If I had to put my finger on the biggest problem in America today, I would put it squarely in the face of our fears. It seems we’ve changed from the lion of the world just a few short years ago to a fearful angry nation hiding behind our weapons and out-dated policies.
It was fear that started the war in Iraq, the same for the war in Afghanistan. It that same fear that ties our hands as we try to climb out of the deadly recession. It rules our economic and political interaction with smaller developing nations as well as up and coming giants like China and India. Worst of all when we, the neighborhood superpower are afraid, everyone gets nervous not knowing what will happen.
It’s a strange turn of events when the country who developed the Marshall plan and pushed for the organization of the United Nations should feel we need to go it alone in military conflict after military conflict. No stranger perhaps than begging and pleading with the rest of the world to get on board with capitalism for a hundred years and then feeling threatened when they do. What are we so afraid of? This is what we wanted. We had a big part in building the world we live in both by action and example, now we just want it to go away?
We see Globalization as a threat, socialized medicine as a threat, global warming as a threat, the successes of other countries as a threat as well as being panicked by their failures. We look at a sudden burst of democratic reforms all across the middle east as a threat, and we see the slow and painful failure of the communist regime in North Korea as a threat as well. Many of the things we’ve worked years for we now regard as dangerous.
Maybe we just got old. An elderly country hiding behind it’s picket fence shouting out at the kids passing by, “You better stay off my lawn!” Blaming everyone and everything for our own sudden lack of confidence.
It wastes our energy to be so driven by fear. It eats away at our ability to see any real problems we need to address and focuses us on the lesser more frivolous
things. Fear is eating our lunch right before our eyes, the greatest nation the world has ever known is too paralyzed to move. A president once made a speech about that, I believe he said “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” he was right, it’s scary.
American confidence was once legendary, even irritating. We always knew if we fell down we just picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves of and started again. It gave us the kind of power missiles and economic might just can’t replace, it gave us a positive resilient culture as a country.
It also makes us a target, both within and without. Our politicians predict doom at every turn and other countries are buying it. Our fear makes us susceptible to even more fear and is becoming a force of paralyzation. We already see it in congress, the fear of compromise is rampant. Positions have hardened so much only the most obsequious tasks are actually getting done. Our fear makes us fight among ourselves. We always done that, but these days it’s so bitter and has almost turned to the level of a blood-feud.
It also makes it very easy to distract us from what’s actually necessary, frittering away our time on what can be done rather than what should be done. Had we shown some of our old bravado instead of wasting time on pointless one up-manship we’ve never had been downgraded. In fact the worlds bank’s and people seem to have a lot more confidence in us than we do lately. Their money still flows in to buy our debt.
The causes are varied, perhaps 9/11, perhaps economic downturn, possibly two long drawn out wars of questionable value. Mostly I believe it comes from a growing sense of dismay which is being taken advantage of by those who feel disenfranchised. Little people who have replaced their dreams with petty fears, and can’t seem to wake up from the nightmare. They are like a pernicious disease that spreads itself further and farther with each new prediction of doom and salute to ignorance. These merchants of fear tell us extremists are hunting us, that we’ll soon be broke as a nation, that we have only enemies abroad, our religions are in peril and were under invasion by immigrants. It goes on and on and on.
What we loose by not scoffing at these supposed “dangers” is our collective optimism, that’s the true American dream. The one worth preserving. The one that brought millions of immigrants here in the first place to build this mighty nation.
I think as a nation and a people we need some serious scoffing lessons. I think we need to reject the nay sayers and doom announcers and denounce them for what they are, vile opportunists. Feeding on our fears to fuel their own little plans and prejudices, which have almost nothing to do with dealing with the problems we do have. We face our problems here, that’s what Americans do, it’s what we’ve always done. And when we get back to healthy scoffing we have our nation’s greatest weapon back, confidence and a hopeful outlook.
When you hear “No we can’t,” be the first to say “Oh yes we can,” and smile, this is America.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011