we are in a serious fight - a war, if you like - with Al Qaida and other organizations that would happily see innocent Americans hurt or killed in their quest for an obscure, hard to understand set of Islamic principles (that I think, ultimately, will never succeed in the way the most diehard believers would like them to). I do not however, agree with the Peresident or his Administration that their poor response and lack of preparation are the only options for response.

As for Shakes, what bothers me about Bush's rhetoric is not the appeal to stark, nameless fear, but the implication, which he's been raising the temperature on lately, that he seems to know that an immininet attack is right around the corner. If we're in so much goddamned danger, girl, where's the urgency in doing the things that would make us safer - not in torturing long-held prisoners or trying them in Kangaroo Courts, but the securing of our ports, our airports, our borders, our roads? Where's the sense that our most exposed and at risk populations - those stationed in Iraq and across the Middle East - are adequately protected?

I agree that Bush exploits something extremely tasteless, but still... I worry about another attack, and what concerns me is not the fear he taps into, but the sense that he knows something will happen and seems powerless to stop it. In which case, really, what use is he? If the best he can do is talk about how his hands are tied, we really need others, capable of doing what's needed in practical, no-nonsense terms, to take over the day-to-day operation here. That he's so useless is what terrifies me most.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 16, 2006 5:36:46 PM

I've been listening to Bush myself for a while.
He wants license to kidnap and torture anyone anywhere on the planet without restraint. If I'm wrong I'll apologize : but that's what it sounds like.
This is supposedly to promote a "War on Terror" ; a tactic, not an ideology, mix it with scarewords from religion and politics and say anything less will be ineffective.
Does nobody else read this as "Do as I say, or else !" and find he's going to demonize and Terrorize at his whim ?
Good deal. Control ill will by promoting it.

Posted by: opit | Sep 16, 2006 5:48:32 PM

So, let's talk about the first step to security that I think we can all agree upon and that is controlling the borders......or is this just a tool for the real goal of bashing the president?

Is there really any justification on either side of the aisle for not securing the borders in times of war or in times of peace?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 16, 2006 6:12:17 PM

I am not going to argue that we don't need to secure our borders but I think more importnat than that is securing our ports. There is no excuse for not keeping a lot closer eye on the cargo coming into this country. Every damned container coming off a ship needs to be picked up by a crane - installing senors to detect radiation and explosives on those cranes would go a long ways toward making us safer. That and actually going into more containers to check their contents.

Persoanly, I think that when, in addition to his other crimes, the president admits that he is incapable of actually making us safer, it's time for him to get the hell out of office and let someone competant try.

Posted by: DuWayne | Sep 16, 2006 6:46:11 PM

Guys, please, don't feed the Fred.

Posted by: Davebo | Sep 16, 2006 8:37:07 PM

Fred says:

"It really boils down to whether you believe we are in a war or not. If you do, then Bush's statements make a whole lot of sense."

weboy reads it as:

"if you believe it's a war, you will agree wholeheartedly with what he says."

Are you trying to insinuate that if someone believes this is a war that they are a rubber stamp for the President?

There is a difference between acknowledging someone has a point or "makes sense" and agreeing with them "wholeheartedly".

I agree that this is a war, but I damned sure don't agree with the way Bush has tip-toed around the subject of Islam, trying not to offend Muslims. For example, he used the word "Islamo-Fascists"(a perfectly appropriate term) one time, the Muslims raise hell and he never says it again. Call these people what they are! If regular Muslims are offended then they need to clean up their own yard instead of being upset at someone for pointing out the mess. Especially when that mess is killing Americans.

Look at what the Muslims do when the Pope accuses them of being a violent, uninspired religion. They go out and commit violence, like they always do because they don't have the ingenuity to prove the Pope wrong or get rid of the violent element among them. It is kind of funny because anyone who pays attention knew the Muslims would riot and be violent when they are accused of being a violent religion.

Look what they do when they hear Mohammad has been portrayed in cartoons or that the Koran was desecrated. They kill.

What do Christians do when Muslims call for the killing of Christians or when representations of Christ are desecrated? We sure don't act like Muslims.

Islam is a religion of peace my ass!

Posted by: Captain Toke | Sep 16, 2006 10:27:00 PM

"Davebo,"

Don't tell us what to do.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 17, 2006 12:59:14 AM

I don't choose to argue with you Fred about whether this is a war or not. Frankly, the question is irrelevant although others choose to play your game. The question is as the initial post after yours frames it: what kind of life do you want to live. Unlike you I was here in NYC during the terrorist attack. Ironically enough- my view- represents the views of most of the NYC'ers - some 70 plus percent who had to live through the actual attack rather than just seeing it on TV and imaginging what it was like.

The terrorists acts coupled with the later media reports tried to terrify me into staying home due to bomb threats but I went out because I understand that sitting at home afraid is not a way to live.

I think the problem with people like you emotionally is that you have been codicled into thinking life is easy. That someone is going to come save you from the big bad wolf. No protection- even if they sealed the borders and put up 50 foot fences, even if they took away all your liberties, even if we made Bush dictator for life- none of this, not the Iraqi War, not a war in iran, would matter when it comes to having absolute protection. It doesn't exist. The best you can do is reasonable precautions. We, NY'ers, get that life is risk. We have to deal with it on a daily basis.

One of the hardest places to live in America in terms of economics is probably the city I am in right now, but I do it.

