Could it be fear, then?
What Are You So Afraid Of? Sex? Gays? Terrorists? God? In BushCo's fear-drunk world, only one question really matters
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, February 13, 2004
©2004 SF Gate
Oh my God but we are one terrified nation.
Fear is in. Fear is the new black. Spritz it on your face and neck, walk around the world all quivering and tremulous, waiting to be crushed by some dark massive throbbing wall of evil at any moment.
Fear is everywhere. Classrooms, water coolers, truck commercials. Fear is our government's raison d'etre, the calling card of the GOP. It will be the prime motivator in this year's presidential election, as Karl Rove will command that Dubya beat the drum of fear loud and hard and nonstop, smirking all the way.
Fear of terrorists fear of gay marriage fear of women and foreigners and the poor and environmentalists and progressives and Janet Jackson and hippies and commies and gul-dang liberals who want to take away your guns and make you think for yourself. We cannot have that.
Vote for us, the GOP will scream, and we will make sure to slaughter all those evil hippie demons, all while keeping your fear at a fever pitch via a never-ending parade of freshly minted evils that threaten your numbed McDonald's-gorged diabetic asthmatic children who can't breathe due to all the air-quality laws we've gouged. Shhh.
Fear has served the GOP beautifully. It won them the election and let them launch two full-blown wars and has pumped billions into the coffers of crony corporations and there is no reason to stop now.
Fear is bombing Afghanistan, right now. Fear is why we are decimating Iraq. A massive murderous budget-busting U.N.-hating war on a nonthreatening nation would have been unspeakable and intolerable had the GOP not deliberately engaged in truly world-class fearmongering beforehand, all about leveraging the sadness of 9/11 and tying it to nonexistent WMDs and biotoxins and nukes and scary bearded foreigners who are all hell bent on slaughtering American babies with rusty machetes.
Basic truism of politics, worldwide: Get the populace scared enough, and you can get away with anything. Fear yanks away your basic civil liberties, your intuition, your sense of dignity and humane behavior.
Fear means not blinking an eye as you remove your belt and your shoes as you allow your carry-on to be dumped out and rifled through and your toddler to be groped and her teddy bear strip searched by some snickering security personnel.
Fear means barely wincing as the utterly draconian USA Patriot Act gets reamed through Congress, twice, giving the FBI and police appalling new powers to monitor your e-mail and your Web-site visits and credit card usage and telephone calls sans warning or warrant or even probable cause. Fear means no longer saying hey, just what the hell is wrong with you people?
Fear is a tactic. It is a calculated force, a strategic maneuver, a carefully constructed PR methodology. It is a poison in the air, a cancer in the national bloodstream, a media pastime and a cultural narcotic. And here's the biggest secret of all: Fear is a learned trait, a practiced habit. It is something you cling to and allow to fester. They are counting on it.
Fear is why we buy SUVs. Fear of horrible spine-mangling accidents, fear of smashing head-on into a Mack truck at 90 mph at any given moment, fear that just around the next corner is an enormous gorge full of anthrax and gangbangers and demonic vegans that we will have to traverse just so little Timmy can make it to therapy and Daddy can haul his load of dry cleaning back from the office.
Never mind that SUVs have hideous road manners and are, in fact, far more deadly than smaller cars and suffer far more accidents than smaller cars, which are much better at avoiding accidents in the first place. Fear scoffs at this. Fear knows it's all about convincing you that horrible accidents and ungodly pain are inevitable, even if they're not. After all, fear drives a Hummer.
And logic? Poor ol' logic breaks down in the face of fear. Fear has no patience for common sense and spits at it and smashes it with a baseball bat and treats it like Dick Cheney treats a fat, docile pheasant.
Fear is why we love our guns. Fear is why we love our huge knobby tires and Super-sized fries and ultraviolent sports, making us feel all manly and corpulent and invincible. Fear is why we pummel the weak, hate the different, cling to uptight religious doctrine that we know, deep down, is sapping our soul and crushing our independent thought and numbing our sexual potency.
Try this test. Ask your neighborhood neoconservative homophobe just what, exactly, would happen if, say, gay marriage were to be legalized nationwide.
Ask them what would change. Ask them to be very specific. How would their lives be threatened? How would society crumble, exactly? Riots? Locusts? What is the danger in allowing love to flourish in all its variants and be enthusiastically supported by the state? Be as clear as possible. What, really, is so terrifying?
Fear, it just is. It nibbles away at our souls like a tapeworm. It is our own personal kryptonite.
It does not matter. For most of us, letting go and dissolving tight, harmful definitions of self and forsaking, say, an angry sneering homophobic God in favor of cultivating a messy raw juicy delicious wet incredibly difficult sense of personal responsibility and open-mouthed divinity is far too much to ask. We are terrified to even try. The church is counting on it.
We do know one thing: Change freaks us out. It is an upheaval of what was, the known, the stable, the safe. Change -- social, sexual, political -- is confusing and troubling and forces us to question our own inhibitions and moral shortcomings and deep inborn prejudices and who the hell wants to do that? No one, that's who.
Fear means never having to dig very deep, never having to ask serious questions of the self. There, there now. Don't bother thinking for yourself. Let the priests and the government CEOs and the war hawks make it all better. Boom boom crush snicker.
There are, of course, plenty of ways to defeat fear. You hear little about them because they aren't nearly as sexy or dire for media and politicians. After all, fear sells copy, moves product, draws ratings, gets votes. Defeating fear is for New Agers and peaceniks and pot smokers. Right? Whatever.
This is all you have to do to defeat fear: You don't. That is to say, you actually do the opposite, which is to promote the positive, educate yourself, drop your tired notions of how it's all supposed to work and pump out what the ancients knew to be a radiant kind of raw ego-free love. What, too fluffy? Tough.
Because only by making your world, your body, your perspective truly "in love" does anything actually change. It ain't pink hearts and fluffy bunnies and Hallmark swill. It's the most difficult and often most painful and life-altering thing you can do. It means forgoing the safe, questioning your deepest belief, peeling back the self in ways you can't even imagine until you get there and you say, oh my freaking God this is a pain in the karmic ass.
But once you tap into something divine and deeply personal and free of the spewings of the hate-filled homophobic Right and the whiny politically correct Left, only then can you use this energy to battle the demons of ignorance and fearmongering on every front, every day. Because, simply put, the more you know yourself, the less you fear. It is the only way. And you can start immediately.
After all, what are you so afraid of?
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Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does. He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed thrice-weekly e-mail column and newsletter. Subscribe at sfgate.com/newsletters.
©2004 SF Gate