I don't see a society that is truly fearful. I've been to countries that were at war. And life always goes on to some extent. But this country does not feature the psychological traits of a country that is really at war or one that really fears terrorism in any palpable way. It features the psychological traits of a country watching a horror movie, which is not the same thing at all. You certainly see this in the fevered one-handed war blogging and the endless evocations of pre-9/11 and post 9/11 thinking reminds me of nothing so much as people who are hooked on a stimulating drug.Islamic fundamentalist nut cases are dangerous, but they do not in and of themselves threaten the existence of the US. They have, however, created the conditions under which home-grown authoritarian fundamentalists have launched a wholesale culture and political war against moderate citizens, people who are part of the liberal democratic spectrum.
Of course we all felt real fear in the early days, none so much as those who lived in New York and DC. It was almost unbelievable to see those scenes. But there was a sense of spectacle and drama about it that was literally unreal to those of us who watched it on television. This was fear put to music, with dramatic title treatments and a soaring voice-over. Because of that, on some level, 9/11 was a thrill for many people, even some Democrats. It was sad and horrifying, of course, but it was also stimulating, exciting and memorable because of the way it was presented on television. (When we were talking about this, Jane described it as if "the whole country was watching porn together every time the rerun of the towers falling was broadcast.") And we subsequently fetishized the "war on terrorism" to the point where some people become inexplicably excited whenever it is mentioned. They want that big group grope again, that sense of shared sensation. That is the "fear" that people say they have. And it's why they want to vote for the guy who keeps pumping it into the body politic.
It's why the "war on terrorism" still has some potency for the Republicans that the very ugly, very real war in Iraq does not. We can't lose the "war on terrorism" because it isn't a real war. Unfortunately, because we have allowed those words to be used, we have opened the door for authoritarian Republicans to assume the powers of a dictator under its auspices.
Greenwald and Ellis both argue very persuasively that islamic fundamentalist terrorism does not present an existential threat to our country. I think that idea is beginning to get some traction in the national security debates. I don't know how long it might take to break this country out of its shared fetish for the "war on terrorism" but perhaps it's time to start addressing that as well. Until we finally admit that we aren't "at war" by any real definition of that term, we are going to be hamstrung in addressing the very real national security challenges we do face.
Thrill Ride - Read it all...