My point is that we come from different stock. I am all for reasonable protections. But, am I going to sit around afraid of the terrorists so much I am going to let government take over my life- the answer would have to be hell no. Yours apparently is yes "because I am afraid." I find that approach to be out of weakness.

Posted by: akaison | Sep 17, 2006 3:16:37 AM

I don't choose to argue with you Fred about whether this is a war or not. Frankly, the question is irrelevant although others choose to play your game. The question is as the initial post after yours frames it: what kind of life do you want to live.

Sometimes you don't have a choice. The other side has already forced you into a war. You are choosing to put your fingers in your ears and yell at the top of your lungs "I don't wanna be in a war...I don't wanna be in a war". Well, tough shit, you're in a war. Now, the question is, are you going to ignore the enemy's designs and suffer the consquences, or will you fight?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 17, 2006 3:23:42 PM

Sometimes you don't have a choice. The other side has already forced you into a war.

That doesn't have anything to do with the post. Perhaps we have been forced into a "war." And it may be that you therefore have no choice but to live in a state of constant fear, cowering before the threat of violence.

However, there are many of us who choose to embrace life, to live prudently yet exuberantly. We choose to deny fear a stranglehold on our minds.

As you can see from my previous comment, I come from a long line of people who have chosen to embrace life in the midst of some of the most horrible circumstances ever.

Perhaps you just come from lesser stock.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 17, 2006 3:30:27 PM

Stephen,

Please don't misconstrue caution and common sense for "cowering". I hardly think asking my government to address this threat is "cowering". Expecting my politicians to control the borders is hardly "cowering".

On the other hand we have your pollyanna attitude of "Don't worry, be happy".

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 17, 2006 4:08:36 PM

Look what they do when they hear Mohammad has been portrayed in cartoons or that the Koran was desecrated. They kill

At first I was shocked that liberals could not bring themselves to criticize the enemy and then, it hit me. The enemy cannot bring them to power. Only by criticizing their own government and those factions such as the Christians, conservatives, etc. do they believe they can attain power.

Yeah, we embarrass and humiliate to gain information and you'd think it was the worst thing in the world. When the enemy kidnaps, beheads, burs bodies, etc. the liberals are silent.

Their actions (and lack of) show what it's all about.....POWER.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 17, 2006 4:48:01 PM

Please don't misconstrue caution and common sense for "cowering". I hardly think asking my government to address this threat is "cowering". Expecting my politicians to control the borders is hardly "cowering".

On the other hand we have your pollyanna attitude of "Don't worry, be happy".

I used to live within artillery range of North Korea. I have heard the air raid sirens go off in Seoul. I have had various trips around the country of South Korea cancelled or changed because of the presence of North Korean infiltration teams and/or naval skirmishes between the two countries. I am fully aware of what it is like to live in a nation that is "at war," just as those in NYC are much more aware than you are down in Texas.

The Pollyana attitude belongs to you, since your comments on "securing the borders" have shown in the past that you think we can just decide to shut them down, to close them completely up and it will magically happen. I guess it's the magic of "will," the magic that happens when everyone just decides to believe something hard enough. Let's all just really believe that we have enough troops, enough materials and enough technology to completely shut down our borders except for the very few that we want to let in! Why not? This has been the plan for Iraq, and it's working so well.

The truth is that Republicans are the ones who don't care about securing our ports and our borders. Republicans are the ones who are wasting our money and more importantly the lives of our soldiers over in Iraq while they are needed here. Republicans are the ones who refuse to look at any sensible solution that would actually make America and its citizens safer, preferring instead to fearmonger and produce grand-looking and sounding illusions so they can stay in power. Republicans are the ones who are trading our national character for votes. You and those like you have shown yourselves completely incapable of rationally thinking about border security, port security, safety of our transportation systems and rational, effective foreign policy.

I don't need to have a Pollyanna attitude to be able to live my life without fear. I certainly don't have to substitute real security and safety for George Bush's pitiful offerings of cliches and fear.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 17, 2006 6:02:05 PM

ditto on what Stephen said. And Fred can you be more fucking insulting? I live in the heart of the storm- where the fuck do you live other than some cow patch some place no terrorist will ever hit other than in your fantasy/nightmare reality? There is a difference between precaution (walking down a safer street at night because you know the other one has a drug dealer on the corner) and fear (not going out at all because you afraid that someone, somewehre will possibly shoot you. I use this analogy to make a point. I have to deal with reality much more where i live than you do. That you who are afraid should be lecturing me who has to deal with reality and yet do what I am going to do in the fact of it- is to say the least ironic, and to say the most of these times- a sign of just how fucked up Americans have become.

Posted by: akaison | Sep 17, 2006 7:34:56 PM

..."securing the borders" have shown in the past that you think we can just decide to shut them down, to close them completely up and it will magically happen.

Great strawman you construct. It simply is not true. What I think is that we can have controlled access, just as we do at the airports.

You are simply dishonest in your need to show others wrong.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 18, 2006 8:44:57 AM

if you were truly concerned about controlled access you would try to actually figure out where the terrorists are coming from- ie, Canada- and fight that. but your concern is over the border where they aren't coming from.

Posted by: akaison | Sep 18, 2006 12:19:32 PM

There is not one, NOT ONE, good reason for not making an attempt at controlling the borders of the US...to know who comes and who goes.

Say it ain't so.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 18, 2006 6:01:42 PM

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